Chinese-Jamaican is not a cuisine that gets hyphenated much, so I was quite excited to try Toronto’s Patois. It’s not a schtick. Chef/owner Craig Wong’s family moved to the Toronto area after living in Jamaica for three generations. The French-trained chef has turned his attention to the food he grew up with.
Patois’ website sums it all up with the universal greetings “J’eat yet?” and “你食咗飯未呀?”
Our fantastic server laid out the sharing aspect of the menu and how many plates would likely suffice for three of us (two adults and one four-year-old). She never made us feel rushed, and took great pleasure in sharing stories behind some of the menu items.
Wong was not allowed to have pop as a child — unless it was at a big banquet or wedding. That’s where he was permitted a C-Plus, no doubt triggering waves of euphoria and sugar highs. (Sound familiar, Chinese-Canadian kids?)
As a nod to that sweet childhood reminiscence, one of the night’s specials was a deep-fried, breaded crab and shrimp claw (similar to those served at Chinese banquets), accompanied by a C-Plus and red vinegar gastrique.
If you’re dining with at least four people, it’s worth considering the $99 Whole Shebang, which will literally bring every dish on the menu to your table.
Patois has several home-run items. I won’t look at a Chinese pineapple bun the same again after Patois turned it into a deliciously messy burger ($13.50). Two medium-rare beef patties (so good) with oyster sauce mayo and Hickory Sticks (oh, I’m 10 years old again) are sandwiched between the sweet Chinese bakery staple.
But you have to eat it fast, otherwise it’s soggy city.
Unbelievably, I can’t stop thinking about the O.G. fried cauliflower ($15), which is battered like the fried chicken. Paired with watermelon Thai basil, and marinated daikon, it made me forget it was just cauliflower. I think it disappeared the quickest.
I liked the juiciness of the jerk chicken ($18/full, $12/half) which is cooked on a rotisserie, and yes, it’s spicy.
Some other dishes sounded promising on paper, but were hardly memorable.
The Jamaican oxtail ramen lo mein ($15) had two or three chunks of adequately braised oxtail, but everything was overpowered by an overly sweet, rich sauce.
I appreciated the smokiness of the dirty fried rice ($11) with Cajun spices, Chinese sausage, and sweet soy sauce, but overall, it was bland.
We were very impressed with the dessert of mango cheesecake-stuffed French toast. Yes, read that again. Cheesecake-stuffed French toast.
While Patois was not a 10/10, it’s worth returning for the dishes it does well and the wonderful service. Also, the brunch menu with Hong Kong-style egg waffles (how has it taken someone this long to offer these at brunch!) looks amazing.
The Dundas Street West space smartly incorporates the front counter bar to open up more seats, and has an elevated room in the back with a view of the kitchen that has a curtain for privacy. A sweet decor note: lazy Susans made out of skateboard decks.
However, it is LOUD. Really, really loud. But just pretend you’re at a big Chinese banquet or something, and order a C-plus.
High bar tables and chairs in the front are not ideal for toddlers. Tight aisles and spaces between tables. Very steep stairs down to the bathroom. I believe I spied a high chair in the corner.