TWH Social Bar | Bistro 1 King Street West Kitchener,…
Public Kitchen and Bar
300 Victoria Street North
Kitchener, Ontario N2H 6R7
Cost for two: I didn’t add it up. Just eat it all.
Open: Tuesday to Saturday beginning at 5 p.m.
A few years ago, Ryan Murphy and Carly Blasutti opened Public on Lancaster Avenue in Kitchener’s Bridgeport neighbourhood. It was a small, eclectically decorated venture located in a small strip plaza in a solidly middle class area along a busy street — and it was virtually an immediate success. The move to a bigger location and a better kitchen last December brought them to even busier Victoria Street in an oddly coloured plaza in an even more commercial district.
Success will continue: the pair are thoughtful, hard-working restaurateurs, Blasutti overseeing the front-of-house experience; Murphy, a very talented cook who flies somewhat under the radar, one of Waterloo Region’s top chefs. That much is easily arguable.
His menu changes regularly with something new each week. An attractive feature of what they do is, in fact, that change — and that they continue to create tight and yet exploratory menus of smaller and shareable plates. Few things present at over $25. (Don’t get attached to any of this: there’s a new menu about to launch in the next day or so.)
The dining room holds 70, more than doubling the original. Private rooms and flexible space retain calm and a comfortable atmosphere; majestic and intricately carved wooden doors separate areas when needed — and are artwork upon which to gaze when not.
The eclectic nature of the first Public remains, just with more space: bookcases, large front windows and a right-angled bar gives patrons a view, through large glass panes, into the kitchen. Another great view? A cheese “cave” for affinage and an accompanying menu is new.
“Look for that aspect of us to grow,” Murphy says. “We want to learn all the time, and we’re really happy here.”
Happy makes for good cooking, and eating at Public stays the way it should: a sampling and savouring of small bites, flavours, textures, rusticity and heart-and-soul. The kitchen experiments — “We cook what we want to eat,” adds Murphy — and in doing so encourages eating exploration at table.
A dozen or so so-called “Snacks” from grilled sourdough and marinated olives to foie gras with blueberry gastrique and fried eggplant have western European orientation.
Murphy appreciates and has mastered dishes of the Iberian peninsula (hence, items like the berenjena fried eggplant or the Basque pimientos rellenos). An aficionado of old cookbooks, he respects the past while he looks ahead, pushing himself, his kitchen crew and the restaurant to new heights and new insights about what marvellous things can be done with local food.
A group of four can wander and luxuriate through all of the snacks and several small plates with cocktails to start and a couple of bottles of wine. Take your time; don’t rush. Savour rich foie balanced by the tart gastrique. White anchovy in the piquillo y bacalao is a wonderful salty accent.
Classic patates bravas are Inglesa’ed with pimento cheese and superb (on the outgoing menu they are supremo’ed: rarified with morcilla blood sausage). Shrimp is buttery and perfectly textured. Dill pickle chips are well-executed and deliciously fun. A confit of garlic sauce sets off escargot — how Spanish — so nicely.
The service is friendly and knowledgeable; the food simple and delicious. It’s public, yes, but savour your own personal experience with well-prepared and delectable morsels.