All stories by Renée Suen

The Dish

Food Events

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Pop-Up Pick: a month of Twilight Tuesdays from Drake One Fifty and Momofuku

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(Images: Rosemarie de Mesa)

For the second year in a row, Drake One Fifty and Momofuku (with help from Pizzeria Libretto, Richmond Station and Thoroughbred) will transform some not-so-green space downtown into a night market every Tuesday evening for the month of August. Starting August 4, the financial district restaurants will take over the York Street parkette between Richmond and Adelaide, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., for Twilight Tuesdays. Attendees can expect street food snacks (bo ssäm plates, sandwiches filled with sliced-to-order slow-roasted pork shoulder), frozen treats (slushies, soft serve ice cream) and entertainment by local artists. The Drake General Store will also have a booth set up, because what would a night market be without an oddball impulse purchase or two? While there’s no admission fee, tickets ($5 each) can be purchased at the event and each is redeemable for one food or drink item. Twenty per cent of all ticket sales will be donated to the Out of the Cold program at St. Andrew’s Church. Last year, Twilight Tuesdays raised $9,000 which helped to purchase more than 1,600 meals for those in need.

The Goods

Best of Toronto

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Best of the City 2015: this year’s guide to all things excellent

Best of the City

Toronto’s appetite for material delights has never been so voracious. Suddenly, we’re snacking on $35 tins of Spanish cockles, checking our pets into four-star resorts and hiring TSO superstars to serenade us in our sitting rooms. We’ve got a million ways to spend our time and cash—which is great, but also stressful for those of us susceptible to FOMO. Our team of expert testers spent weeks plumbing the city’s nichiest of niches, unearthing new options for dining, drinking, shopping and other hedonistic pursuits. Here, your indispensable guide to the best of absolutely everything in 2015.

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Alo, Patrick Kriss’s refined addition to the corner of Queen and Spadina

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Alo
Neighbourhood: Queen West
Contact: 163 Spadina Ave., 3rd floor., 416-260-2222, alorestaurant.com, @AloRestaurant
Owner: Patrick Kriss (Acadia, Splendido) and Amanda Bradley (George, La Grenouillere)
Chefs: Patrick Kriss, Matthew Betsch (Eleven Madison Park, Splendido) and Nick Bentley (Acadia, Splendido, Canoe)
Pastry chef: Cori Murphy (Patrice Pâtissiere, Canoe)

The Food: The tasting menu–only restaurant offers an evolving five-course menu (with options) composed of seasonal dishes made with Canadian ingredients, but prepared using French techniques. The bar offers casual snacks including homemade soft pretzels, crudités (fancy raw veggies) on ice and bite-sized pâte à choux pastries piped full of caramel and vanilla Chantilly. Later this summer, a long-format tasting menu will be available for those who snag seats at the kitchen counter.

The Drinks: Sommelier Anjana Viswanatha (Canoe, Luma) has designed a menu featuring wines from small producers, with special attention paid to biodynamic and natural selections (including many by-the-glass options). Bartender John Bunner (Byblos, Yours Truly) serves his takes on traditional cocktails and even has a couple bottled concoctions for sharing.

The Place: Commute Design (Byblos, Little Sister, Patria and The Ritz) was responsible for transforming the 2,800-square-foot space that takes up the top floor of the Victorian building, previously home to a modelling agency. Windows of the polished (but tablecloth-free) restaurant look out to Spadina and Queen West. The building itself is looking much better than it did in the ’80s.

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The Dish

Food Shops

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Mark McEwan’s gourmet grocery store is open in the PATH

Marc McEwan in front of his new grocery store in the PATH, McEwan.

(Image: Renée Suen)

Bay Street office-dwellers have a new 6,500-square-foot supermarket to forage in: gourmet grocer McEwan, owned by you-know-who, has opened an outpost in the PATH, beneath the TD Centre. As at McEwan’s Shops at Don Mills flagship, shoppers can pick up fresh produce and premium pantry items, and there’s also a coffee bar with pastries and doughnuts, a soup and panini station, a salad bar and a 32-foot-long hot table that includes an extensive selection of curries, many of them meatless. A food truck–inspired menu features twists on popular treats like poutine, tacos and banh mi. Short-on-time commuters might appreciate the selection of oven-ready meals (like Thai shrimp curry and lobster ravioli) and there’s also a takeaway cake counter, display cases filled with Laura Slack chocolates and even an on-site florist for any last-minute hostess gifts (or heartfelt apologies).

66 Wellington St., Toronto Dominion Centre.

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The Dish

Closings

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Crush Wine Bar gets squeezed out

(Image: Dave Gillespie)

(Image: Dave Gillespie)

Since it opened in 2002, Crush Wine Bar has been a King West fixture, but its new owners clearly weren’t such big fans: it’s now closed, with the last day of service announced in one short tweet late last month. Niagara-on-the-Lake hoteliers Vintage Hotels, who purchased the oenophile’s paradise from the Queen and Beaver’s Jamieson Kerr back in 2010, sold the restaurant in order to focus on their holdings on the other side of Lake Ontario, according to Crush’s executive chef Trista Sheen. Shortly after the sale, the new owners gave all of the staff two weeks’ notice. “We all kept saying it’s the end of an era,” says Sheen. “It’s the place where I became a chef for the first time, and I just wanted to enjoy the last two weeks—to be with the people I worked with.” Sheen tells us she’ll be taking the rest of the summer off. “I’m going to take it easy: eat out, travel to the East Coast, and enjoy things on the other side of the food scene.” The new owners, meanwhile, haven’t revealed their plans yet.

