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Restaurants

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Queen West is getting a Rose and Sons

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

Anthony Rose is at it again, but this time he’s moving away from the empire he’s set up on Dupont. His new spot will be in the space left empty by Swan Restaurant. Just as he did with the 40-year-old People’s Diner, Rose is taking the iconic Queen West spot and making it his own, while leaving the old name intact (it will now be Swan by Rose and Sons). “It’s essentially got the same feeling as Rose and Sons,” says Rose. “You walk in, it’s old and it’s a little bit falling apart, but it’s just perfect.” The food will be a “lighter, more feminine” version of what’s on offer at his Dupont diner, and it will be more “California-driven,” whatever that means. “That’s where my roots are,” Rose says, “I learned to cook in San Francisco, so it’ll be a little San Franciso, California-dreaming kind of diner.” How does that translate on the menu? “Like, delicious.” The new Swan is scheduled to open this summer, which is great timing for the restaurant’s one new addition: a Trinity Bellwoods–facing patio out back. This isn’t the last project for Rose, though: he’s already in the midst of opening yet another spot. Bar Begonia will find a home on Dupont (of course) and will be within walking distance of Rose’s existing “holy trinity” of restaurants.

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Annette Food Market, an Italian trattoria in the Junction

(Image: Gabby Frank)

(Image: Gabby Frank)

Name: Annette Food Market
Neighbourhood: The Junction
Contact: 240 Annette St., 647-792-6963, facebook, @annettefoodmarket
Previously: Sagra
Owners: Max and Amara Mancuso (owners of the Good Neighbour café next door)
Chef: Sivi Sitsoruban (Sagra)
Bar Manager: Meaghan Murray (Northwood)

The Food: Sharing plates of rustic, Italian-influenced dishes, the majority of which are roasted in a wood-fired oven inherited from Sagra. The items on offer include house-made pasta, slow-cooked pork shoulder and short ribs, roasted veggies and a handful of Neapolitan pizzas. Also: a bowl of bubbly, melted cheese with crackers for dipping. “There’s nothing wrong with a giant pot of cheese,” says Max.

The Drinks: The focus is on wine (by the glass or bottle) with over 20 varietals categorized by style (big and bold, rich and creamy, smooth and silky) on a chalkboard that runs the length of the dining room. “I really wanted to make it a list that people could navigate quite easily and that’s why we broke it down,” explains Max. There are house cocktails as well, a few beers on tap and champagne, for those special occasions (like a Tuesday).

The Place: Smack-dab in the middle of an otherwise residential stretch of the street, next to its sister coffee shop and a convenience store, the restaurant is named for the original Annette Food Market that closed over 15 years ago. “We had customers coming in all the time next-door, telling great stories about the place,” says Max. “We wanted to bring that back and that’s why we revived the name.” Between church pews and barstools, the cozy space seats around 25 people and there’s a harvest table in the back room for larger parties.

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Restaurants

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This and That to move into This End Up

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

It’s been less than two months since Dundas West sandwich and cocktail bar This End Up closed, but already something is taking its place (and thankfully it isn’t an all-baby food spot—nice try, BlogTO). Chef Deron Engbers along with Michael Dorbyk, co-owner of the Monarch Tavern, is opening up a restaurant called This and That. (The name speaks to Engbers’ cooking style: “Whatever makes me happy that day!” he says.) Engbers, who for a short stint was a stagiaire at the venerated French Laundry, has previously worked for Rock Lobster Food Co., Oyster Boy, Sassafraz and Auberge du Pommier. Though trained in classical French cuisine, Engbers says he believes in making “accessible, fun and tasty food”: that translates into dishes like short rib croquettes, seafood cassoulet and dressed-up duck eggs. This and That is still weeks away from opening its doors, but keep an eye on Engbers’ Twitter account for practice pop-up dinners.

