From the late ’60s until the ’80s, Karelia was an influential Scandinavian design store in Toronto run by Janis Kravis. Now his son, Leif Kravis, along with his wife Donna Ashley, have revived the brand with Karelia Kitchen, a Scandinavian-inspired café at Dufferin and Bloor. The 24-seat, 600-square-feet space has a clean-lined, minimalist Scandinavian aesthetic, with a ceiling panelled in locally sourced tongue-and-groove ash and naked walls painted ochre and rusty red. In fine Scandinavian style, the counter-service menu fluctuates depending on what is market-fresh, local and in-season.
The dishes at Karelia rely heavily on house-smoked fish and meats, including salmon, trout, pork and chicken, all of which appear on the smoked platter ($16), along with smoked goat cheese and house-made preserves of pickled pumpkin and fig. Hot plates ($10.95), such as beef short ribs and paprika- and tarragon-roasted chicken leg, are served with two hot or cold sides, including roasted potatoes, cauliflower, cucumber and wheat-berry salad with curried yogurt. There’s also a long list of smørrebrød ($8-$12), open-faced sandwiches served on dense, buttered rye bread, including smoked pork loin, duck egg and baby-shrimp salad. In keeping with Scandinavian custom, Karelia serves a house blend of coffee brewed by French press and espresso machine. The drinks list includes Ontario wines, local microbrews (and, of course, Denmark’s Tuborg) and aquavit and vodka, both sold in shot form. Come January, Karelia will also be launching a Sunday brunch service.