The Dish

Restaurants

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Loka Snacks’ Dave Mottershall is Kickstarting a restaurant (and he’s looking for a west-end location)

(Image: Graham Tingle)

(Image: Graham Tingle)

Chef Dave Mottershall, who operates Loka Snacks out of Riverside’s Hi-Lo Bar, has a goal: to open his own restaurant. But what sets him apart from his peers is that he’s hoping to do it with the public’s help. After leaving PEI’s award-winning Terre Rouge last year Mottershall moved to Toronto, working at The Chase before setting up his own business (and tempting Instagram followers with his feed). In this video, Mottershall shares his concept for Loka. With endorsements from some of the city’s culinary heavyweights including Carl Heinrich (Richmond Station), Rob Gentile (Buca), Nick Liu (DaiLo) and celebrity chef Michael Smith, the all-or-nothing campaign is seeking crowd funding to help raise $25,000. In true Kickstarter fashion, project-backers will be rewarded with swag, exclusive dinners, culinary experiences and more.

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The Dish

Food Events

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What to eat at Front Street Foods, Union Station’s new summertime market

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

From now until the end of August, the new-and-improved plaza outside Canada’s busiest transit hub is an open-air food market. Open daily, the summer-long pop-up will give commuters, office workers and tourists a chance to taste dishes and drinks from some of the city’s best chefs and food vendors. It’s a welcome sight after years of ugly construction and snarled traffic along Front Street, and the strip’s hot dogs now have to share their street meat title with pollo-pibil tacos, jamon serrano pintxos and snow crab–topped fries. Weekly highlights include breakfast service by a select number of vendors, a licensed bar open Wednesday through Saturday, live music during weekday lunches and a farmers’ market every Wednesday. The current crowd favourites might be Holy Chuck’s freshly ground burgers and Uncle Tetsu’s spongy cheesecakes, but here are 16 other snacks to consider.

 Monday–Sunday, 7 a.m.–9 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.–6:30 p.m., 65 Front St. W.,  frontstreetfoods.com

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Patrick Kriss to bring refined dining to Queen and Spadina with Alo

(Image: Renée Suen)

Patrick Kriss at Alo’s pass (Image: Renée Suen)

Last November, ex-Acadia chef Patrick Kriss announced he was opening his own restaurant in Toronto. Alo is now slated to start serving guests at the end of July. For this project, Kriss has paired up with Amanda Bradley (George, and France’s Michelin-starred La Grenouillère) to bring refined but approachable dining to a city that’s seen its share of tacos and ramen. Housed two floors above Hero Burger at Queen and Spadina, Alo (which comes from the Latin for “nourish”) will bring a touch of class to the intersection but will still be “fun, not fussy and no tablecloths,” says Kriss.

The tasting menu–only spot will serve guests a selection of seasonal courses (with options available) prepared using French techniques, as well as a longer menu to the folks who manage to snag one of six kitchen-facing stools. Dessert will come courtesy of ex-Canoe pastry chef Cori Murphy, who most recently worked at Montreal’s Patrice Pâtissier. For those who don’t feel like committing to a tasting menu, Bar Alo, the restaurant’s 20-seat section manned by John Bunner (Byblos, Toronto Temperance Society), will serve shareable small plates inspired by the restaurant’s main dishes.

163 Spadina Ave., 3rd Fl., 416-260-2222, alorestaurant.com, @AloRestaurant

The Dish

Food Events

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Taste of Toronto 2015: a sneak peek at some of the dishes being served at this year’s Fort York food fest

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Taste of Toronto returns to Fort York this summer with another all-star line-up of culinary heavyweights. Besides the food (including three creations from Masaharu Morimoto, who’s opening his first Canadian restaurant in Toronto later this year), there’ll be master classes with some of the city’s top chefs, a tasting room hosted by Charlie’s Burger’s Franco Stalteri, an open-air market with over 60 vendors and the Chef’s Table—a Q&A session with chefs and other food folk. Guests can look forward to a selection of dishes from 20 of the city’s restaurants, all priced between six and 10 “crowns” (the official currency accepted at the festival, and just a fun way to say “dollars”). We visited half of the kitchens to see what some of the participants will be dishing up.

$19 and up. July 2-5, Fort York, 100 Garrison Rd., tasteoftoronto.com

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: A3 Napoli, the Pizzeria Libretto and Porchetta & Co. project in Little Italy

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(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: A3 Napoli Pizzeria e Friggitoria
Neighbourhood: Little Italy
Contact: 589 College St., a3napoli.com, @A3Napoli
Owners: Libretto Restaurant Group and Nick auf der Mauer
Chefs: Rocco Agostino (Pizzeria Libretto) and Nick auf der Mauer (Porchetta & Co.)

