Elegant barbecue used to be an oxymoron in Toronto. That is, until David Neinstein, an Oklahoma-trained pitmaster, opened his refined yet appropriately carnivorous restaurant on Roncesvalles two years ago. The room resembles any number of west-end bistros: the walls are burnished brick, the bar polished oak, and the tables full of well-behaved Roncy families. Behind the polished dining area, though, is a Southern Pride smoker, where Neinstein slow-cooks his meat over fruit wood. The best way to sample the goods is with the barbecue platter, piled foot-high with supple slices of brisket (pricked with just a touch of peppercorn heat), juicy, bronze-skinned smoked chicken and tough, rubbery baby back ribs. Platters come with a choice of sides—crackling thin-cut fries, tender charred asparagus, watery fennel slaw—served cutely in miniature cast iron skillets, and grill brushes to slather one of two house-made sauces, including a sensationally tangy, tomato-spiked mustard. The non-barbecue dishes are hit and miss: onions four ways (pickled, fried, gravied and foamed) are predictably one note, but a dollop of flaked tuna spiked with orange and scooped up with crispy wonton is tart, creamy and fresh. There's a short list of craft beers and wines, but everyone orders the bacon-rimmed Caesar, laced with enough fresh horseradish to make you hiccup.
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