Mati (428 Preston St.) is the new kid on the block in Little Italy. The coveted culinary real estate at the corner of Preston and Norman wasn’t left vacant for long after we bid adieu to Black Cat Bistro back in June. The owners of EVOO Greek Kitchen have expanded their epicurean empire down the street with their second offering in Mati. The new spot from brothers Elias and Dean Theodossiou, April Miller and Amanda Belli, extends beyond the borders of Greece and into Italy with a menu that focuses on the crudo and charcoal styles of cooking.
The interior space is completely transformed from that of its predecessor, to the point of being nearly unrecognizable. Thanks to the talents of Serina Fraser of Clear Designs – Mati has the bearing of a stylish, contemporary space that discerning diners have come to expect.
The fashionable decor is well-matched to the artful plating featured throughout Mati’s crudo menu. In my three meals at the restaurant since it opened in December, I’ve been able to work my way through the better part of the raw bar menu.
The seafood tower is decidedly on-trend with the fine dining renaissance we’re experiencing worldwide. Nothing says decadence like a double-decker shellfish extravaganza, the two-tiered affair ($115) is overflowing with oysters, Atlantic lobster, shrimp, swordfish crudo and an array of sauces and mignonettes.
The scallop ($15), Yellowfin tuna ($16) and swordfish ($14) crudos are all perfectly balanced. The swordfish crudo is topped with fried capers which are my new favourite snack. The deep-fry treatment cuts the bitter brininess of the capers and adds some delicious fatty-ness that would have Marc Messier saying, “Betcha can’t eat just one.”
The beef tartare ($18) is prepared with beets, harissa, whipped galotyri, white anchovy, and served with crostini. I found that the swift kick of spice from the harissa overwhelmed the other flavours just a touch.
From the “First Bites” portion of the menu, I’ve sampled the hummus ($11), arancini ($13), mussels ($16) and soutzoukakia ($14). If that last word is Greek to you, but you can pronounce and spell it correctly on the first try, stop what you’re doing and apply to Scripps. I had to consult the menu four times to confirm the spelling so I don’t think I’m ready for my on-stage debut, but I can use it in a sentence: “The soutzoukakia are braised lamb and pork meatballs served with fresh tomato sauce and they are DAMN DELICIOUS!”
Seriously, don’t miss out on these tasty little treats. In fact, all of my tastings from the first bites menu were stunning. The mussels are enveloped in an incredibly flavourful broth of coconut milk, lemongrass, yellow curry, chili oil and fish sauce that make it one of the stand-out examples of shellfish in the city.
Finally, we’re on to the charcoal. The steaks are dry-aged for 28 days, fired on an imported wood-burning Argentine grill and served with a chimi demi-glaze, herb butter, flavoured salts and accompanied by fingerling potatoes. The swowstopping 40 oz Tomahawk steak ($124) is large enough for a group of four.
Their efforts, both in preparation and in importing such a sizeable grill, are well-rewarded. The steaks are absolutely divine. Prepared medium rare, I’ve enjoyed both the Tomahawk and the Steak & Shrimp ($38), each was juicy, flavourful and filling.
The mixologists at Mati have curated a cocktail list worthy of our affection – or at least mine. The drinks run the gamut from tropical tiki to spirit-driven sippers. I was thoroughly impressed by the range of options to suit every palate and the complexity of flavours within each tipple.
Mati brings both style and substance to its ambience, service, food and drink. It is a worthy addition to the array of winning eateries sprinkled throughout Little Italy and definitely a place worth visiting.
Disclosure: I was invited to a blogger and influencer event at Mati where I was able to sample some of the items described above. I’ve dined there on two other occasions on my own dime. All thoughts and opinions are my own.