Toronto Life - The Dish

The latest buzz on restaurants, chefs, bars, food shops and food events. Sign up for the Dish newsletter for weekly updates. Send tips to thedish@torontolife.com

The Dish

Restaurants

Comments

Mattachioni, an Italian bodega from a Terroni alum, is now open in the Junction Triangle

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Earlier this summer, a Portuguese bakery at the western edge of the Junction Triangle was quietly replaced by Mattachioni, an Italian bodega. The sign out front still reads Lieira Bakery, but a red “M” in the corner of the window signifies the change. Terroni alum David Mattachioni sells salads, sandwiches (porchetta, prosciutto, salmon, caprese) made on house-made bread and sweets including brioche with Nutella, tiramisu and gelato. Almost all of the ingredients that go into the menu items—bread, veggies, milk, butter—are also for sale.“Lieira sold groceries to the neighbourhood, and I’d like to continue doing that,” says Mattachioni. The bodega is licensed, too, and boasts what could be Toronto’s shortest wine list: two Norman Hardie offerings, one red, one white. And what would be the point of an ex-Terroni chef opening a place without putting some of his pizza-making knowledge to good use? Mattachioni is installing a wood-burning oven and will soon start firing out pies.

1617 Dupont St., 416-519-1010, mattachioni.com, @mattachioni

The Dish

Bakeries and Cafés

1 Comment

Grey Tiger, a vegan bar and café, is now open in Bloordale

Grey Tiger in Bloordale serves vegan pastries, snacks and cocktails

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Vegans now have a second reason to visit Bloordale: the recently opened Grey Tiger (which the owners named after their rescued tabby cat). During the daytime, plugged-in freelancers can snack on house-baked cinnamon toast, black sesame buns or scallion twists while sipping precisely brewed cuppas. (Co-owner Becky Ip is fastidious when it comes to tea, which she weighs before steeping at just the right temperature and for just the right number of minutes.) At night, flaky baked goods are replaced by charcuterie boards topped with nut cheese, mushroom pâté, pickled veggies and olives. Ip’s husband and business partner, Ryan Ringer, who used to manage the bar at The Beverley, mixes cocktails like the Murder, She Wrote, a bourbon, peach-berry shrub, maraschino liqueur, lemon, and ginger-berry kombucha concoction—but there’s beer on tap, too. In the fall, Ip plans to introduce a vegan high tea service.

1190 Bloor St. W., @greytigerTO

The Dish

Restaurants

1 Comment

Little Portugal loses Essen

Dundas West's Essen Restaurant has closed

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Toronto’s only purveyor of Jewish ramen, Essen, has closed. Owner and chef Leor Zimerman first opened Quinta, the French-Portuguese bistro, in 2012, but changed things up when sales started to sag. Last September, he debuted Essen at the same address, where he served traditional(ish) Jewish dishes, like the aforementioned matzoh-ball noodle bowl, a chopped chicken liver banh mi and a manischewitz cocktail named after Krusty the Clown’s father. Unfortunately, there will be no third act for Zimerman—at this location, anyway. “I closed to spend more time with my family,” he says. “I’ve missed most of my daughter’s toddler years running the restaurants.” Essen’s last dinner service was held on August 26. Luckily, we can still satisfy our cravings for updated Ashkenazi nosh at Anthony Rose’s Fat Pasha.

The Dish

Drinks

Comments

Weird and Wonderful: Natural wines, the funky punk-rock stars of the wine world, are coming into vogue

Purists will love the idea of natural wines. They’re made from grapes that are grown using organic practices, for starters, but they’re also unadulterated in the winemaking process. In a nutshell, the philosophy is to let the grapes do what they do, add nothing (or very little) and take nothing away. To me, the minimal use of sulphur dioxide is what defines “natural,” but it’s also the reason natural wines have only a tiny presence at the LCBO. Without sulphites, wines can easily oxidize, become vinegary or even overdevelop gamey flavours related to a yeast called Brettanomyces (a.k.a. brett). Poorly made natural wines can exhibit all of these flaws to varying degrees. Even the best are often judged as atypical because they fly in the face of today’s polished, cleansed, commercial wines. Like funky cheese, they’re an acquired taste. But they deliver penetrating fruit depth and exquisite textural lustre. The flavours can be authentic and expressive in a way that processed wines are not. My preconceptions cracked wide open after tasting dozens of offerings from importers like Nicholas Pearce, the Living Vine and Le Caviste at Archive Wine Bar, Toronto’s epicentre of the natural wine movement. Here are a few of my favourites and the restaurants that serve them.

