Aimed at showcasing Italy’s culinary kicks, “Sotto una buona stella” (or, “under a lucky star”) dinners will see six Michelin-starred Italian chefs flown to Toronto over the next two years for the benefit of George Brown College’s Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts Scholarship Fund. At the first dinner, held March 6 at Buca Yorkville, Italy’s reigning top chef Massimo Bottura was in the kitchen with chef Rob Gentile and his team while they prepared a six-course meal of whimsical plates (including one that featured live baby trout). Bottura’s contribution to the invite-only event was the stunning main course: “beautiful, psychedelic, spin-painted veal, not flame-grilled.” Here’s a breakdown of the dizzying dish.
All stories by Renée Suen
Way-out wagyu: Michelin-starred Massimo Bottura’s psychedelic steak from Buca’s one-of-a-kind dinner
Nine would-be food trends, from cold brew coffee to pie-flavoured yogurt, at Canada’s biggest restaurant trade show
What was popular in restaurants across the country last year? Craft beer, locally sourced food, and kale (along with its leafy green cousins—we’re looking at you, chard), according to the results of Restaurants Canada’s annual chef survey. As for what’ll come next, that’s up to the vendors at this week’s Restaurants Canada Show—or so they hope. And with the number of Toronto chefs in attendance (Susur Lee, Donna Dooher and John Bil to name a few), it’s quite possible that what’s on the tables at this year’s show will end up as answers on next year’s survey. Here’s some of what could be the next big thing.
As if opening four restaurants (The Chase, The Chase Fish & Oyster, Colette Grand Café and Little Fin) in less than two years wasn’t enough, Chase Hospitality Group is adding one more: Kasa Moto, which will serve a menu of contemporary Japanese cuisine overseen by chefs Tsuyoshi Yoshinaga (Kingyo) and Daisuke Izutsu (Don Don Izakaya). The newest addition to the growing Chase family is slated to open this spring at the corner of Yorkville and Hazelton, where Remy’s used to be. Sticking with the “business downstairs, party up top” trend, the second floor will be home to Bar Moto, which will act as both an event space and private dining area, and there’s also a rooftop terrace—home to something called Montage for a very brief time—that’s sure to be a hit come summer.
This February 19, restaurants across the city will ring in the Year of the Ram (or Goat or Sheep, if you’d prefer with special dishes that symbolize good fortune, wealth and happiness. Among those restaurants: Susur Lee’s Luckee. We asked Lee to guide us through his special dim sum platter—available from Luckee’s special menu until March 1—and what makes it so, well, lucky. “Dim sum is not proprietary to Chinese New Year,” says Lee. “But these have been enhanced to make them appropriate for the festival.”
Whether it needed one or not, the Ossington strip has gained yet another epicurean attraction. The peckish and thirsty can now dine (and wine) while shopping for dry-aged steak and heritage chicken at Côte de Boeuf, the neighbourhood’s famously fancy butcher shop. Last month, brothers Chasen Gillies and Teo Paul (of Union) began hosting “Baron Rouge Nights” four nights a week, during which they turn their grocery store into a low-key, sit-down watering hole. Inspired by Le Baron Rouge, a popular Parisian wine bar, Côte de Boeuf is offering a selection of bites including freshly shucked oysters, charcuterie, cheese platters and tartiflette (a gooey casserole made with bacon, potato and cheese). The fully licensed space can seat up to nine, with enough room left between its repurposed-wine-barrel tables for late-night shoppers looking to stock their pantries.
Thurs.–Sun., 5 p.m.–10 p.m., 130 Ossington Ave., 416-532-2333, cdbossington.com
Cheese Boutique, the 10,000-square-foot gourmet food store on the edge of Etobicoke, is not your standard grocer. Even more impressive than its selection of specialty goods (and that Google Street View has been inside) is its in-store, open-to-the-public cheese vault that stocks $1-million worth of dairy products. Afrim Pristine, co-owner and one of six maîtres fromager in Canada, showed us what’s hiding where. Read the rest of this entry »
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Contact Info: 2 Lakeview Ave., @HANMOTO_
Neighbourhood: Little Portugal
Owner and Executive Chef: Leemo Han (OddSeoul)
Chef: Joe Kim (Electric Mud BBQ, Origin Liberty, Momofuku Toronto)
Bartender: Ihn Huh (Swish by Han)
The Food: A short menu divided into raw and hot items that, in izakaya fashion, are meant to accompany booze. Expect to find Japanese riffs on snack food favourites like the Moto Bun, a fried coco bun filled with Japanese chicken curry and Jamaican slaw; and something called Dyno Wings, deep-fried, deboned chicken wings stuffed dumpling-style with seasoned ground pork, then tossed in a spicy house-made sauce. The Uni Bomb—a daily special and the bar’s play on do-it-yourself tacos—features tongues of sea urchin and all the ingredients needed to make your own hand cones.
