Niagara Street Café

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The Momofuku Effect: How David Chang took over the city’s menus long before Momofuku even opened its Toronto doors

The Momofuku Effect

(Photographs courtesy Momofuku)

The New York mastermind behind Momofuku is one of the most copied chefs of the last decade. His brand of fusion—Asian street food elevated to fine dining—has been inspiring Toronto chefs for years. In fact, if you’ve eaten at the restaurants below, chances are you’ve already tasted Chang’s influence. Here, eight Momofuku signatures and their Toronto counterparts.

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Restaurants

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Edulis tops En Route’s Toronto-laden list of Canada’s best new restaurants

In her introduction to En Route’s latest ranking of the country’s 10 best new restaurants, Sarah Musgrave declares 2012 “the year of Toronto”—and given the frenetic pace of openings in this city, we’re inclined to agree. Musgrave backs up her bold claim by naming six Toronto restaurants to the list, up from just two last year, reserving the top spot for Michael Caballo and Tobey Nemeth’Edulis, which moved into the former Niagara Street Café space this year. Musgrave fell in love with the restaurant’s quaint, comfortable atmosphere and, like our reviewer, felt that Caballo’s rustic yet adventurous cuisine skirted some of the pieties of the farm-to-table trend.

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Restaurants

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Best of Fall 2012: How GwaiLo, Nick Liu’s soon-to-open Parkdale restaurant, just might rehabilitate Asian-fusion

Best of Fall 2012: Gwailo

In a dining scene rife with duck confit banh mi, peameal bulgogi and brisket steamed buns, the F-word crops up a lot. But you won’t hear Nick Liu use it. His new Asian brasserie, he insists, isn’t fusion. It’s Canadian. Which is why he chose to call it GwaiLo, the Cantonese slang for foreigners like himself—that is, a Markham-raised Chinese-Canadian who learned to make shumai from his grandmother, but also mastered rustic Italian food in Tuscany and French techniques at Splendido and Scaramouche.

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Restaurants

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New Reviews: Hoof Raw Bar, Lamesa Filipino Kitchen and Edulis

A raw seafood bar, a serious locavore bistro and Filipino fusion downtown

Hoof Raw Bar star ½
926 Dundas St. W., 647-346-9356

New Reviews: Hoof Raw BarJen Agg, the owner of the legendary hearts-and-tongues hot spot The Black Hoof, has opened up a seafood restaurant next door on Dundas West. She brings to her new place the same meticulousness that made her original restaurant such a success. The small room is gracefully ramshackle, like a polished-up Cape Breton seafood joint, which perfectly matches chef Jonathan Pong’s short all-seafood menu. The substantial cured fish board, arranged from delicate to powerhouse, includes standouts like buttery, fragrant albacore gravlax and chorizo spice scallops. Skip the overpriced raw oysters ($34 per dozen) in favour of the baked versions, which maintain their delectable brininess despite the toasty crunch of panko flakes and layer of rich, smooth foie gras. A wildly exuberant dessert closes the meal: deconstructed sponge cake set off by stewed rhubarb, freeze-dried caramel, salt flakes and rosewater jelly. The drinks are aimed squarely at fish lovers: spicy tomato cocktails and a dozen or so wines by the glass that come with more origin stories than Batman. Sharing plates $8–$22.

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Food Events

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Enter the Banana Mafia: new posse of chefs to throw Asian Street Market party

While Nick Liu’s fans wait for the opening of his new Asian brasserie GwaiLo, the former Niagara Street Café chef has been showing up at various pop-ups and one-offs. Next up: an Asian Street Market at the Amsterdam Brewery featuring a crew of young Asian chefs calling themselves the Banana Mafia (the name likely does not refer to the fruit). The team is made up of Liu, Robbie Hojilla (Ursa), Jeff Claudio (Yours Truly), Jonathan Poon (Chantecler) and Leemo Han (Swish by Han and Oddseoul, which is presumably the name of the Han brothers’ new Ossington place). The event, which is almost sold out, takes place this coming Monday, May 14, with tickets going for $60 each. Check out the party’s event page for more info.

