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Introducing: Toca, refined Canadiana at the Ritz-Carlton

Back in October, we reported that chef Tom Brodi (formerly of Canoe, North 44 and Gramercy Tavern in New York, under Tom Colicchio) would be behind the new Ritz-Carlton’s signature restaurant. When the luxury hotel opened last week, we got our first glimpse at Brodi’s year-long project, Toca (the name is a play on TOronto, CAnada).

Brodi describes his vision as “humble, farm-to-table Canadiana cuisine that supports local farmers and producers.” Going local is nothing new to the chef, who was one of the driving forces behind using sustainable, local food at Canoe. To that end, the restaurant will be working with purveyors like Afrim Pristine from the Cheese Boutique (80 percent will be Canadian cheeses; 20 percent will be international); Balzac’s in the Distillery District for coffee; and Marc Thuet, whose Thuet Fine Foods will supply some of the bread at Toca. In March, Brodi will begin planting Toca’s own garden at Matchbox Garden & Seed Co. in Vaughan.

In the dining room, Canadian walnut floors create a warm space, dotted with works by Ontario artists and red glass chandeliers by Toronto glass maker Jeff Goodman. In one of the kitchen’s nooks is the chef’s table: a massive 1,400-pound black granite countertop (it took 11 workers to carry it into the restaurant). Here, Brodi offers four-to-six-course tasting menus for up to eight people (at a minimum of $1,800 in food and drinks).

In the kitchen, Brodi’s team turns out appetizers like B.C. Dungeness crab with bone marrow ($20), Wolfhead smoked salmon on top of a Hungarian flatbread ($16 or $28) and a “fancy fish and chips” ($20 or $32), featuring beer-battered Nova Scotia lobster. Mains include a glazed B.C. black cod ($36), pan-seared East Coast scallops ($34) and Alberta and Angus beef ($44–$68), aged for 30- to 45 days.

Toca’s wine program is run by Taylor Thompson, formerly of Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar and Reds. The restaurant offers 50 wines by the glass; house-labelled wines by Niagara’s Stratus Vineyards, Flat Rock Cellars and Cave Springs Cellars; and hard-to-find bottles of Ace of Spades Champagne by Armand de Brignac at $650 per bottle (endorsed by Jay-Z and Beyoncé, no less).

Downstairs, Toca Bar will bring sophisticated cocktails to the Ritz-Carlton. The Latin-themed space includes a raw bar with ceviche, B.C. Dungeness crab salad, Malpeque oysters and sustainable sturgeon caviar from New Brunswick.

Toca, 181 Wellington St. W. (at Simcoe St.), 416-585-2500, tocarestaurant.com.

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