New Menu Spotlight
Explore Simple Flavours that Pack a Punch
Stepping away from the busy hum of Yonge Street and into our airy and character-filled dining room, the warmth of our hospitality is immediately tangible. On top of the welcome smiles from our service staff and the idyllic atmosphere offered by our stylish space, it is our food that truly allows guests to feel right at home. Inspired by memorable dishes from her childhood, family recipes, fond food memories and the experiences that shaped her as a culinarian, Chef Laura Petracca’s newly revamped menu is a true showcase of storytelling through food.
Joining as Sous Chef when our doors opened in 2016, Chef Petracca, now the Chef de Cuisine, prides herself on having built a menu that speaks to her Italian Canadian upbringing while celebrating South American flavours. From the dish her mother makes for backyard gatherings to her favourite Argentinian sandwich, Chef Petracca’s thoughtfully curated creations match the spirit of Leña’s heritage by honouring the matriarchs that bring family together over food.
Starting with lunch, diners will enjoy Roasted Red Pepper Salad, a dish inspired by her mother’s recipe, a family barbecue staple that pairs exceptionally well with grilled meats. Showcasing the beauty in simplicity, Chef Petracca mixes roasted red peppers with a dressing of their reserved juices, olive oil, salt, lemon zest, garlic and parsley. A pesto of basil, scallions, parsley, spinach and lemon juice is then added. Served atop fluffy whipped ricotta with housemade focaccia made from sourdough starter, its versatility makes it an ideal salad to share, or the perfect accompanying dish to the Charcoal Grilled Gaucho Rib Eye Chop for two.
For a sandwich fix, try the Choripán, a staple grab-and-go street food of Argentina. Served on papo secos, a traditional Portuguese bun custom-baked extra large to contain this massive mouthful, spiced chorizo is doused in both chimichurri and a salsa criolla of peppers, onion, and cilantro for added crunch. Taking it up another notch is a caramelized shallot aïoli so good you could dip potato chips in it.
Drawing on her love of cooking (and eating!) pasta, Chef Petracca’s Tagliatelle is a seafood-lover’s paradise. Chef Andrew Piccinin’s recipe for fresh, handmade pasta shares the stage with scallops, shrimp and mussels in a classic white wine, garlic, lemon and butter sauce. Complementing the seafood’s delicate flavours is an olive and caper sofrito made with anchovy, capers, garlic, onions, white wine, olives and chili flakes along with a healthy dose of parsley. Finally, a fumé made from the stock of reserved fish bones adds yet another layer of flavour.
Those dropping in for a quick lunch downtown will enjoy the bright lightness of the Atlantic Salmon Fillet, complete with tomato braise and broad beans. The addition of lightly boiled Yukon Gold potatoes tossed with olive oil, lemon juice and parsley and a grilled lemon wedge exude a warmth and comfort — perfect for fall.
At dinner, old favourites get an overhaul and new creations turn heads. Albacore tuna is butterflied, lightly pounded and served raw, cured ever-so-slightly with lemon juice. To ensure little waste, remaining tuna is confited in a flavoured oil for the sauce, alongside the punchy notes of capers, anchovies, shallots, garlic, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and lemon. Drizzled with olive oil, flecked with Maldon sea salt and finished with fried capers, pickled onions and guindilla peppers from Spain, it is both bold and fresh.
In a nod to Corporate Executive Chef Anthony Walsh, whose mother-in-law Elena is honoured by our name, Chef Petracca puts her spin on Chef Walsh’s famed scallop dish that once drew attention from diners at Canoe. The secret ingredient? Popcorn! Thick morsels of scallop are tossed with lime, salt, and olive oil, cooking in its own juices when left to sit. To the scallop mixture, Chef adds charred corn, sliced jalapeños, cilantro and raw onion. Finally, stovetop popcorn joins the plate, offering smoke and crunchiness that pairs well with the inherent sweetness of the scallop and overall tartness of the dish. The result is a marriage of salt, sweet, sour and crunch, making for a definite conversation starter.
For another shareable starter, try the Stracciatella. Virgin mozzarella is hand-pulled in house and folded into homemade crème fraîche. Joining it on the plate are grapes two ways: roasted with sherry vinegar and sugar, and torched with rosemary syrup. Offering differentiation in texture and flavour, grilled and pickled radicchio adds to the heavenly combination. Toasted, salted walnuts are served atop for crunch along with torn mint, olive oil and a side of Brodflour sourdough.
Revamping the dish for the first time since our doors opened, Chef Petracca ups our burger ante, giving it an out-of-this-world edge. In a twist that no one saw coming, our famed 72-hour brined and 24-cooked capicola shoulder bacon gets taken a step further with a dip in the deep fryer. Once crispy on the outside, it’s basted in ancho barbecue sauce and shaved. Complete with creamy cremoso cheese, shredded lettuce and housemade garlic pickles, our burger is served on a brioche milk bun slathered in jalapeño aïoli. With our famed frites on the side, this burger means business.
While a butterflied Branzino once graced our menu, Chef Petracca was eager to serve it whole, head on. While it’s still butterflied to spare our guests the bones, it is now served in a sauce inspired by her grandmother’s tomato-braised broad beans or runner beans — a favourite childhood dish, served with garlic rapini (a staple on both sides of her family).
Mussels were a must — a tip of the hat to a New York mussel spot where Chef Petracca worked for many years. Taking an Italian approach, P.E.I. mussels are steamed in an acqua pazza (‘crazy water’) or lightly herbed both. Flavours of white wine, fumé, tomato sauce, butter, garlic and olives envelop each shell, while capers offer a kick of umami. Served with lightly grilled bread for sopping up every last drop, it’s another cozy fall dish that warms from within.
Adding to the already stacked dessert menu, our revamped cheesecake remains the same in terms of its basque style while nodding to Chef Petracca’s blueberry pie from her time at The Rabbit Hole. Crustless, this sweet treat is perfect for gluten-free diners looking for something decadent to close out their evening and features a luxurious blueberry compote and Earl Grey syrup.
Whether stopping in for bar bites, a midday meal or a celebratory dinner, one thing is for sure: at Leña, guests can expect the unexpected. An amalgamation of cuisines from South America, Argentina, Spain and Portugal, blended with Chef Petracca’s Italian Canadian roots, we offer a soulful culinary experience built on family traditions. Come with friends, order small plates, explore, converse and try something you’ve never had before. You won’t regret it.