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Culture

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Hot Seats: online reservation systems were supposed to make scoring a table easier. So much for that

For a guy who books a lot of restaurant reservations, I’ve had extra bad luck. I’ve been laughed at for asking for a table for two at eight at Patria. I’ve called restaurants at noon and been told to call back after 5 p.m., only to discover the hostess has left the phone off the hook. One time, at Susur, my reservation was scribbled in the wrong month. The hostess gestured at the full book and shrugged. When I didn’t budge, she rolled her eyes and led my companion and me to two seats at the bar. And not long ago I arrived at Blowfish with three out-of-towners on a Thursday, prime time at a clubby spot. The entire way there I’d hyped the sake cocktails as the closest thing to a miracle on King Street. Our reservation was nowhere in the book. The hostess said the best she could do was give us a table for two in two hours. Did we want it?

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Food Shops

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Mabel’s Bakery is expanding to St. Clair West

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

Mabel’s Bakery, maker of prepared meals and purveyor of perfect almond croissants, is opening a store on St. Clair West in mid-June. The new shop will be at Rushton Road, next to the spot recently vacated by Catch. This is a third location for the bakery, which already has shops on Queen West and Roncesvalles. Co-owner Lorraine Hawley says that she and her partners were on the hunt for a neighbourhood with a “walk-and-shop local” culture and that St. Clair West, finally recovering from years of disruptive roadwork, exemplified that. “There’s a real sense of renewal in the neighbourhood that we’re excited to be a part of,” says Hawley. The new location will carry the same sweet and savoury treats that have proven popular at the bakery’s other spots (house-made bread, pies, cakes and squares), and will undoubtedly provide some friendly competition for neighbouring pâtisserie Pain Perdu.

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Openings

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Introducing: Concession Road, a French restaurant from the owners of Pukka, on St. Clair West

toronto-restaurants-concession-road-lead2

(Image: Gabby Frank)

Name: Concession Road
Neighbourhood: Humewood
Contact: 760 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-658-0460, concessionroad.ca, @concessionroad
Previously: Bywoods
Owners: Harsh Chawla and Derek Valleau (also owners of Pukka)
Chefs: Masayuki Tamaru (Crush) and Mark Cutrara (Cowbell, Hawthorne)

The Food: French cuisine with “classic French roots, but global branches,” says Valleau. Chef Tamaru’s inventive takes on classic dishes include crunchy, chickpea-flour-coated calf’s liver with a Korean barbecue twist; duck kebabs with togarashi peppers; and tempura-battered cod. Of course, there are some traditional plates as well: steak shows up more than once on the menu, both with frites and as a tartare.

The Drinks: Sommelier Peter Boyd (Scaramouche, Skin & Bones, Pukka) is in charge of the Old World–heavy wine list, and there are cocktails and an absinthe program, as well. “We’re going to create a little bar scene, we hope,” says Valleau, “and bring a little downtown excitement to uptown.”

The Place: Bywoods’s barn board and black ceilings have been removed and repainted (respectively) to make the space brighter and airier. The restaurant is divided, separating its more formal bistro dining room from the bar. And, just in time for summer, there’s a street-side patio that’s licensed to accommodate 18 people (with room to spare for a green fairy or two).

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New Reviews

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Review: Furlough, BarChef’s sister spot, brings more cocktail nerdery to Queen West

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

SEE ALL NEW REVIEWS
Furlough 3 star ½
924 Queen St. W., 647-348-2525
Furlough 3 star ½
924 Queen St. W., 647-348-2525

The new bar-bistro on Queen West, in the space formerly occupied by Ursa, is a marvel of cocktail nerdery. The co-owner, Frankie Solarik, introduced Toronto to $20, chemistry-experiment tipples in the mid-oughties at clubby BarChef and wrote the book on mixology (called, unsurprisingly, The Bar Chef). The new venture is far more laid back, like a moody beaux arts–era drinking salon that serves excellent rustic food. (The dim, dim, dim—seriously, download the flashlight app on your phone before you go—candlelight nails the pre-electricity mood.)

The intriguing drinks (there are 30 on offer) also seem to have emerged less from a futuristic lab and more from a 19th-century apothecary stocked with obscure tinctures. The Juniper Harvest, for example, stirs London dry gin with star anise syrup, apricot bitters and sweet vermouth in an orange blossom–rinsed wine glass that channels the scents upward. You could easily drop $100 sampling them, alongside snacks like snap peas tossed with sticky, sweet pomegranate sauce and crunchy almonds, or hollandaise-drenched lobster tail on buttery pain au lait. But hearty mains, like lush duck confit on sweet braised red cabbage, or deep black, salty squid ink risotto with golden seared scallops, are entirely worth it, too. Classic crème brûlée makes a killer pairing for a savoury-sweet Apricot Fields, which shakes apricot-infused brandy, lemon, rosemary syrup, amaretto and madeira over ice.