The Drinks: A short list of beers, including a few Asian brands, available in bottles, cans or on tap; a few house wines; and a rotating selection of cocktails that, like the food, have a Japanese spin.
The Place: Garage grunge meets Art Deco, with a hit of neon. Han and his father decorated the eclectic space with salvaged finds, like the chairs and the prescription sign hung above vintage cabinets, along with metalwork from the now closed Swish by Han.
Introducing: Furlough, a new Trinity Bellwoods bistro and cocktail lounge from the owners of BarChef
Neighbourhood: Trinity Bellwoods
Contact Info: 924 Queen St. W., 647-348-2525, furloughtoronto.com, @FurloughToronto
Owners: Brent VanderVeen (sommelier, previously of Rain and Kultura) and Frankie Solarik (bartender), both of BarChef
Chef: Justin Newrick (La Société, Windsor Arms Hotel)
The Food: Small and large plates, including a platter of East Coast oysters; a pillowy pain au lait roll stuffed with foie gras and caramelized apples; and a creamy squid ink risotto studded with seared scallops. Weekend brunch service is scheduled to start in the spring.
The Drinks: Unlike the hyper-modern creations at BarChef, Furlough’s cocktail list is divided into 16 spirit-forward classics (Toronto, Last Word, Aviation), and 16 original recipes that make use of housemade syrups, bitters and booze-soaked fruit. There’s also a short wine list, a handful of eclectic microbrews and absinthe—complete with tableside fountain service (and a custom-built, bar-mounted fountain that’s on the way).
The Place: Think classic bistro: Parisian-style stools, a marble-topped bar and a wall peppered with vintage paintings, plus a tin ceiling to top it all off.
Name: Porter House
Neighbourhood: Little Portugal
Contact Info: 1321 Dundas St. W., 647-346-3000, porterhouse.com, @porterhouse_to
Previously: Brockton General
Co-owners and co-chefs: Ross Corder (Hot Beans, formerly of Hogtown Vegan) and Rick Hardisty (Fresh, Momofuku Noodle Bar, Woodlot)
The Food: The cheekily named Porter House is Corder and Hardisty’s answer to the lack of vegan pub options in Toronto. But while their meatless menu is stocked with decidedly British-sounding snacks and mains, there isn’t a piece of mock meat to be found: the two chefs use ingredients like shredded jackfruit for their pulled-pork sandwich and puy lentils to play the part of steak in a lentil-and-ale-pie. Other substantial plates include curry and roasted cauliflower–topped fries, and a ploughman’s lunch of prepared fruits and vegetables, miso-cured tofu and pickles, accompanied by a beer gravy. A late-night menu is in the works.
The Drinks: The bar menu is heavy on craft beer; a changing selection of bottles, cans and draught features a number of hard-to-find brews like Westvleteren 12. A short selection of liquor and wine is also available, and one out of the six taps is devoted to cider.
The Place: Aside from new flooring and beer and spirit bottles lining the walls, minimal changes have been made to the space, previously occupied by Brockton General—even the mishmash of old chairs, barstools and antique dishware was inherited from its former occupant.
Name: CC Lounge
Neighbourhood: St. Lawrence
Contact Info: 45 Front St. E., 416-362-4777, cconfront.com
Owner: The St. Lawrence Bunch, a business partnership fronted by Costa Kosilos
Head Chef: Brent Richardson, formerly of Glas Wine Bar, La Carnita and Beerbistro
The Food: The menu is heavy on share-friendly versions of old favourites, like mac n’ cheese topped with crushed Goldfish crackers and kale, and fried quail on bacon pancakes. For the real carnivores, there’s also a 12-ounce bone-in aged ribeye that comes on a wood cutting board with a dollop of whiskey ketchup.
