Anyone who zoomed through Trinity Bellwoods on the 505 streetcar this morning may have noticed the papered-up windows at S. Lefkowitz, the all-hummus restaurant at 913 Dundas West. Just last March, owner Ezra Braves transformed the second location of Ezra’s Pound, his popular coffee shop, into Toronto’s very first “hummeseria,” which he modeled after similar businesses in Israel. Now the hummus shop is closing, according to an emailed statement from Braves, who claims it was only ever “intended to be a pop-up.” (Braves didn’t respond to our inquiries about whether he’s held on to the space, or whether a new business owner will be moving in.) While this is sad news for local hummus lovers, there is a silver lining for Annex residents: Braves tells us that the S. Lefkowitz concept will find a new home in the Ezra’s Pound location at 238 Dupont Street, which will apparently begin operating as a restaurant in the evenings.
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The building pictured above looks pretty nondescript, but there are exciting things going on behind the ho-hum facade, which used to house a men’s vintage shop called Black Flower. The space, located directly behind Churchill at 2 Lakeview Avenue (at the corner of Dundas West, across from the Beer Store), will soon be making its debut as Hanmoto, a “Nipponese snack shack” from Leemo and Leeto Han, the brothers behind Ossington snack bar Oddseoul and now-closed restaurant Swish by Han. Details about the new business are scarce, but its logo appears to show a Japanese dragon locked in a vicious embrace with a snarling tiger, so take from that what you will. We can confirm that Hanmoto will be opening as soon as its liquor license comes through, likely sometime in November.
Lansdowne Brewery is a soon-to-open microbrewery and restaurant housed in a slate-gray building at 303 Lansdowne Avenue, just east of the bustling junction where College Street meets Dundas West. First-time owners Jeremy Coghill and Darrin Earley aim to open their 10-barrel brewpub (for reference, Bellwoods Brewery has seven barrels) by the end of this year, or early 2015. Also on board is chef Peter Campagna, an Oliver & Bonacini alum with a passion for beer. His menu is a work in progress, but we’re told that each dish will be designed to complement the brewery’s unique roster of beers, which will include easy-drinking ales, seasonal one-offs and new versions of several “historical ales” that petered out of mainstream production in the mid 20th century. Lansdowne even has something planned for teetotalers—a fizzy (and booze-free) ginger ale.
We’ve previously mentioned Dave Mottershall, the east-coast chef who left his prestigious job at The Chase to start a food business called Loka Snacks, which has made regular appearances at Leslieville bar Hi-Lo and, more recently, John & Sons Oyster House in the Financial District. Later this month, Mottershall will continue his city kitchen tour with a temporary stopover in Little Italy. On Halloween (or rather, the day after Halloween, so it won’t interfere with any night-of party plans), he’ll be the guest chef of honour at a weekly supper club held by The Depanneur, the brunch spot and food pop-up incubator near College and Dufferin. Mottershall’s one-night-only menu is vaguely Halloween-ish in theme—for instance, the meal starts with a mysterious “spooky” amuse bouche—but it doesn’t seem to contain any pumpkin, candy corn or gratuitous gross-out imagery (ahem). Rather, attendees will dine on veal carpaccio with red-eye mayo, maple-glazed pork belly and sticky-toffee pudding. The whole meal costs $40, and it’s B.Y.O.B.—with no corkage fees—which is an exceptional deal for an interesting, artfully prepared dinner. Costumes don’t seem to be mandatory, but we’re sure they wouldn’t be amiss.
Sat. Nov. 1. $40. The Depanneur, 1033 College St., 416-828-1990, thedepanneur.ca
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.” Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
While in town last week for the Delicious Food Show, Mario Batali managed to add some fuel to the long-smoldering rumours that Eataly, the fancy Italian-food mall with locations in Turin, Tokyo, Rome, Milan, New York and Chicago, is headed to Toronto. (Batali, at least, is a pretty good source of intel—he co-owns both of Eataly’s existing North American locations.) Last Friday, this very hedge-y quote, attributed to Batali, appeared on the Delicious show’s Twitter feed:
— Delicious Food Show (@deliciousshow) October 17, 2014
Back in the mid-2000s, the folks at Bar Volo began a small-batch beer event on their patio and called it Cask Days. The mini-festival—which takes its name from the few days that unfiltered, unpasteurized, naturally carbonated, cask-conditioned ales are best for drinking (geeky explanation here)—eventually expanded to Hart House before moving to its current home, the Evergreen Brick Works, where it’s celebrating its 10th anniversary this weekend. There will be music, food and art, but, of course, the main attraction is the beer—and lots of it. This year’s event will feature 300 different beers and ciders, many of them original one-offs, from a ridiculously long list of breweries across Canada, the United Kingdom and California. Here’s the catch: the fest’s three regular sessions are already sold out, so anyone without a ticket will have to hold out for Sunday’s “last call,” an open-admission afternoon that will run until the beer stops flowing. The brews may not be quite as fresh, but, hey, it’s still beer.