Have an opinion on Furlough? Add your review here »

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Restaurants

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Richmond Station pastry chef Farzam Fallah’s sweet mise en place

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

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

A chef’s work station is hallowed ground. For Farzam Fallah, Richmond Station’s boy-genius pastry chef, it’s where he transforms dessert from a “maybe if there’s room” thing to a “gotta have it now” one. With his wildly inventive takes on classics like cheesecake and butter tarts or his Willy Wonka–like creations, he always manages to turn the last course into the main event. “Desserts are entertainment,” Fallah says. “Food is the only thing that excites all five sense at once.” Here, he takes us through the mise en place elements of his playful take on crème brûlée—available only until the end of April.

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Restaurants

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Pop-Up Pick: get Fidel Gastro’s sandwiches at Lisa Marie this Friday

(Images: Fidel Gastro/Instagram)

(Images: Fidel Gastro/Instagram)

It may not be food truck season yet, but on April 17 fans of sidewalk eats can get Fidel Gastro’s sandwiches from its sister brick-and-mortar spot, Lisa Marie. The Queen West restaurant is celebrating its second birthday tomorrow by selling 100 of Fidel’s $5 Philly-style roast pork sammies from its roll-up window between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. And, because stuffed sandwich lunches are notorious for causing those afternoon crashes, Station Coffee Co. will be on site pouring free samples of its cold brew. One caveat: this pop-up is dependent on good weather and will be cancelled if it rains—because nobody likes a soggy sandwich (or getting wet while waiting for one). So, maybe bring a lunch tomorrow, just in case.

Lisa Marie. 638 Queen St. W., 416-999-6822, @fidelgastros

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New Reviews

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Review: NAO brings swank back to Yorkville and steak so good it doesn’t need sauce

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

SEE ALL NEW REVIEWS
NAO 3 star ½
90 Avenue Rd., 416-367-4141
NAO 3 star ½
90 Avenue Rd., 416-367-4141

The glitzy reno of this Victorian, for most of the last 20 years home to the quaint fusion spot Boba, marks the rapid transformation of Yorkville from rich and dowdy to rich and aggressively chic. Marble walls, plush black leather banquettes and a monumental wedding cake of a chandelier reinforce the impression of a deco-era nightclub—the only thing missing is Nat King Cole crooning from a stage instead of from the overhead speakers.

Nominally a Japanese-style steak house, it’s the latest in a series of ambitious Charles Khabouth and Hanif Harji projects, with executive chef Stuart Cameron (who also oversees Byblos, Weslodge and Patria) responsible for a big-spender menu of oyster platters, panko and Dungeness crab croquettes dusted with a sesame-seaweed seasoning, and an ingeniously multi-textured ahi tuna tartare (more of a salad) tossed with chilies, avocado, puffed wild rice and a nostril-searing grating of fresh B.C. wasabi. But it’s all about the beef: the aging locker holds a king’s ransom of prime Canadian and American cattle; Wagyu raised in your pick of Idaho, Iowa or Australia; and the most outrageous of them all, Japanese Kobe, which starts at $105 for a mere five ounces and climbs precipitously to $460 for a 24-ounce rib-eye. The more modest Australian Wagyu rump steak is charred handsomely on the grill, perfectly rare within, and so heavily marbled it’s more fat than meat—it slices like butter under the blade of the restaurant’s custom-made high-carbon steak knives. The steaks are so flavourful, there’s no need for the house steak sauce, prepared with momentous ceremony tableside on a vintage industrial cart. A serious wine list includes a dozen sakes and a handful of extremely rare French vintages offered by the glass.

