Daniel Boulud

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Where to Eat Now: everything you need to know about dining in Toronto in 2014

Where to Eat Now 2014

I’d gladly spend every night in a bar seat facing the open kitchen at Chantecler. Two scruffy young chefs squeeze past one another in a tiny space, cooking with a tabletop deep fryer and an electric stove. Despite the constraints, they produce an exquisitely intricate, ethnically hyphenated tasting menu that seems particularly Torontonian and of the moment. On my last visit, I gorged on tartare with house-made shrimp chips, a Chinese-style double-smoked duck with crisp baked kale, Colville Bay oysters with fresh tagliatelle, a sweet custard topped with sea urchin, and a dessert of buckwheat-flavoured ice cream and Niagara black walnuts. I left thoroughly winded.

That a special place like Chantecler can thrive on one of the grimier blocks in Parkdale only shows how the dining scene is keeping pace with our insatiable hunger to be wowed. Restaurants are experimenting with menus themed around unsung ingredients, flying in like-minded star chefs for one-night collaborations, and building empires down alleys and in former gastronomical deserts like Dupont and Dundas West. The two big name ­out-of-towners—David Chang and Daniel Boulud—overcame the provincial skepticism of foodie bloggers by demonstrating a deep commitment to the homegrown (their menus read like a directory of southern Ontario heritage farmers). Every block seems to have a new spot specializing in a signature ramen. And for each walk-in-closet restaurant like Chantecler, there’s a new showstopper palace like The Chase to cater to Bay Street’s big spenders.

I’ve eaten my way across this city many times over, sipping more than my share of barrel-aged bourbon, waiting in lines at no-reservation hot spots and discreetly taking notes on my smartphone. The following pages contain my take on the city’s biggest dining trends (including a few I could live without), the 10 most memorable dishes I tried in the past year and a ranking of the top 10 new restaurants.

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Food Events

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Hear Momofuku’s David Chang talk at Terroir 2014, the year’s most important foodie gathering

(Image: Renée Suen)

A duo of rolls from ex-Luma (now Langdon Hall) chef Jason Bangerter, served at Terroir 2012 (Image: Renée Suen)

Anyone who’s seriously into food should consider attending this year’s Terroir Symposium. The annual conference is like a State of the Union for the Canadian hospitality industry: an educational assembly of chefs, food writers and other obsessives, all gathered to philosophize about food and wine with the rigour of professors. The list of speakers at this year’s edition, curated by local food blogger Ivy Knight and Cook It Raw founder Alessandro Porcelli, includes some of the biggest names in the industry: among them, keynote speaker David Chang (of international Momofuku fame), Top Chef winner Kristen Kish, Café Boulud’s Daniel Boulud and Spanish pastry genius Albert Adria, as well as Toronto faux-chef and Twitter troll, Grant Soto. A gourmet lunch will be provided by a cross-border team of Canadian and American chefs. The event fills up fast, so local foodies should snap up their tickets early.

May 12. $229. Arcadian Court, 401 Bay St., terroirsymposium.com

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Must-Try

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Must-Try: the inventive grapefruit givré dessert at Café Boulud

Monday Must-Try: Café Boulud Grapefruit Grivé

(Image: Emma McIntyre)

Café Boulud’s stunning grapefruit givré is the highlight of its dinner menu. It’s also an import from New York. Ghaya Oliveira, the young Tunisian-born executive pastry chef at Manhattan’s Bar Boulud, has been lauded for her refined and innovative desserts, but none more so than this one (you can even watch her make it with Daniel Boulud on YouTube).

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Food TV

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Top Chef Canada recap, episode 3: the Boulud touch

Daniel Boulud and former Senses chef Vincent Leung joined the judging panel this week (Image: Top Chef Canada)

TOP CHEF CANADA Season 3, Episode 3

Daniel Boulud has gone two for two on Top Chef Canada: both Dale Mackay and Carl Heinrich, the winners of season one and two respectively, spent time in one of the New York chef’s many outposts before going on to win the title. However, based on the performance of this season’s Daniel Hudson, who worked at Vancouver’s ill-fated db Bistro, we’re not confident Boulud will make the hat trick. The celebrity chef, of course, was the guest star-slash-judge for this week’s elimination challenge—though he was arguably eclipsed by an appearance from Canadian TV’s most eligible vegan. 