The Food: Quick-service Neapolitan snacks split up into three categories: VPN-certified, wood-fired pies (à la Libretto); pizza fritta (stuffed and fried panzerotti-like pizzas); and seasonal fritti misti (fried bites including arancini, meatballs, zucchini sticks, and frittatina—fried cubes of pasta held together by provola cheese and ham). Just like at Libretto, there’s a Stefano Ferraro oven pumping out the pizza, but it’s kept company by a friggitrice (that’s a fryer, folks) for everything else. Eat in, or get your fried dough to go.

The Drinks: There’s Peroni beer on tap, as well as Capo, the restaurant’s signature brew, made by Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery. Wine-drinkers have the choice between Fielding Estate’s unoaked chardonnay and its fireside red.

The Place: Named after the unfinished Italian highway that leads into the centre of Naples, the 32-seat room has an Autostrada rest-stop feel, with its exposed bricks, black and white subway tiles and strings of incandescent lightbulbs. Additional seating is available on the small backyard and street-side patios.

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The Dish

Food Shops

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Scoop Shop is Trinity Bellwoods’ new ice cream parlour

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

While you may not be allowed to crack a cold one in public, Scoop Shop, a new ice cream parlour at Dundas and Bathurst, is providing perfectly legal and refreshing snacks for the hood’s park-goers. After years of working with pastry, owner Sanober Motiwala, a graduate of University of Guelph’s ice cream technology program, combined her two passions when she founded Sweet Sammies in 2013. Familiar at farmers’ markets around the city, the pop-up now has a permanent storefront just steps away from Trinity Bellwoods and Alexandra parks. Customers can get anything from single scoops to sundaes, ice pops, profiteroles and even baked Alaskas. There are also milkshakes, malts, affogatos and ice cream floats. But Motiwala’s signature items are the made-to-order ice cream sandwiches that stuff one of the shop’s house-made ice creams between two freshly baked cookies, macaron halves or “crownies”—cookie-like brownies and blondies. Ice cream flavours rotate regularly but can include vanilla bean and Maldon-salted caramel, Propeller Coffee–injected espresso and cajeta (Mexican caramel). Vegan and lactose-intolerant ice cream lovers, fear not: there are also coconut- and fruit-based sorbets.

808 Dundas St. W., 416-854-2949, scoopshop.ca, @SweetSammiesCA

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Kasa Moto, the Chase empire’s swanky Japanese spot in Yorkville

toronto-restaurants-kasa-moto-yorkville-hamachi

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Kasa Moto
Neighbourhood: Yorkville
Contact: 115 Yorkville Ave., 647-348-7000, kasamoto.ca, @kasa_moto
Previously: Montage (but prior to that, Remys)
Owners: Chase Hospitality Group, Westdale Properties, Adam Arviv and Mark Silver
Chefs: Daisuke Izutsu (Don Don Izakaya, Kaiseki-Sakura), Michael Parubocki (Momofuku Noodle Bar, Frank’s Kitchen) and Tsuyoshi Yoshinaga (Yuzu, Kingyo, Kaji)

The Food: Contemporary Japanese dishes including a mix of izakaya and robata-grilled hot and cold small plates with some larger options, too (like a whole roasted bass). There’s also a sushi bar that specializes in both traditional and contemporary takes on sushi and sashimi, all made with traceable and responsibly harvested seafood. There’s a menu of small plates for the patio, and, on the weekends, brunch will include items like bincho-grilled wagyu steak and eggs, and breakfast bentos of fried rice and salmon.

The Drinks: Cocktails infused with Japanese flavours like yuzu, shiso or sansho salt; Japanese beers on tap and in bottles; a selection of wine and spirits—and sake, of course.

The Space: II by IV Design was responsible for transforming the 12,000-square-foot space into multiple rooms accented with wood ceilings, indoor topiary and hand-painted murals. The two-story restaurant and lounge can seat 410 people spread out across a split-level main-floor dining room, a sizeable rooftop patio, a street-side terrace and Bar Moto on the upper level, which is available for private functions.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Inside Barberian’s subterranean wine vault, the best-stocked cellar in Canada

Click to see a larger version. (Image: Renée Suen)

Click to see a larger version. (Image: Renée Suen)

One of the city’s oldest white-tablecloth restaurants also houses one of Canada’s largest wine collections underneath what used to be its parking lot. Barberian’s wine list now sits at 4,000 selections, with nearly 40,000 bottles in inventory. (If you ordered a single bottle of every item on the list, it would cost a whopping $3-million.) Owner Arron Barberian gave us a tour of his sizeable, subterranean vault below 11 Elm Street.

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The Dish

Food Events

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Way-out wagyu: Michelin-starred Massimo Bottura’s psychedelic steak from Buca’s one-of-a-kind dinner

Click to see a larger version. (Image: Renée Suen)

Click to see a larger version. (Image: Renée Suen)

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.

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The Dish

Trend Watch

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Nine would-be food trends, from cold brew coffee to pie-flavoured yogurt, at Canada’s biggest restaurant trade show

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(Image: Renée Suen)

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.