Have an opinion on NAO? Add your review here »

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Restaurants

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Lucky Red reopens as a licensed, late-night snack bar

(Image: Jackie Pal)

After Banh Mi Boys co-owner David Chau shut down his Spadina Avenue spot, Lucky Red, last September after just a few months in business, he admitted that the concept was rushed and needed to be refined further before it could compete in Chinatown’s changing dining scene. On April 1, the now-fully-licensed restaurant reopened as a sit-down restaurant and cocktail bar. Its revamped menu is full of bar food favourites, each with its own twist: sticky tamarind wings, eleven-spiced fried chicken, a Vietnamese take on tartare and a game-changing nacho dish that subs in fried pork dumplings for chips. (And there are baos too, of course.) Cocktails with Asian flavours and a selection of local and imported beers round out the drink list. Fans of the fried s’more bao will be happy to know it’s still on the menu, but for those who want to try something different: durian tarts.

318 Spadina Ave., 416-792-8628, luckyredshop.com, @LuckyRedShop

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Drinks

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A year-round lawn games bar is coming to College West

(Image: Holly Blair)

Good news for those of you who think the 60-plus crowd gets all the best sports: you no longer have to wait until your golden years to take up shuffleboard. That’s because Toronto’s getting its very own indoor lawn games bar, and it opens April 17. Track & Field Bar, owned by the folks behind Montauk, has taken over the space on College near Ossington formerly occupied by The Cave nightclub, and will cater to those who want to do something while drinking but are nervous about that something involving an axe. The 5,000-square-foot space features two bocce ball lanes and two shuffleboard decks, one of each saved for walk-ins and all available to play free of charge. And for those waiting for a lane to free up: crokinole boards will be available for a little sit-down play. And, as Adam Vaughan and Gord Perks know, lawn games are best enjoyed with a bit of booze, so there’s that too. Following in Montauk’s steps, there will be classic and signature cocktails on tap, as well as bottled, canned and draught beer.

Track & Field Bar. 860 College St. W., @trackfieldbar

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Restaurants

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Pukka’s about to open a French restaurant on St. Clair West

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

The owners of St. Clair West’s modern Indian spot Pukka will soon be feeding the neighbourhood French food, too. Concession Road (that’s St. Clair’s original name) will open just half a block east of Pukka, in the space recently vacated by Bywoods. Co-owner Derek Valleau tells us that the new restaurant, which is scheduled to open as soon as this weekend, will serve dishes with “French roots but global branches” cooked by chef Masayuki Tamaru, who Valleau first worked with at Crush Wine Bar, and sous chef, Mark Cutrara (Cowbell, Hawthorne, Parlor Foods). “We obviously weren’t going to do Indian and compete with ourselves,” says Valleau, “but the neighbourhood is developing and in great need of better restaurants. If it wasn’t us, it would have been someone else.” Sommelier Peter Boyd (Scaramouche, Skin & Bones, Pukka) is in charge of the wine list, and there will be cocktails and an absinthe program, as well—all of which, come summer, will go nicely with the spot’s street-side patio.

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People

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Q&A: Max Rimaldi, the Pizzeria Libretto owner who made Neapolitan pizza a thing in Toronto

(Image: Claire Foster)

(Image: Claire Foster)

In the seven years since Pizzeria Libretto first opened on Ossington, co-owner and creator Max Rimaldi has become one of the most influential restaurateurs in the city. There are now three Librettos, along with legions of copycats—this, in addition to his other restaurants, including the much-heralded Enoteca Sociale on Dundas West and two in-the-works collaborations with Porchetta and Co.’s Nick Auf der Mauer: a pizza and porchetta union on King West and A3 Napoli in Little Italy. Oh, and did we mention that Rimaldi also helped finance a little restaurant called Bar Isabel? We met up with Rimaldi to talk about fine dining, Neapolitan pizza and the state of Toronto’s restaurant scene.

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How-To

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How Ontario Spring Water Sake turns rice into booze by hand

(Image: Giordano Ciampini)

(Image: Giordano Ciampini)

While Greg Newton was studying microbiology in Japan, he spent a lot of his free time in small breweries, or sakaguras, in Nagano. He took a job in one, eventually honing his trade under master brewer Yoshiko Takahashi, who Newton enlisted to help set up Toronto’s—and North America’s—first sake brewery. At Ontario Spring Water Sake, in the Distillery District, it takes about a month and a half to produce one batch of booze—that’s because the persnickety process is mostly done by hand. When it’s all said and done, head brewer Newton and his team will have transformed 300 kilograms of rice into 1,500 bottles of sake. Here’s how it’s made.

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