Name: Duggan’s Brewery Parkdale
Contact Info: 1346 Queen St. W., 416-588-1086, duggansbreweryparkdale.com
Owner and Brewmaster: Michael Duggan
Consulting Chef: Rene Chauvin, culinary instructor at George Brown College and former National Golf Club of Canada executive chef, with sous chef Eric Snidal
The Food: This successor to Duggan’s Brewery’s previous incarnation on Victoria Street serves approachable, familiar comfort food. The rotating menu consists mostly of shareable snacks made with local ingredients. Main dishes include a peppered, braised beef brisket, served with sides of corn bread, green beans and chimichurri.
BarFish is a new cocktail lounge that’s joined at the hip with Blowfish, the schmoozy Japanese restaurant on King West. Housed in a modern new addition to the historic Bank of Montreal building at King and Bathurst, the narrow room has an onyx-topped bar, velvet banquettes and a DJ booth for nightly spinning sessions. Bartender Nishan Nepulongoda serves up complex drinks, like a cognac-based concoction flavoured with yuzu and figs, and a tiki-inspired cocktail served in a mug shaped like an Easter Island moai. (It’s spiked with jallab, a Middle Eastern fruit syrup made with dates and rose water.) Japanese snacks, like deep-fried rock shrimp and miso-marinated black cod, can be ordered from the Blowfish kitchen. But there’s more in store for the new extension: come spring, two new floors above the bar will house a pair of private dining rooms and a rooftop terrace.
Contact Info: 1198 Queen St. W., 647-464-9100, restaurantdandylion.com
Neighbourhood: West Queen West
Chef/Owner: Jay Carter, who worked for 10 years under Susur Lee (first at Susur, then Lee) before becoming executive chef at Centro
The Menu: “I want people to feel nourished and revived,” says chef Carter of his debut menu. His dishes are sophisticated but not too fussy. Take, for example, an elegant confit chicken dish paired with celery root and toasted brioche crumbs, or a silky poached egg sprinkled with crunchy puffed grains (referred to on the menu as “savoury granola”). There’s no one unifying cuisine at play—Asian and European flavours show up together in a persimmon salad with sprouted black lentils and Marcona almonds, while the stark white dishes and veggie-focused plates suggest Nordic influences. Read the rest of this entry »
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Introducing: Wahlburgers, the new Toronto outpost of Mark, Donnie and Paul Wahlberg’s Boston burger shop
Contact Info: 46 Blue Jays Way, 416-489-8922, wahlburgers.ca, @WahlburgersCA
Neighbourhood: Entertainment District
Owners: The Wahlberg brothers (Mark, Donnie and Paul), Starwood Group president Bruce Greenbeerg, Metropolitan Hotels president Henry Wu and Difference Capital executive chairman Michael Wekerle.
Chefs: Executive chef Paul Wahlberg and head chef Vincent Leung, who’s also the chef de cuisine at Luckee next door
The Food: Beef and turkey patties are grilled-to-order and piled high with veggies, bacon strips and condiments (including chef Paul’s secret-recipe “Wahl sauce,” which is pretty similar to Thousand Island.) Non-burger options include hot dogs, salads, grilled cheeses and a seared-chicken sandwich named after Donnie’s wife Jenny McCarthy. Read the rest of this entry »
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Name: Pizzeria Libretto
Contact Info: 155 University Ave., 416-551-0433, pizzerialibretto.com, @PizzaLibretto
Owner: Libretto Restaurant Group
Executive Chef and Partner: Rocco Agostino
Chefs di “Cucina”: Tiffany Wong and sous chef Carmen Mach
The Food: The new Libretto serves the same simple, seasonal food as the chain’s Ossington and Danforth locations. The menu is divided between rustic Italian starters (including chef Agostino’s namesake arugula salad with squash and beets) and generously topped Neapolitan pizzas, which are flash-baked for 90 seconds each. At $15 for three courses, the weekday prix-fixe lunch menu is one of the better deals downtown. Read the rest of this entry »
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