Oct. 26. $5 admission. Evergreen Brick Works, 550 Bayview Ave., 416-596-1495, caskdays.com.
Bill Hicks is the name of the business that’s moving into the little second-storey space once occupied by Swirl, Leslieville’s prettiest, frilliest and most unabashedly twee hangout. Unfortunately, perhaps, for Swirl’s pinot-sipping regulars, the new spot at 946 ½ Queen Street East will be a very different breed of drinking destination. Bill Hicks calls itself a “tiki rock bar,” which apparently means a dive-y den plastered with “a shitload of vinyl” and anchored by a fully fledged indoor tiki bar, complete with $3 Jager shots and a bushy straw roof. According to a contact at the bar, the nightly luaus could begin by the end of the month.
Over the past few years, Toronto has witnessed the rise of the snack bar and the decline of traditional fine-dining. In the midst of the turmoil is chef Victor Barry, who last year pulled out of the casual restaurant biz (he parted ways with The County General and his longtime business partner, Carlo Catallo) to focus on Splendido, the 23-year bastion of fine-dining on Harbord Street. Is he desperately hanging on to a tradition that’s bound to die, or does he know something that we don’t? We caught up with Barry to talk about the state of Toronto’s restaurant scene and how it’s possible to have a great dining experience and fun at the same time.
Last year you split with The County General to focus on Splendido. Why did you decide to take that path?
The biggest reason was that Carlo Catallo was really interested in opening up more restaurants. I never really saw myself as a restaurateur—I want to have my own restaurant so that I can do my own thing, but I’m not really into opening many of them. It takes away from what I really want to do, and that’s fine dining and striving to be the best restaurant in the country.
You see these celebrity chefs who start off as artists, and then they go into nonstop expansion mode and start opening bad restaurants. I’ve never really understood that. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s because you make no money in fine dining. The County General sold a half to a third of what we sell here, and it made 100 per cent more profit.
Read the rest of this entry »
Alain Ducasse was in town this week promoting a pastry-focused partnership between his French culinary school and George Brown. Of course, local news outlets pumped the world-famous chef for comments on Toronto’s food scene. Ducasse, in turn, let drop some pleasing, if somewhat vague, nuggets of praise (e.g. his overall impression of the city, as quoted in the Star: “C’est wow!”). When asked if he’d consider opening a restaurant here, the cooking legend and lifetime recipient of 21 Michelin stars (Michelin has never published a Toronto restaurant guide, just FYI) responded that he wouldn’t dare. “No,” he told the Star. “There’s too much competition here. I’m too late!” Having sampled dishes from Buca, Carmen, Scaramouche, Colette, Richmond Station and The Drake, Ducasse also observed that Toronto chefs “cook with their hearts,” and predicted that the city would be flush with Michelin stars eventually, maybe in five to 10 years.
Touhenboku, the ramen upstart that plunked itself down on Queen West last year, only to expand almost immediately with a second restaurant at Yonge and Eglinton, is getting ready to open location number three. The news comes from Spotlight City’s Suresh Doss, who tweeted about it earlier today (it was later confirmed via Twitter by the Touhenboku crew). Shrewdly avoiding the city’s noodle-clogged core, the chain’s third outlet will be housed in the Distillery District, which—like the dorky kid who comes back from summer break with a whole new swagger—has pretty much completed its transition from cheesy tourist trap to legitimately great hangout. According to Doss, the new spot is likely to open pretty soon—possibly before the Distillery’s Christmas market pops up in a month and a half’s time.
Name: Buca Osteria & Bar
Contact Info: 53 Scollard St. (entrance is through the Four Seasons courtyard on Yorkville Ave.), 416-962-2822, buca.ca, @bucayorkville
Owners: Peter Tsebelis, Gus Giazitizidis and Rob Gentile of King Street Food Company
Chefs: Executive chef Rob Gentile and chef de cuisine Ryan Campbell
The Food: Billed as the coastal cousin to Buca on King Street, the seafood-heavy menu includes pizzas, pastas and pescatarian charcuterie, plus daily whole-fish options, like an entire raw branzino that’s expertly sliced and plated tableside. (According to partner Peter Tsebelis, Buca’s seafood is both “sensible” and “traceable,” meaning that care is taken to ensure that the fish served have been harvested in ways that aren’t environmentally destructive.) Similar to Bar Buca, the restaurant serves pastries and specialty coffees during the day, and brunch on weekends. Starting next week, a multi-course tasting menu will also be available. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
The new restaurant in the Thompson Hotel is ultra-polished and styled after an airy Riviera brasserie. It’s run by the Chase Hospitality Group and radiates—for better or worse, depending on your dining tastes—a corporate vibe. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve never tasted flavoured whisky before. What should I expect?
