David Chang

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Momofuku’s David Chang: “It should be considered a world-class city, which it is, but, like, not.”

“It should be considered a world-class city, which it is—but, like, not. You know. You guys know that. If that was the case, people in Toronto would not be wanting to go to New York. New Yorkers would be wanting to go to Toronto.”

David Chang, the creator of Momofuku, speaking to Metro Morning’s Matt Galloway about Toronto’s “underdog” status among great North American food cities. Luckily, Chang likes underdogs, which is why he brought Momofuku here in the first place. “I think Momofuku’s scrappy…and that’s how I view Toronto. I don’t mean that as a backhanded compliment at all.”

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People

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Why Momofuku’s David Chang thinks Yelp reviews are dumb

Momofuku Chef David Chang (Image: David Shankbone)

Momofuku Chef David Chang (Image: David Shankbone)

David Chang knows his fast food, so it makes sense that he’s signed on as the official Northeastern U.S. “burrito scout” for ESPN blog FiveThirtyEight, which is currently conducting a rigorous, March Madness–style search for the country’s top burrito (and, in the process, examining the relative reliability of crowdsourced recommendations versus other sources of data). Chang recently spoke with the site about his personal views on user-generated restaurant reviews, particularly those on Yelp. To put it concisely, he’s not a fan. Here’s what he had to say:

I’m just going to come out and say: Most of the Yelp reviews are wrong. They just are. Yelp is great for finding information if you forgot the address of a place. [...] But for the most part, no chef is going to take a Yelper’s review seriously, even though they might read them.

The problem with Yelpers, according to Chang? They take everything way too personally, and usually don’t know what they’re talking about.

The best analogy I can give is fantasy sports or lawn-chair stockbrokers. For the most part, unless you’re really studying the stats and you’re a former football player or baseball player and know the industry inside and out, it’s most likely that your insights aren’t that great.

Chang’s 12 restaurants across North America have pretty solid reviews on Yelp—but that’s nothing a few hundred outraged, vindictive Yelpers can’t change. You can read the full interview here.

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Momofuku’s David Chang on why cheap wings are good, and Toronto restaurants could be better

Momofuku Chef David Chang (Image: David Shankbone)

Momofuku Chef David Chang (Image: David Shankbone)

It turns out Deadmau5 has much fancier taste in restaurants than David Chang, the James Beard Award–winning chef who introduced the world to cool fusion food. The Globe’s Ann Hui spent a night drinking and eating around town with Chang and his entourage of famous friends, including David McMillan and Fred Morin (masterminds of Montreal restaurant Joe Beef) and food writer Peter Meehan. Chang picked the venues, which included dim-sum restaurant Crown Princess Fine Dining, Oyster Boy on Queen West and, perhaps most surprisingly, Real Sports, home to one million chicken wings and TV screens. “The wings are really good. And people love it,” he said. “I’m over going against popular opinion.”

In a slightly contradictory vein, Chang also ragged a bit on Toronto’s good-but-not-awesome dining scene. “I’m not trying to piss people off, but why is it not elevated to the level where—people should be in awe of Toronto dining.” This from the owner of three of the most popular restaurants in Toronto. Change starts at home, pal.

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Features

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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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Restaurants

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Three Toronto Hot Spots Make EnRoute’s Annual “Best New Restaurants” List—Including Number One

enroute-logoIt’s that time again, when end-of-year lists start clogging our Twitter feeds and Facebook timelines. One we look forward to every October, though, is “Canada’s Best New Restaurants” by EnRoute—Air Canada’s consistently (and surprisingly) good in-flight magazine. This year, three excellent Toronto restaurants made the list. At number 10 is Parkdale’s “twisted hymn to the American South,” Electric Mud BBQ. At number two, David Chang’s University Avenue ode to the chef’s menu, Momofuko Shōtō. And at number one, Bar Isabel, where Grant van Gameren shows off his prowess with dish after dish of Spanish delights. You can see the full list here, along with notes about the trends EnRoute loves (lamb belly as the new pork belly) and hates (tables that are way too small).

