Beginning in 1949, discerning fish and chips consumers in Toronto got their fix at Penrose Fish and Chips on Mount Pleasant Avenue. The place had a simple charm, and the Johnson family presented excellent food in a friendly environment. Then, last year, Penrose closed. This was catastrophic for me. There are precious few such places in town, and those still in operation tend to be inconveniently located.
Kevin Kowalchuk, first officer at Penrose, recognized the problem and come to the rescue. With his wife Jacqueline, he has opened “Sea Witch” at 636 St. Clair Avenue West between Wychwood and Christie. He fries his fish and chips in beef tallow, the fat used at Penrose and a much better choice than vegetable oil or lard. He offers chips and the familiar halibut ($15), haddock ($11) and cod ($11), but has added arctic char ($13) and pickerel ($13, my favourite and a favourite of his from his childhood in southern Manitoba.) His batter is relatively thick but doesn’t get in the way of the fish. It tastes wonderful and breaks like glass under your fork. The chips are French-fried potatoes, crispy on the outside and baked-spud soft on the inside. His house chowder, called “The Witch’s Brew,” is thick, creamy and satisfying. Everything here is clearly and deliciously hand-made.
I recommend Sea Witch without reservation. I can’t wait to go back to try the “bits and bobs” which include poutine, halibut Cakes, onion rings and slaw.