Beggarhood makes me a scrupulous gourmand, but Public gave me no excuse for some of the tastiest food I’ve had in the city’s haute circles. Yes, tapas are usually a little pricey, but for a generous hour Thursday and Friday nights you can have some of the most aggrandized dishes for a ridiculously reasonable price, and maybe a little something extra to splurge on.
Splurge I certainly did. I got everything I could, a heaping bowl of mussels for two in a bright sweet Romesco sauce, a cassoulet of white beans and stewed pork, bruschetta, patatas bravas, all at 5 dollars apiece. It was almost cruel getting everything I did for so little. To absolve my guilt, I added rolled taquitos with an avocado mousse. It was a lounger’s dream.
The mussels were the favourite, brought out first and accompanied by thin crisp twice baked fennel speckled bread. Saffron made it glow, red peppers and tarragon (I like to imagine) made it sunny and citrus like; and a mysterious sweetness had me flabbergasted, challenged by its flavor and in love with elements that made it Asian in its phantasmagoria of taste. The cassoulet was nostalgic. Creamy stewed beans and tender pork hock infused the dish with a smoky savoury flavour my company and I were fighting over.
Next, our bruschetta, riddled with vegetable ratatouille and garnished with pecorino cheese, cubes of salami, and a pungent ramp pesto had me a little leery, if only because the pesto looked too fresh for something available only a month out of the year. Still, it was another incredible dish, with mellow tender vegetable compote cooked enough to maintain body and bite. I liked the chewy alien texture of the salami in the medley, the softer bread, but would have preferred something a little warmer in my mouth if only to prevent the cheese from becoming a little elastic. Still, it did nothing to ruin the thing.
The patatas bravas were certainly the heartiest. Crisp potatoes dusted with paprika were paired with a simple aioli sauce that left a distant brassy finish on the tongue; and though the dish had an otherwise bland pairing, nothing stopped us from dipping our potatoes in everything else. Unorthodox? Don’t ask me, I don’t know. But I liked doing it. And playing with food didn’t stop there.
Our taquitos, rolled and stuffed with chorizo and Oaxaca cheese, came with an assembly of avocado mousse and spicy oil painted on the plate. And taking the small but potent side salad of cilantro, lime, and peppery arugula, gave us eaters a fun food palate to paint, combine, and create with. It was something neither of us had any objections to enjoying. I’m almost conflicted with the ever changing menu; sad to see good things go, but excited to see what else the place can cook up. For the city’s only tapas focused bar, I don’t see the necessity to change, but I certainly see the passion. Regardless, I am privileged to have tasted the effort.
PUBLIC KITCHEN & BAR
295 b Lancaster Street West
Kitchener, Ontario N2H 4V4
Thu – Sat: 5pm-1am
Sun: 5pm – 10 pm