- I am the first to admit that I don’t know Roncesvalles Village well. A friend used to live there many moons ago, but we spent most of our time drinking red wine on her porch until the wee hours in the morning instead of exploring what the neighbourhood had to offer. In recent years, however, the lure of the restaurants lining Roncesvalles Ave has drawn me to the West side of the city more frequently. I never know quite what to expect when I arrive, but I am always pleasantly surprised.
One such surprise awaited me at The Ace. I had heard that the space had been standing empty for ages; even that it had once been a Chinese restaurant. Now headed up by chef Peter McKnight, it has been reopened as a place to stop in for some classic comfort food: fried chicken, burgers, soup, Shepherd’s pie. While the menu has changed, the décor most certainly did not; the new owners have kept as much of the original decoration as possible giving the place an authentic 1950’s feel.
My friend and I settled in for our meal in a booth near the back of across from the open kitchen. When asked what we’d like to drink, I tried to sneak a peek at the taps available only to find that there were none in sight. Well, no taps that I recognized anyway. Our waiter informed us that the fantastic milkshake mixer sitting on the counter served as the taps. A great aesthetic touch behind the bar.
We submitted our drink orders – Mill St. for me, the Ace Manhattan for my friend – and took stock of the menu. Written out on paper were five or six appetizers and five or six mains from which to choose. We pondered several options, but when the waiter announced that one of the specials of the day was a “Christmas burger” the whole plan changed. Ground turkey with stuffing in the middle, topped with cranberry chutney? THIS had to be eaten. As delicious as it sounded, it was actually better than anticipated. It hit all the parts of your palate and it was gobbled up in minutes.
Also sampled were the deep-fried Brussels sprouts with dill aioli and the gorgeous, briny oysters. Both were truly excellent and personified what The Ace is all about: simple food done perfectly. My dining companion and I nearly stabbed each other with our forks trying to get at the Brussels sprouts, something I truly thought would never, ever happen in my lifetime.
If you’re at The Ace, do not miss the fried chicken, which is succulent, juicy and crispy, served with him gravy, collard greens and cornbread (though why the cornbread is served on the gravy is a bit beyond me, as it has the unfortunate effect of making the bread a big soggy after a while). The fresh pasta with tuna, chiles, plum tomatoes and basil was cooked to exactly al dente and the flaked trout with potatoes, radishes and red onions struck a great balance of temperature, texture and flavor.
No matter how full you may be from the well-sized portions, I implore you not to skip dessert. The ice cream in particular is outstanding. Do not miss the oatmeal, stout or chocolate-rosemary concoctions: they are all made in-house and I am not ashamed to admit that I asked for an entire vat of the chocolate-rosemary ice cream to take home so that I could swim in it. Seriously. Do not miss dessert!
By the time we left around 8pm, The Ace had a line up of hungry patrons eager to relax in a comfortable, homey environment with excellent comfort food, attentive staff and a great bartender. I would suggest dressing in layers as it gets quite warm, as evidenced by the perpetually fogged-over front window. Go early or go late or go for brunch. You won’t be disappointed.
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