Jonathan Poon's Chantecler on Queen West

Chantecler (Image: Dave Gillespie)

weird-and-wonderful-natural-wines-tawse-2014-unfiltered-quarry-road-chardonnayTawse 2014 Unfiltered Quarry Road Chardonnay
Niagara | 91 Points

Wineries can be coy about saying “natural” on labels, because definitions and perceptions vary. The fine print here says “produced without the introduction of sulphites.” The wine shows minimal oxidation, lovely pear and spice flavours and fine, creamy texture, with a mineral finish typical of the Quarry Road site. Look for it at Barque, Chantecler and Böehmer.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Drinks

Comments

Bittersweet Symphony: vermouth, the light, refreshing, versatile aperitif, is back

Bar Raval's Mal Gusto cocktail, and co-owners Michael Webster and Robin Goodfellow

Clockwise from left: Bar Raval’s Mal Gusto; co-owners Michael Webster and Robin Goodfellow; Bar Raval’s patio (Images: Dave Gillespie)

For years, Toronto bar lists have favoured ballsy amber liquors (bourbons, ryes and the like) for building powerhouse cocktails. But lately bartenders have been experimenting with tipples that pack more flavour than potency. ­Vermouth, the once-popular aperitif, is a favourite. It’s made from dry white wine infused with herbs, roots and barks (sweet or red vermouth gets its colour from caramelized sugar and plants), and then fortified with spirits such as brandy, vodka or gin. It lasts longer than wine, but not by much—both dry and sweet styles will develop a sour, oxidized tang after about a month—so keep it in the fridge after opening.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Restaurants

15 Comments

Geraldine, Parkdale’s favourite absinthe spot, is no more

Parkdale restaurant Geraldine

Geraldine. (Image: Dave Gillespie)

When the Parkdale restaurant Geraldine opened in the summer of 2013, it immediately commanded notice. It was an elegant throwback to La Belle Époque, with its gorgeous white marble bar top, elaborate light fixtures and antique dinnerware. The complex cocktails, absinthe fountain and excellent raw bar drew raves—and our restaurant critic Mark Pupo named it one of his best new restaurants of 2014. Then, earlier this month, co-owner Alexandra Albert announced that she was closing the restaurant. Its last day in business was August 20th. “Sometimes,” Albert tells us, “immediate success and long-term financial success aren’t tied together.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Features

4 Comments

Fountain Heads: old-fashioned milkshakes and floats are back, this time with grown-up ingredients

Hover or tap numbers for annotations. (Image: Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott; Styling by Carol Dudar)

Summer’s the time to revel in childhood eating habits, and at the top of the naughty list are awesomely junky milkshakes and floats. A recent mini-resurgence of old-fashioned soda shops and diners inspired us to taste-test the city’s most delicious ice cream concoctions. Here are our favourites.

The Dish

Drinks

11 Comments

A tour of The Addisons, the new King West bar that looks and feels like someone’s parents’ house

Going for drinks at The Addisons, a new bar in the Entertainment District, is meant to feel like crashing a house party. Interior designer Lisa Ho outfitted the Wellington Street space to look just like a Beverly Hills manse (it’s basically a much swankier version of this similarly themed Los Angeles bar). Inside are three rooms: a kitchen, a living room and a rec room—plus, just in time for TIFF parties, a 5,000-square-foot backyard patio complete with outdoor games and boozy slushies. Here’s a tour:

The Addisons front entrance

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Restaurants

7 Comments

Party Like It’s 1989: Yorkville’s Kasa Moto is an unholy mix of spray tans, bottle service and spectacular sashimi

The rooftop at Yorkville's Kasa Moto

In full swing, Kasa Moto’s rooftop patio is packed with preening Yorkvillians

KASA MOTO ★★★
115 Yorkville Ave., 647-348-7000
How our star system works »

I somehow managed to avoid Remys during its 26-year run. The place seemed to me the pinnacle of tacky Yorkville. No one ever went for the food, which had a reputation for being one step above swill. (The menu included an abomination called Oriental Chicken Stir-Fry Linguine With Oriental Teriyaki Sauce.) Instead, the draw was Remys’ rooftop patio, which was perfectly positioned for basking in the late evening sun and big enough to accommodate a couple of hundred people. I remember once stopping in with friends at Hemingway’s, the neighbouring Yorkville pub, after a weekend matinée at the Varsity. We’d planned to discuss the movie but instead sat mesmerized by the scene across Old York Lane, everyone in whites and sunglasses and as emaciated as the Virginia Superslims dangling from their fingers. Remys was like a Fellini movie, only louder.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Toronto Life Events

Comments

Toronto Life Garden Party, a special one-night event to celebrate summer, draws a sellout crowd

TL_GrdnParty_GalleryCollage

(Photographs by Heather Gilmour)

On August 20, Toronto Life partnered with the Toronto Botanical Garden to celebrate summer with the inaugural Toronto Life Garden Party. Gusto 54 catered the intimate al fresco dinner with custom pizzas from its wood-fired oven on site. Muskoka Brewery’s craft beer, wine from Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Southbrook Vineyards and Gusto 54’s non-alcoholic cocktails kept guests well hydrated, while a TBG honey tasting station sweetened the evening. Following dinner, guests were treated to reserved seating at a soulful performance by the folk singer Sarah MacDougall, as well as surprise gifts from the sponsors, including cookies from Gusto 54. The evening wrapped up with a private guided tour of several of the TBG’s 17 themed gardens by its executive director, Harry Jongerden.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

The Ridiculist

7 Comments

A baker’s dozen of deep-fried and downright dirty dishes at the Canadian National Exhibition

Part freak show, part thrill ride, the CNE’s over-the-top food offerings test the boundaries of what can be deep fried, served on a stick or used as a sandwich bun. Seventy-five years ago, the humble ice cream waffle debuted on the midway, scandalizing more sensible tastes of the time. Now, some already-decadent dishes come wrapped in a bacon-weave, just because. How far we’ve come! Here’s what you can expect this year, ranked in order from “ok” to “omg.”

