All stories by Renée Suen

The Dish

Restaurants

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Getting Luckee: Susur Lee decodes his Chinese New Year dim sum platter

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

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

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.”

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The Dish

Food Shops

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Ossington butcher shop Côte de Boeuf is now also a snack bar, sometimes

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

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 

The Dish

Food Shops

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Whey cool: inside Cheese Boutique’s jam-packed, million-dollar cheese vault

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

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

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.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Hanmoto, a Little Portugal izakaya from OddSeoul’s co-owner

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Hanmoto
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.

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Furlough, a new Trinity Bellwoods bistro and cocktail lounge from the owners of BarChef

(Image: Renee Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Furlough
Neighbourhood: Trinity Bellwoods
Contact Info:
 924 Queen St. W., 647-348-2525, furloughtoronto.com, @FurloughToronto
Previously: Ursa
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.

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Porter House, a new vegan pub on Dundas West

(Image: Renee Suen)

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.

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Openings

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Introducing: CC Lounge, a new Prohibition-themed bar near St. Lawrence Market

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

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.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Duggan’s Brewery’s second coming, in Parkdale

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Duggan’s Brewery Parkdale
Neighbourhood: 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.

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The Dish

Nightlife

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Blowfish on King unveils BarFish, a next-door cocktail bar and lounge

barfish-intro

(Image: Renée Suen)

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.

668 King St. W., 416-860-0606, blowfishrestaurant.com, @BlowfishResto

 

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Dandylion, a modern bistro on Queen West from former Centro chef Jay Carter

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Dandylion
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.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Wahlburgers, the new Toronto outpost of Mark, Donnie and Paul Wahlberg’s Boston burger shop

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Wahlburgers
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.

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Openings

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Introducing: Pizzeria Libretto’s much-anticipated downtown location

Introducing: Pizzeria Libretto

(Image: Renée Suen)

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.

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Openings

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Introducing: Fresh Off The Boat, a new seafood sandwich shop on Queen West

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Fresh Off The Boat
Contact Info: 404 Queen St. W., 416-603-3333, @FOTB416
Previously: IWing Pizza & Wings
Neighbourhood: Queen West
Owner/Chef: Quinten Tran, one of the founders of the Buster’s Sea Cove food truck

The Food: The chalkboard menu lists about a dozen seafood sandwiches, salads and other dishes, most of which have a slight Can-Asian flair. The signature “FOB” sandwich (described as an “Asian po’boy banh mi”) is a battered-catfish sub topped with kimchi and smoky aioli. Other options include a lobster roll, a grilled halibut salad and an entire soft-shell crab served on a brioche bun. Chunky fries and broccoli slaw are available on the side.

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Openings

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Introducing: Gaslight, a new neighbourhood local on Bloor West

Introducing: Gaslight

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Gaslight
Contact Info: 1426 Bloor St. W., 647-402-9728
Previously: Zocalo
Neighbourhood: Junction Triangle
Owners: Megan Jones (Reposado) and Tim Pritchard (Communist’s Daughter), who have a combined 26 years of experience in the hospitality industry
Chefs: Head chef Michael Greer and consulting chef Garth Legree, the former chef de cuisine at The County General and current executive chef at Little Anthony’s

The Food: Gaslight is more bar than restaurant, so the menu focuses on stuff that’s easy to nibble with a drink in hand—mainly sandwiches and snacks. Still, the short list includes some interesting options. “Poi boi” pierogies are stuffed with shrimp and chorizo, and broccoli poutine is served under a blanket of gruyere cheese sauce and pickled jalapeños.

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Openings

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Introducing: Little Fin, the mix-and-match seafood restaurant from the owners of The Chase

Introducing: Little Fin

Name: Little Fin
Contact Info: 4 Temperance St., 647-348-7000, littlefin.ca, @Little_Fin
Previously: Italian restaurant Fiore
Neighbourhood: Financial District
Owner: The Chase Hospitality Group (headed by president Steven Salm), which is also behind The Chase, The Chase Fish & Oyster, and Colette Grand Cafe
Executive Chef: The Chase Fish & Oyster chef Nigel Finley

The Food: The Chase’s latest spin-off restaurant is a casual mix-and-match seafood counter. Diners choose a main item (e.g. crispy fried haddock, smoked maple-brandy wild BC salmon), a preparation method (sandwich, seaweed salad, slaw) and any add-ons or “sea sides,” like chunky potato wedges or chili-spiced broccoli. There’s also a double-decker cheeseburger (served on pitch-black buns, dyed with bamboo charcoal), lobster-topped hot dogs, and whole-lobster meals served with sea-urchin “fancy sauce.”

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