David Lee

The Dish

Licious

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Alternalicious: a roundup of Winterlicious 2013’s prix fix rebels

Bent’s braised spiced short ribs, one of the critic-endorsed picks on their Susurlicious menu (Image: Karolyne Ellacott)

Winterlicious can be a double-edged sword for diners. Yes, there’s the prospect of great deals that you’d never get otherwise—except during Summerlicious—but the crowds are thick, the servers are frazzled and the ’licious menu doesn’t always measure up to the usual fare. For years, some restaurants have opted to keep the deals but skip the chaos, responding to Winterlicious with prix fixes of their own. We’ve rounded up the best of them below.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Iron Chefs: how the fine dining institution Splendido creates culinary superstars

Iron Chefs: Splendido

What the dots mean: We’ve colour-coded Splendido’s kitchen hierarchy and charted the chefs’ rise through its ranks

Victor Barry, the owner and executive chef of Splendido, has a reputation for running the toughest and most traditional French kitchen hierarchy in the city. No matter how pedigreed, every new hire—chef, server or sommelier—must work his way up from the bottom. Which may explain why so much of the talent behind Toronto’s best new restaurants did time on Harbord Street. Here, we chart the current crop of stars.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Toronto Taste 2012: We catch up with the chefs and owners of Buca, Nota Bene, Splendido, Salt and many more

Buca’s Rob Gentile, C5’s Corbin Tomaszeski and Union’s Teo Paul (Images: Renée Suen)

This past Sunday marked the 22nd edition of Toronto Taste, which saw 2,000 food enthusiasts gathering at the ROM to meet some of Toronto’s top chefs while munching on their creations. Over 60 restaurants and 30 beverage purveyors were present at the annual fundraiser, which raises money for Second Harvest, a food rescue program that delivers to various social service agencies. This year, guests were greeted with everything from house-cured meats and fish to lobster and steak (not necessarily together). We caught up with Buca’s Rob Gentile, Nota Bene’s David Lee, Petite Thuet’s Marc Thuet and Biana Zorich, Splendido’s Victor Barry, Top Chef Canada judge Mark McEwan and many more for the latest on their various ventures.

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The Informer

Events

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The Weekender: Doors Open Toronto, Bonnie Raitt and six other items on our to-do list

Odysseo (Image: Odysseo)


1. DOORS OPEN TORONTO

This long-running design event is really the architectural equivalent of a peep show. For one weekend of every year, buildings like Havergal College, TIFF Bell Lightbox and Steam Whistle Brewery allow visitors to explore their normally private spaces. May 26 and 27, Various locations, toronto.ca/doorsopen.

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The Dish

People

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Centro to celebrate its 25th year with a series of dinners cooked by illustrious alums

It’s only fitting that the birthday bash for a restaurant that describes itself as a spot for “international influential tastemakers, money-makers and scene stealers” would last for several months. To mark its 25th anniversary, Centro is holding an alumni dinner series, featuring seven of the chefs who’ve passed through the place’s doors since it opened. The series’ first instalment is this coming Monday and features Chris McDonald, now at Cava, who did a stint at the Cal-Ital temple in the ’80s. The pretty impressive list of other participating alums: Michael Bonacini (Oliver and Bonacini), Marc Thuet (Thuet Fine Foods), David Lee (Nota Bene), Bruce Woods (Modus), Frank Parhizgar (Frank’s Kitchen) and Jason Carter, who left Centro earlier this year. Check out Centro’s website for more details on the series.

The Dish

Restaurants

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Nota Bene team to open new restaurant at Queen and Church

Waiting for Nota Bene

Waiting for Nota Bene (Image: PJMixer from the Torontolife.com Flickr pool)

Yesterday evening, Shinan Govani broke the news that the team behind Nota BeneYannick Bigourdan, Franco Prevedello and chef David Lee—was getting set to open up shop due east from their fine dining mainstay at Queen and University. Rumours of a Nota Bene “clone,” however, turn out to be a little exaggerated. Instead, Bigourdan told The Dish, the unnamed restaurant will have a somewhat different concept, something that’s now being ironed out between the partners. They’ll have some time: the new place, which will be located in a currently empty 7,000-square-foot space at 111 Queen Street East, right near George and B Espresso, isn’t scheduled to open until early next year. It’s also located right beneath the Toronto Life offices—which means we’ll be watching developments closely.

The Dish

Restaurants

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GALLERY: All the chefs and dishes from last night’s Gold Medal Plates gala

Langdon Hall’s Jonathan Gushue with his gold medal–winning dish

Toronto’s annual Gold Medal Plates gala took place last night at Metro Toronto Convention Center. Celebrated in nine cities across Canada, the event brings together some of the best chefs and wineries with the city’s well-to-do to raise funds for Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Last night, Langdon Hall’s Jonathan Gushue took gold while Buca’s Rob Gentile got the silver and Michael Steh of Reds finished with bronze. Gushue will go on to compete in the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna, B.C. next February. For those who didn’t manage to score one of the $400 tickets, we’ve got you covered.