(Image: Gabby Frank)

(Image: Gabby Frank)

Baonana Split
A pillowy Asian bun is the vessel for this twist on a malt-shop classic. Banana, hazelnut-chocolate sauce, whipped cream, maraschino cherries, and chocolate and strawberry syrups are layered inside the fluffy bao. Far East Taco, $7.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Restaurants

3 Comments

Review: Trinity Bellwoods’ Old School is less like a diner, more like a trip to Epcot (but that isn’t a bad thing)

Old School's fried chicken

(Image: Gabby Frank)

SEE ALL NEW REVIEWS
Old School 2 star
800 Dundas St. W., 416-815-8790
Old School 2 star
800 Dundas St. W., 416-815-8790

Trinity Bellwoods’ 24/7 funhouse-mirror take on a 1950s American soda fountain serves fluffy flapjacks and egg creams made with Brooklyn-indigenous U-bet chocolate syrup. But the free-ranging, cross-continental menu makes Old School feel less like a retro diner and more like a trip to Epcot. (Few big-city greasy spoons of yore served caipirinhas and jugs of Orchard Hooch, or had a smoker turning out ribs, brisket and pork.) However, no nighthawk ever went to a diner for authenticity: it’s about comfort food, an area where chefs Brad Moore (School, Xacutti) and Ian Kapitan (Precinct) excel. The General Fried Chicken, topped with Tabasco honey or served on a golden buttermilk waffle, is a crisp and flaky wonder. The Hangover Lover’s Salad—a bed of romaine tossed with pulled pork, cornbread croutons and bacon, topped with a fried egg—will smother last night’s bender. Motown provides the period-appropriate soundtrack, and the general store at the rear sells muffins, biscuits, coffee and other to-go items for the morning rush.

Have an opinion on Old School? Add your review here »

The Dish

Restaurants

3 Comments

Review: Raca Café and Bar serves beautifully composed bistro fare (and killer desserts) in Parkdale

Raca Café and Bar's scallop dish

(Image: Gabby Frank)

SEE ALL NEW REVIEWS
Raca Café and Bar 3 star
1704 Queen St. W., 416-901-9951
Raca Café and Bar 3 star
1704 Queen St. W., 416-901-9951

It’s easy to miss Ivana Raca’s Parkdale kitchen along this quiet stretch of Queen West, but it would be a mistake. She serves beautifully composed bistro fare from a menu that, refreshingly, doesn’t make any reference to “snacks” or “sharing plates.” A rich soup of white asparagus and celery root, the ivory surface rocky with jerusalem artichoke chips and flecks of chive, is the best place to start. Raca isn’t shy about repeating seasonal ingredients across courses: a trio of hulking seared scallops sit on white asparagus spears, each topped with a dried tomato slice and celery root hash. Peruvian bell peppers—tender little firecrackers shaped like spinning tops—add just enough heat to spiced pork meatballs and ricotta-stuffed gnocchi. The desserts are worth delaying the rest of your evening’s plans for. A hazelnut chocolate tart is as dense as it is dark, while a spiced orange semolina cake, under a scoop of honeyed goat yogurt, is deceptively light. Some of the cocktails are too sweet, so turn to the lengthy list of wines, including a dozen available by the glass.

Have an opinion on Raca Café and Bar? Add your review here »

The Dish

Drinks

2 Comments

Day Tripper: swap your stroll in the LCBO’s aisles for an outing to Prince Edward County

This month I’ll be driving two hours east of Toronto and filling my trunk with racy, elegant pinots, chardonnays and sparklers from Prince Edward County. It makes for a lovely summer weekend and puts more money per bottle directly into winemakers’ hands—especially important after an unexpected late-May frost wiped out a goodly amount of this year’s crops. Of the 35-plus wineries in the region, and hundreds of bottles produced there, these are my favourites.

Lighthall Vineyard in Prince Edward Countyday-tripper-01-wine
Fruity and Fragrant

Lighthall 2013 Les Quatres Diables Pinot Noir
$30 | 90 points

Glenn Symons has hit his stride since acquiring a vineyard in the county’s “deep south” region near Milford. County pinot is typically light, but this one is firm and well-balanced with cranberry-raspberry fruit. 308 Lighthall Rd., Milford, 613-767-9155.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Drinks

Comments

A breakdown of BarChef’s Abstract Ice, a cocktail you eat with a spoon

BarChef's Abstract Ice cocktail

Hover over numbers for annotations (Image: Gabby Frank)

Read the rest of this entry »