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Six things we learned from the Star’s interview with Momofuku chef David Chang

Momofuku chef David Chang (Image: David Shankbone)

Last week saw a flurry of excitement over the rumours and then confirmation that David Chang, chef and owner of New York’s Momofuku empire, would be setting up shop here in Toronto. But the e-mail Chang’s PR chief sent out was pretty short on specifics about the two new restaurants. Yesterday, the Toronto Star ran a piece by food editor Jennifer Bain with some additional details, straight from the horse’s mouth. After the jump, six things we learned:

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The Dish

People

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Q&A with Fergus Henderson: the father of nose-to-tail eating comes to Toronto

Fergus Henderson (Image: Laurie Fletcher)

It’s not hard to discern the influence that chef Fergus Henderson—co-owner of London’s legendary St. John Restaurant and spiritual godfather to nose-to-tail dining—has had on Toronto’s food scene. Think beef cheeks (Foxley), sweetbreads (Cowbell) and bone marrow (Black Hoof). The self-trained chef is widely credited with revitalizing modern British cooking, and making offal and other dismissed animal parts worthy of a Michelin star. Henderson will be making the keynote speech at Terroir, the Toronto hospitality industry symposium, on March 1. We recently spoke with the low-key chef, who shared his feelings on the new popularity of offal, misconceptions about his cooking and his future projects.

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The Dish

Random Stuff

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Googling gets more delicious with Recipe View

Continuing its never-ending quest to make searching marginally easier, yesterday Google introduced the pretty awesome Recipe View. Of course, Google is already the go-to resource for amateur chefs looking for the perfect recipe, but this new feature now refines the search to make it even easier, allowing users to narrow results to show only recipes; this means no more searching for dishes and turning up definitions or other non-food-related sites. On top of that, Recipe View can filter search results based on ideal ingredients, cooking time and calorie count. The filter also includes clearly marked ratings and pictures for each recipe.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: 416 Snack Bar, Queen West’s newest spot for cosmopolitan late-night grub

(Image: Jon Sufrin)

With the recent arrival of such hot spots as The Hideout, Tattoo Rock Parlour and Barchef, the Queen and Bathurst area has seen a boom in late-night hangout options (with the notable exception of the  Bip Bop Big Bop’s closure). But a few steps north on Bathurst used to mean immediate entry into a nightlife dead zone. At least, that was before Adrian Ravinsky and David Stewart opened 416 Snack Bar on Monday, bringing with them a cosmopolitan menu of palm-sized grub options.

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The Dish

Features

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Modern comforts: Chris Nuttall-Smith takes on Woodlot and Ici Bistro

Two neighbourhood restaurants serve up light-handed renditions of our rib-sticking favourites

(Image: Vanessa Heins)

The comfort food revolution has brought us much to be thankful for, including cheaper, more casual restaurants, and the glories of deep-fried mac-and-cheese, but it hasn’t exactly delivered a surge of culinary innovation. Spurred on by a sputtering economy, the comfort trend spawned a wave of barbecue joints, gourmet burger shops, neighbourhood pubs and by-the-book bistros, and it introduced childhood-evoking staples like cookies and milk to scores of restaurant menus where the “licorice root, three ways” used to be. It offered certainty when everything else around us seemed ready to collapse, not only for diners but for restaurateurs, too.

Comfort eating, like love and psychotherapy, is driven by equal measures of longing (for simpler times) and industrial-grade denial (s’mores are less fattening when they’re made with single-estate chocolate from São Tomé), powerful motivators both. So most chefs have been happy to feed our cravings without letting their own high-minded notions get in the way.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Good Stuff Cheap: four standout dinner dates for penny pinchers

(Image: Lorne Bridgman)

FOR A CINQ À SEPT
Devoted locavores should head to Beast after work Wednesday through Friday, when former Jamie Kennedy chefs Scott and Rachelle Vivian serve up nose-to-tail small plates—including pig’s head pappar­delle for only $4. Lovely Quebec and Ontario beers for pairing are also just $4; a number of wines are $5 a glass. 96 Tecumseth St., 647-352-6000.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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The 10 best pickled foods at Toronto restaurants

Pickled things—lovingly brined, jarred and served by the city’s star chefs—are the hottest grandmotherly food since cookies and milk. Here, the best of the puckery pack

See the list »

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The Dish

Features

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12 best bets for Winterlicious 2011: our chief critic goes through the menus so you don’t have to

A steak dinner at Noce (Image: Renée Suen)

Big-spending downtown Torontonians have taken in the past few years to whining about Winterlicious, but the two-week dining festival, running from January 28 through February 10, remains popular for a reason: it offers great value, particularly if you choose your reservations well. Here are a dozen of Toronto Life’s best bets. They’re older, more established places, generally, with kitchens that clearly care. And though we haven’t yet tasted the restaurants’ 2011 Winterlicious menus, they’re full of interesting, delicious-sounding picks.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Kenzo Ramen, the newest contender in the Annex Japanese restaurant wars

The King of Kings is a spicy bowl of pork and ramen (Image: Gizelle Lau)

Does the Annex really need another budget-friendly Japanese restaurant? After all, the strip of Bloor Street is flooded with dozens of spots serving up cheap options for students: $4 all-day breakfasts at Futures Bakery, $6 lunch specials at Sushi on Bloor, pad Thai at Thai Basil… The list goes on.