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Features

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Critic: we review Cafe Boulud, the casual Yorkville bistro from New York chef Daniel Boulud

Toronto expected four-star French dining from Cafe Boulud in the Four Seasons. Instead, the city got another trendy two-star bistro

The Way We Eat Now

Left: Boulud’s casual new cocktail bar, dbar, in the Four Seasons lobby; Right: A portrait of Jean-Michel Basquiat by the artist Mr. Brainwash at Cafe Boulud

Café Boulud Two Stars
60 Yorkville Ave., 416-963-6000

cafeboulud.com

Daniel Boulud is a very famous chef. Perhaps you know him from TV, where he’s been a frequent judge on Top Chef and appeared on Barefoot Contessa and Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. You may know him from his seven cookbooks or from Letters to a Young Chef, his self-help book for aspiring chefs. If you’ve been to one of his 14 restaurants—in New York City, Miami, Palm Beach, London, Singapore, Beijing or Montreal—you might even know him from his food.

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People

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The 15 Toronto restaurants recommended in Where Chefs Eat, a new culinary guidebook

Where Chefs Eat is a new 633-page collection of answers to a very simple question: where to go for a good meal? Those answers are from some 400 of the world’s top chefs, including Ferran Adria, Daniel Boulud, David Chang, Fergus Henderson and Rene Redzepi, as well as Toronto chefs Michael Steh, formerly of Reds, and Claudio Aprile, chef and owner of Colborne Lane and Origin. The guidebook is edited by Guardian critic Joe Warwick, who also co-founded the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. It’s not only an inventory of the flashy big-name places in a city, but also of regular neighbourhood and cheap eats spots. There’s even a category for places the chefs wish they opened. We flipped through the tome to pull out the 15 restaurants in and around Toronto recommended by the world’s top chefs.

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The Month That Was

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The Month That Was: the Toronto restaurants and bars that opened and closed in October

Introducing: Indie Ale House

After a long wait, Indie Alehouse finally opened in the Junction this month (Image: Yves Freypons)

Opening

  • Café Boulud and dBar—The third Café Boulud and 14th restaurant in Daniel Boulud’s portfolio isn’t the buzziest arrival in recent weeks, but it probably wasn’t designed to be. The casual bistro, with its tidy four-part menu, is more of a neighbourhood spot than a fine dining destination. Read our Introducing post »
  • Richmond Station—Top Chef Canada winner Carl Heinrich and Ryan Donovan broke away from Marben to set up their transit-themed restaurant. Fans of Heinrich and Donovan’s “good, honest cooking,” which includes a Marben-esque rib-stuffed burger and a decadent take on a s’more, need only look for the ersatz subway station sign. Read our Introducing post »
  • Indie Alehouse—After two years of labour, Jason Fisher’s lager-free brewery has brought craft ale to the once-dry Junction. Salt alum Patrick Fraser handles the elevated pub grub menu. Read our Introducing Post »
  • PatriaCharles Khabouth must not sleep. In the past four months, his bid to take over King West has manifested itself in Weslodge Saloon, Storys and, most recently, Patria, a traditional Spanish restaurant boasting wines that are largely unavailable at the LCBO. Read our Introducing post »

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Features

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The Way We Eat Now: how foraging infiltrated fine dining and became a foodie phenomenon

The Way We Eat Now: Where the Wild Things Are

(Image: Left: Caballo’s sautéed wild Saskatchewan chanterelles; right: Forager-chef Michael Caballo at Edulis)

On a late-summer evening, I descended into the Don Valley with 50 well-to-do Torontonians—mostly middle-aged couples in chinos, linen suits and sandals. We paid $50 each to identify edible plants. Like churning your own butter or whittling your own driftwood spoons, foraging—finding and harvesting food from wild resources—is one of those rugged pioneer traditions that has reached the peculiar status of urban artisanal fetish. Days before the tour, I imagined the calamities I might encounter: stinging nettles, disturbed wasps’ nests, rodents of unknown rabidity status.

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Openings

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Introducing: Café Boulud, Daniel Boulud’s new casual fine-dining restaurant at the Four Seasons

Introducing: Café Boulud

(Image: Karolyne Ellacott)

Last Friday, chef Daniel Boulud officially opened the doors of his first Toronto venture, Café Boulud, the third restaurant of that name (there’s one in New York and another in Palm Beach), and the 14th in his ever-expanding empire. Taking a corner space in the shiny new Four Seasons flagship, the Café aspires to be a go-to local haunt rather than a temple to fine dining like Daniel, Boulud’s eponymous three-Michelin-star restaurant in New York. Still, as chef de cuisine Tyler Shedden tells us, the different Café Boulud locations “are not just carbon copies of each other—you can expect a different take on things here.”

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The Informer

Real Estate

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Introducing: Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, the haute brand’s new flagship

Less than a week ago, Toronto hotelier Issy Sharp cut the ribbon on the new Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, a 55-storey tower at Bay and Yorkville containing 26 elevators, hundreds of iPads and a $15,000-a-night royal suite. As fond as we were of the old Avenue and Bloor location, we have to admit that the new hotel—the brand’s new global flagship—is a step up. (For anyone wondering, the iconic old Four Seasons is well on its way to becoming condos.)

