Out of Place in Little Italy
10827 95 Street
We are used to having mismatched locations in our neighbourhood: an Italian bakery in Chinatown and an Ethiopian restaurant in Little Italy, for example. Mark Joel’s continues that trend as a Filipino restaurant located between La Dolce Vita and Santo’s in Little Italy.
With only four tables, it caters mostly to take-out customers. The menu dishes are posted around on four big posters on the walls and I felt awkward trying to figure things out. Several ethnic dishes were on offer based on chicken, fish, pork, and goat. Most came in a combo that included rice and tortang talong (fried eggplant).
The Daing na Bangus I ordered was a white-fleshed “milkfish,” the national fish of the Philippines. It had been marinated, cooked, and kept in the warmer, so it was served pronto. The marinade was heavy on the vinegar for my taste and one had to be careful of the bones and other parts, as it was served whole. The texture of the fish was firm, but there was a gelatinous substance in the middle, that I learned was the “baby fish.” I can’t say that it looked appealing like the menu pictures, so I skipped it. The tortang talong eggplant was rather on the mushy side, perhaps because it was not cooked fresh. I wished that other vegetable options were available. The side of rice, like the eggplant and the fish, was served on its own separate plastic plate, along with plastic utensils.
Mark Joel’s is a one-man operation. The lone server is the only staff person, managing, cooking, serving, cleaning, and every thing else, on behalf of an off-premise owner. For an amateur restaurant such as this, one would not expect much and I wasn’t disappointed. Prices were reasonable (my combo meal was $12, including bottled water) and the portions were adequate, even if the cuisine was not particularly engaging. Mark Joel’s certainly offers a unique menu, but nevertheless it felt a bit out of place with the nature of its food, even among the other mismatches in the neighbourhood.