We say yes, yes it does, and you can forget the 50-plus-item menus, cream cheese maki rolls and mediocre miso soups that characterize the neighbourhood’s dining options. At Kenzo Ramen, owners Daniel and Rose Park (she’s the chef) are perfecting authentic Japanese ramen, a skill that Rose learned in Hokkaido under one of the city’s best-known ramen chefs. It’s their second location; the first is at Dundas and Bay. Unlike most frozen and restaurant ramen, Kenzo uses homemade ingredients and no MSG; Daniel’s allergic—and besides, as he says, “It’s not good for you.”

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Random Stuff

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Inside the fridge of Anthony Walsh, Canoe’s executive chef

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Toronto’s best house-made pastas

Factory-made linguine and penne just don’t cut it anymore. These days, it’s all about making it in‑house. The silky ribbons and plump pockets chefs are crafting from flour, egg and a little elbow grease are ridiculously good. We slurped our way through the city to find the top five.

1. Buca’s duck bigoli
Hand-cranked duck egg noodles are coated in a sublime ragú of soffritto, tomato, duck legs and giblets, then swirled into a towering nest rivalling Marge Simpson’s beehive. With mascarpone and basil, it’s nothing less than pasta perfection. $19. 604 King St. W., 416-865-1600.

2. Mistura’s chitarroni all’astaco
Venice meets the Maritimes in this concoction of guitar wire–cut spaghetti, sweet chunks of lobster meat, melting leeks and tomato concassée. A plate-licking emulsion of briny butter zinged with a hint of ginger cranks the volume to 11. $22 or $36. 265 Davenport Rd., 416-515-0009.

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The Dish

Features

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Toronto’s best Korean food: Chris Nuttall-Smith makes his picks

Move over, sushi. Now there’s something sexier. The new Korean cuisine is exciting, modern and worth crossing town for

The seafood stew at Tofu Village (Image: Ryan Szulc)

National cuisines, like drunk-driving starlets, get the reputations they deserve. Korean food—dependably rough-edged, cheap and fiery in Toronto’s first-wave Korean restaurants—has suffered a serious perception problem since it first appeared near Christie Pits in the early 1970s. Korean expats ate Korean food. Starving, steel-gutted U of T students ate Korean food. The rest of humanity got along quite happily without it.

That started to change about 10 years ago, when South Korea launched a sustained and successful campaign to become a major cultural exporter. What began with film and TV—including several food-obsessed soap operas that drew massive audiences across Asia—soon trickled down to dinner, and as a new, more cosmopolitan generation of Korean chefs began to refine the cuisine, the gastro-weenies of the world took notice. In London, Korean went high-end, and in New York, David Chang, of Momofuku fame, created a hybrid Korean–French–Southeast Asian style that has become one of the most influential forces in the business. Over the past few years, this culinary renaissance set down in Toronto, too, hidden—or hidden to non-Koreans, at least—in plain sight between the all-you-can-eat bulgogi joints and bibimbap houses where serious foodies would never have dared to dine.

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The Dish

Features

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Empire state of mind: Chris Nuttall-Smith takes on Scott Conant’s Scarpetta

Celeb chef Scott Conant opened his third outpost of Scarpetta this summer. Too bad it looks, feels and tastes like a branch plant

(Image: Lorne Bridgman)

This city’s corps of celebrity chefs has lost some of its swagger in recent years. Lynn Crawford has retreated into what tastes like semi-retirement; Jamie Kennedy’s mismanagement cost him, and the city, his best restaurant (anybody been to Wine Bar lately?); Marc Thuet can’t seem to find a winning formula for his once-vaunted King Street space; and though I’m eager to be proven wrong on this point, Susur Lee is too busy chasing fortunes abroad to give it his best back home.

Scott Conant, on the other hand, is young and hungry, and his Scarpetta, in the new Thompson Hotel, is the first unapologetically expensive and formal room to open here since George, on Queen East, way back in 2004. Conant is also the first U.S. celebrity chef to build a satellite in Toronto. So sure, the city’s gluttonous class got excited: new blood, naked ambition, world-class cooking and all that. One chef even said privately that he hoped Scarpetta’s arrival would force the coasting locals to step up their game.

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The Goods

Shopping

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The List: 10 things chef David Adjey can’t live without

Ten things chef David Adjey, star of  the new Food Network show The Opener, can’t live without

The best perk ever
I used to work as Dan Aykroyd’s personal chef in Kingston, and then I decided to move to Santa Barbara to cook at a resort. He gave me a car as a goodbye present and said, “If you’re gonna live in California, you’re gonna need a California car.” It was a gold ’66 Impala—the same car a lot of L.A. gangsta rappers drive. I keep the licence plate in my office.

A badass leather jacket
I got this jacket in 2003 when I was going through a rebel phase. It was the same month I separated from my ex-wife, opened my restaurant Nectar, and got signed to Restaurant Makeover. It cost $1,000—which was huge money at the time—at Due West on Queen Street. I love that it’s worn in and a little beat-up. I’m too old for it now, but I bust it out once in a while.

Kitschy collectibles
I have been collecting antique egg cups since the early ’90s. I got the idea from the Park Avenue Café in New York, after I ordered the flan and it was served in an eggshell set inside an egg cup. I thought this was fantastic, so I started scouring flea markets and garage sales. Now my mom and friends are on the mission, too. My favourites are from post-war, 1940s Japan; they say “Made in Occupied Japan” on the bottom.

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The Dish

Random Stuff

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2,000 chefs weigh in on the top restaurant trend of 2010

High times: a rooftop garden in Toronto (Image: Steven Harris)

Toronto is not always on the ball when it comes to eating and drinking trends (we’ve only just climbed on the speakeasy bandwagon), but we seem to be ahead of the game on the latest one to make—or rather, re-make—the news. According to a survey of 2,000 chefs by the National Restaurant Association, gardens are the hottest restaurant trend of 2010.

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