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Restaurants

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Update: Momofuku denies rumours that a Milk Bar is coming to Toronto

Milk Bar Crack Pie

The latest in exciting Toronto crack news: Momofuku’s Crack Pie (Image: Facebook)

Rumour has it that Milk Bar will soon join Noodle Bar, Daishō and Shōtō at David Chang’s University Avenue Momofuku complex, adding a sweet note to the acclaimed chef’s Toronto line-up. The original New York shop is famous for its irreverently named treats, like compost cookies, and curious flavour combinations, like banana curry bread and cereal-flavoured milk. A highly topical twist: one of the bakery’s bestselling items is a buttery confection called Crack Pie.

UPDATE: A local blog posted this morning that two staffers at the Toronto Momofuku complex confirmed a Toronto Milk Bar is on the way, but Momofuku’s press team says otherwise. Our contact tells us that opening a Milk Bar in Toronto is a “dream;” however, there are still no firm plans to do so. We guess we’ll just have to keep dreaming, too. 

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Restaurants

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The Dish Power Rankings: April fools edition

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Toronto Life’s roundup of the restaurants with the biggest buzz, the longest lineups and the toughest tables to snag.

A long running powerhouse prepares for a three-week break and David Chang spills the beans on where he eats in Toronto.

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Restaurants

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Best New Toronto Restaurants 2013

Best New Restaurants 2013

One thousand three hundred and eight. That’s how many restaurants opened in 2012—more than triple the year before, and the year before that. Toronto is in the middle of a restaurant boom that’s changing the way we eat, drink, date, schmooze, celebrate and generally revel in the city. The shimmering Momofuku triplex has dignified business execs devouring pork ssäm with their hands, and couples happily—gratefully—shelling out $400 for 10-course tasting menus. Downtowners are piling into rowdy izakayas for after-work sake and Sapporo, while Brit pubs are, to the amazement of every Firkin-going anglophile, becoming destinations for refined dining. Canadiana is no longer just a term for moose-print sweaters and maple leaf mittens, but a bona fide big-city cuisine borne of chefs obsessed with heritage meat and wild plants, preferably foraged in the Don Valley. Yes, Toronto is so flush with new places to eat that keeping up with them has become a full-time job. This year, Toronto Life’s critics were busier than ever, stuffing our faces, snapping photos on the sly and analyzing every last aspect of the dining experience. After much debate, we winnowed down 1,308 establishments to the top 10. Here, our annual ranking of the most innovative, interesting and delicious new Toronto restaurants.

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Restaurants

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The Dish Power Rankings: muddied waters edition

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Toronto Life’s roundup of the restaurants with the biggest buzz, the longest lineups and the toughest tables to snag.

After four weeks in the top spot, Edulis gets bumped for a red-hot new barbecue restaurant. Meanwhile, OddSeoul continues its steady rise.

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Restaurants

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The Dish Power Rankings: winter deep freeze edition

Toronto Life’s roundup of the restaurants with the biggest buzz, the longest lineups and the toughest tables to snag.

The city’s most powerful restaurants stayed busy despite storms and frigid temperatures. Below, Porzia makes a dramatic climb to second place and a drop-in from a UK food celeb nabs Momofuku Noodle Bar its first appearance on the list.

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Restaurants

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The Dish Power Rankings: Top Chefs and Bieber power

Toronto Life’s weekly assessment of the restaurants with the biggest buzz, the longest lineups and the toughest tables to snag.

On Monday, the contestants for season three of Top Chef Canada were announced, catapulting their respective restaurants onto this week’s power rankings. Meanwhile, the mighty power of the Biebs bumps up the hype for an Annex diner, and the depth of Toronto’s appetite for brunch tacos is revealed.

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Restaurants

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The Dish Power Rankings: The Valentine’s madness edition

Toronto Life’s weekly assessment of the restaurants with the biggest buzz, the longest lineups and the toughest tables to snag.

Edulis’s charming (and tiny) dining room propels the restaurant to the top this week on the strength of its Valentine’s bookings. Lower down, a couple new sold-out tasting menus debut, as does College Street’s next hot brunch destination.

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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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Restaurants

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The Dish Power Rankings: buzzing diners and taco insurgents

Toronto Life’s weekly assessment of the restaurants with the biggest buzz, the longest lineups and the toughest tables to snag.

The Hoof Raw Bar steals the top spot this week, now that Jen Agg has revived the mega-popular Hoof Café brunch (see last week’s rankings). Over in Parkdale, a new southern Italian restaurant is gaining ground and in The Junction, there’s a new contender for Toronto’s top taco.

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