It tastes like whisky, but with one flavour in the forefront. “When you sip Wiser’s Spiced Torched Toffee, you’re still getting the oak, caramel and vanilla notes, but the toffee flavour dominates,” says Livermore. Forty Creek Spike Honey Spiced is made from the distillery’s Barrel Select whisky, with just a touch more honey flavour added to the recipe.
Flavour vs. traditional — what’s the difference?
When you sip Crown Royal Maple Finished, it tastes like whisky that’s got a pronounced maple edge. Canadian Club Maple tastes like Canadian Club, but with a tad more maple on the tongue. “[And] like all Canadian whisky, it must be well-balanced and flavourful,” says Livermore.
What’s driving this trend?
“People are more curious to try new things these days, whether it’s spicy food or new cocktails,” says Livermore. Flavoured whisky offers a new taste experience, whether you’re a seasoned fan or new to whisky. “It also tends to be a bit smoother” notes Livermore, “making it the perfect way to get into whisky if you’ve never tried it.”
Neat, mixed, on ice —how do you serve it?
“Any way you want”, says Livermore. Like all Canadian whisky, these whisky blends can be enjoyed neat or on ice, or mixed into a cocktail. For example, Crown Royal Maple Finished offers a fresh, sweet twist to a Manhattan or Spicy Sour cocktail. “I like to sip the Wiser’s Torched Toffee neat,” says Livermore, “but it also goes really well mixed with ginger ale or cola.”
- New FORTY CREEK SPIKE HONEY SPICED
Built upon the award-winning Forty Creek Barrel Select, this whisky brings honey to the forefront, along with vanilla and cinnamon. Slightly sweet, it makes for a refreshing highball cocktail or can be sipped neat after dinner.
Reg: $27.95 | NOW $26.95
SAVE $1.00 | 750 mL | 397109
Canadian Club is one of the world’s best-loved whiskies. The Maple takes the classic recipe — clean, crisp and full of toffee and caramel — and amps it up with a maple note.
Reg: $25.95 | NOW $24.95
SAVE $1.00 | 750 mL | 394320
New WISER’S SPICED TORCHED TOFFEE
Aged for three years, this whisky is both slightly sweet and lightly spiced for an unforgettable flavour. Add a dash of water or an ice cube to bring out its fruity aromas and caramelized toffee notes.
$27.95 | 750 mL | 394346
JIM BEAM RED STAG HARDCORE CIDER
Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey Infused with natural flavours. Proprietary infusion process expertly blends the flavors, keeping the whiskey smooth and not too sweet. Distinctively fruity yet the familiar, rich nose of Jim Beam Bourbon shines through.
Reg. $27.95 | NOW $26.95
SAVE $1.00 | 750 mL | 398438
New CANADIAN CLUB 100% RYE
Raise this rye to your mouth and you’ll taste the caramel and toffee goodness that Canadian Club is known for. Except here, you’re also getting a much bolder, spicier character, thanks to the high rye content. Sip in cocktails or on the rocks.
Reg: $26.95 | NOW $25.45
SAVE $1.50 | 750 mL | 390583
WISER’S SPICED VANILLA
J.P. Wiser’s® Spiced combines the uncompromising taste of J.P. Wiser’s® whisky with a hint of vanilla. A great tasting, versatile whisky, perfect for mixing with cola, ginger ale, or alone as a shooter.
$27.95 | 750 mL | 292243
People often call Canadian whisky rye, but true rye has much more rye grain than you find in a blended whisky. In the U.S., where most rye comes from, the whisky must contain at least 51% rye grain. A “high rye,” such as Alberta Premium and George Dickel, contains 100% rye.
Why the sudden resurgence in ryes?
It has a lot to do with the bourbon boom. People began to realize that whisky can be sweet or spicy, subtle or bold, and that you can enjoy whisky many ways. I’ve been a bartender for more than 11 years, and it wasn’t until about five years ago that someone ordered a Sazerac. So we’re seeing a revival of both classic cocktails and classic spirits, such as rye.
Do all ryes taste the same?
The Bulleit rye is rich and oaky, with lots of vanilla, spice and heat on the palate, which I love. It’s great neat, or add a cube of ice to mellow it a bit. George Dickel is a bit more fruitforward and is a fantastic sipping whisky. Canadian Club 100% and Alberta Premium are both big rye whiskies, with lots of spice and caramel.
What can I expect from a rye cocktail?
Dryer than bourbon, rye adds a leaner profile that blends really nicely in a cocktail without overpowering the drink. Most classic cocktails — such as the Manhattan, Old-Fashioned and
Sazerac — originally called for rye whisky. High rye is a return to pre-Prohibition whisky. “It’s definitely my favourite whisky,” says Saye.