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The Dish

Random Stuff

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Inside the meticulously organized fridge of David Lee, the co-owner and chef at Nota Bene

David Lee’s fridge, annotated
David Lee’s freezer, annotated

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The Dish

Food TV

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Top Chef Canada recap, episode 12: family-styled

The chefs steel themselves before judges David Lee, Gail Simmons and Jacob Richler. (Image: Food Network Canada/Insight Productions)

TOP CHEF CANADA
Season 1 | Episode 12

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Season one of Top Chef Canada has been all about head judge Mark McEwans approach to cooking: luxurious ingredients, simply prepared with exceptional technique. Last night’s episode felt like a master class in that philosophy, so it was only appropriate that the chefs started out chatting with McEwan over brunch at his Yorkville mainstay One. Sure, the conversation might have veered toward the painfully awkward, and sure, McEwan dropped some obviously scripted hints about this love of family-style presentation. But there was still something charming about seeing the four remaining contestants—Dustin Gallagher, Dale MacKay, Connie DeSousa and Rob Rossi— yammer on about their love of food and cooking. Of course, it was all went downhill from there. After the jump, our recap of an episode that featured some high-calibre guests, a tortured quickfire concept and some strangely disappointing cooking (not to mention a Toronto Life shout-out).

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The Dish

People

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Toronto Taste 2011: We get the latest news from top chefs and restaurateurs from Woodlot, Buca, Nota Bene, O&B and many more

Rob Gentile (Buca), David Lee (Nota Bene), Andrea Nicholson (Great Cooks on Eight), Paul Boehmer (Böhmer), Teo Paul (Union)

Two thousand of Toronto’s food lovers and makers gathered at the ROM on Sunday for the 21st edition of Toronto Taste. The annual fundraiser—which raises money for Second Harvest—saw more than 60 restaurants and 30 beverage purveyors offering their best to the guests. Burgers and tacos might have been the plats du jour, but new restaurant openings seemed to be the hottest item on the plates of many chefs and restaurateurs we spoke to. Here’s what we heard from Buca’s Rob Gentile, Woodlot’s David Haman, Scarpetta’s Scott Conant, Splendido’s Victor Barry, Top Chef Canada contestants Dustin Gallagher and Andrea Nicholson and many more. 

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The Dish

Food Porn

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Fish, meet citrus: a tour of some of Toronto’s most alluring ceviche dishes

Milagro’s ceviche de pulpo (Image: Renée Suen)

Sushi, the star of a previous edition of our Food Porn series, is far from the only raw fish game in town. Ceviche, the Latin American standby that relies on acid from citrus fruits to cure fresh fish, bivalves or cephalopods, is also well represented. While some Toronto chefs stick to tried-and-true preparations for “cooking” their catch, others transform the already magical dish—believed to have originated in Peru—with surprising inventions. Either way, we recommend enjoying with a cold beer. Here, 10 of the city’s most delicious and alluring ceviche dishes.

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The Informer

Events

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The Weekender: Black Lips, Shakespeare in puppet form and six other events on our to-do list

1. IN PINOT VERITAS: LUNCHEON WITH NORMAN HARDIE
There aren’t many Ontario wines that garner rave reviews around the world, but vintner Norman Hardie makes several Pinot Noirs that do at his eponymous winery in Prince Edward County. The celebrated winemaker is providing some excellent examples of those Pinots at this exclusive luncheon, which also features a special menu from Nota Bene chef David Lee. April 15. $85. Nota Bene, 180 Queen St. W., 416-977-6400, notabenerestaurant.com.

2. CHARLIE SHEEN: MY VIOLENT TORPEDO OF TRUTH/DEFEAT IS NOT AN OPTION
Tiger blood, winning, benders—Martin’s boy isn’t so great with that whole law-abiding thing, but he is unusually skilled at redefining previously boring words. We’re not sure if Chuck’s Toronto showing will be good, as in Chicago, or walkout-inducing, as in Detroit, but either way, we know we’ll be there. April 14 and 15. $79.50–$109.50. Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St., 416-872-4255, www.masseyhall.com.

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The Dish

Features

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Greatest Hits: Chris Nuttall-Smith picks the 25 most delicious dishes of the last year

Enoteca Sociale’s octopus and fava beans

The 25 most delicious dishes tasted this year, ranging  from lowbrow comforts (potato puffballs) to high-minded masterpieces (tea-smoked duck)*

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*Availability of dishes varies according to season and changing menus

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The Dish

Food Porn

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Soup’s on: a gallery of Toronto’s 13 most comforting (and beautiful) bowls

With frigid winter slowly giving way to soggy spring, the best way to keep warm remains to tuck into hearty broths, soups and stews. And while they appear on almost every menu, only a few rise above the ordinary. Here are thirteen feasts for the eyes, nose and stomach that melt our soup-loving hearts.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Weekly Lunch Pick: the soft shell crab BLT at Nota Bene

Former Splendido mastermind David Lee named his restaurant after the Latin for “take note”—and this BLT is one of many reasons to do just that. The classic lunch sandwich more than lives up to its acronym: crisp bacon, fresh greens, lemon-herb mayo and plum tomatoes as red as they are flavourful are nestled between toasted slices of toasted white Epi Bread. Lee ups the ante by stuffing it full of crispy, deep-fried, chipotle-zinged soft-shell crab. With a few house-made potato chips and gherkins, the deli staple becomes a lunchtime luxury.
The cost:
$33, including tax and tip.
The time:
55 minutes, with our food arriving in less than 15 minutes.
Nota Bene,
180 Queen St. W., 416-977-6400,
notabenerestaurant.com.