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The Informer

Random Stuff

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GALLERY: Issy Sharp and Daniel Boulud cut the ribbon on the new Four Seasons Hotel

Fittingly, the Four Seasons, Toronto’s homegrown hotel chain, capped the recent parade of luxury lodgings openings in the city. The company, which operates 88 locations, opened its flagship in Yorkville last week, and a tanned chef Daniel Boulud, television personality Liza Fromer and Ontario tourism minister Michael Chan were among those who showed up for the ribbon-cutting, champagne and canapés.

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Restaurants

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Café Boulud opens at the new Four Seasons

(Image: Four Seasons)

Although it hasn’t received quite the same fevered attention that accompanied the arrival of the Momofuku complex, Daniel Boulud’s new Café Boulud, the New York chef’s 14th restaurant, is arguably just as big a get for the Toronto food scene (cue the usual hand-wringing about the city’s perpetual need for affirmation from outside).

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Restaurants

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Daniel Boulud announces the chef de cuisine for Toronto’s Café Boulud

Comme ça? (Image: Four Seasons)

If all goes according to plan, Yorkville’s Café Boulud, the 15th-or-so location in Daniel Boulud’s ever-growing empire, will open its doors at the foot of the new Four Seasons on October 5. Helming the kitchen will be Tyler Shedden, a B.C. native who previously worked as the private dining room chef at Boulud’s Michelin three-star flagship Daniel in New York (prior to that, he was an executive sous-chef at Gordon Ramsay at the London, also in New York). Shedden, who hasn’t previously worked in Toronto, will preside over a 150-seat “casual fine dining” restaurant, whose menu will combine classic French cuisine with local, seasonal ingredients and dishes from further afar. At a reception earlier this week, Boulud praised the young chef, saying, “Tyler has been a good soldier and now is becoming a captain” (Shedden replied with a half-excited, half-terrified grin). The restaurant will be Boulud’s fourth Canadian venture: he opened Maison Boulud at Montreal’s Ritz-Carlton earlier this summer and had operated two formerly Rob Feenie–led restaurants in Vancouver, which both shut down last year. Still not clear: whether David Chang’s gang from the soon-to-open Momofuku restaurants has already made good on their threats to sabotage “Daddy Boulud’s” new digs.

The Dish

Random Stuff

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The best restaurants in North America are all in the U.S., according to Newsweek

For its August 13 and 20 double issue, the editors of Newsweek put together a Restaurant magazine–style list of the 101 best places to eat in the world by consulting 53 of the “finest chefs” (including the likes of David Chang, Lidia Bastianich, Marcus Samuelsson and Anthony Bourdain, who’s usually the first to protest that he hasn’t been a working chef in ages). One interesting quirk: the list of best eats in North America is made up of only restaurants in the U.S., excluding the many fine establishments both north and south of the border—although two of the picks, Daniel Boulud’s Daniel and Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar, are opening branch plants in Toronto imminently. So there’s that. See the whole list [Newsweek] »

The Dish

Restaurants

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Reasons to Love Toronto: No. 12, because fancy food is back

Reasons to Love Toronto: No. 12, Because fancy food is back

Reasons to Love Toronto: No. 12, Because fancy food is backIn the recession-stricken aughties, eating out in Toronto was a humble affair—chefs catered to thrifty diners by opening neighbourhood bistros that served sensible comfort food on mismatched dishes. But last year, Aria, a lavish new Italian restaurant, opened adjacent to Maple Leaf Square and reminded us how divine fine dining can be. The swanky room, decked out with shimmering chandeliers, an imposing two-storey wine cellar and 30-foot windows, is the kind of place where paying $37 for a delicately seared veal strip loin and $190 for a hand-blown glass snifter of Rémy Martin Louis XIII cognac seems perfectly natural. Aria’s arrival heralded a comeback for bank-breaking prices. Then, last September, the chef Bruce Woods, ex of Centro, opened Modus, an elegant new restaurant that quickly became a power broker destination. It was followed by Stock, the slick, soaring flagship restaurant on the 31st floor of the new Trump Tower—its menu is just as extravagant as the Donald himself, although much classier. Later this year, David Chang, the prodigious, famously fanatical New York chef, will bring a fine dining incarnation of his Momofuku mini-chain to the Shangri-La Hotel, while chi-chi chef Daniel Boulud is scheduled to open a luxe eponymous restaurant in Yorkville’s new Four Seasons. After such a long absence, the return of expense account restaurants is proof that Toronto, despite the global odds, is flush. Get ready for a feast.

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