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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 April

Looking down from the mezzanine at Bellwoods Brewery (Image: Gizelle Lau)

Openings:

• The Saint—after three long years of waiting, during which time most of Ossington rapidly gentrified, this neighbourhood tavern from the people behind Buca finally opened its doors. Read our Introducing post »

• Bellwoods Brewery—A highly anticipated new brewpub on Ossington from a pair of Amsterdam Beer alums, with food by Guy Rawlings. Read our Introducing post »

• Lilly’s Lunches—A new downtown-centric bike brown bag bike delivery service from a cubicle escapee. Read our Introducing post »

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Openings

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Introducing: Edulis, Michael Caballo and Tobey Nemeth’s reinvention of Niagara Street Café

(Images: Signe Langford)

After more than a decade in the neighbourhood, the well-loved Niagara Street Café has been reborn as Edulis. The restaurant’s Twitter bio says, “Crafted with love,” and while the whole love-as-actual-ingredient thing is surely overdone, it rings true in this case. Everything about the place, from husband-and-wife owners Michael Caballo and Tobey Nemeth, is an ode to some version of love or another: love of family, love of Europe and of course, love of mushrooms—the place takes its name from the Latin for porcini.

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Food Events

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Nick Liu shows off some culturally promiscuous cooking at the preview dinner for his new restaurant, GwaiLo

A proud Nick Liu before the second of his GwaiLo preview dinners (Image: Renée Suen)

Earlier this year, chef Nick Liu left Niagara Street Café to launch GwaiLo, a modern Asian brasserie-to-be with business partner Christina Kuypers (Splendido, Drake Hotel, The Black Hoof). The name is a bit of Cantonese slang for foreigners that translates roughly as “white devil”—a term both Liu and Kuypers grew up with, but have light-heartedly embraced (they’re both Canadians with an Asian heritage). It’s also a fitting way to describe their new venture, with the cuisine and cocktail list betraying the influence of a wide range of cultures and ingredients.

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Restaurants

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Niagara Street Café’s new owners Tobey Nemeth and Michael Caballo to relaunch it as Edulis

Edulis owners Michael Caballo and Tobey Nemeth, spied this weekend at Hooked (Image: Signe Langford)

We already reported that Anton Potvin, until recently owner of the Niagara Street Café, had found buyers for his much-loved locale. Now we can tell you who they are: husband-and-wife chefs Tobey Nemeth and Michael Caballo, who flew into Toronto last week to sign the paperwork and flew out again the next day. “We have to go to Vancouver to pick up our stuff, but we’ll be back in a week and we’re really excited to be back in Toronto,” Nemeth told us. “We tried Vancouver, but we didn’t love it. I think Toronto has the most exciting dining scene in Canada and this is where we want to be for the rest of our lives.”

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Restaurants

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Nick Liu to throw a pair of preview dinners for his new Asian brasserie, GwaiLo 

Back in January, we reported that Nick Liu had left Niagara Street Café and was planning to open some manner of Asian brasserie later this year. As it turns out, his many fans will get a chance to taste his creative takes on Asian dishes long before that—Liu is holding a pair of preview dinners next month for GwaiLo, his as-yet location-less restaurant according to Swallow Food (a new website founded by Ivy Knight of 86’D fame and pastry chef Kristina Groeger that launched at a party at the Drake on Monday—check it out). The dinners—which will take place on March 6 and 13—are a collaboration between Liu and drink-slinger Christina Kuypers of The Black Hoof, Splendido and the Drake Hotel (follow the GwaiLo Twitter feed for more details). Oh, and the name? It’s a Cantonese term that roughly translates as “foreign devil,” which is something that Liu, a Chinese-Canadian who doesn’t speak Chinese, is used to being called. Read the entire story [Swallow Food] »

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Restaurants

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QUOTED: Niagara Street Café’s Anton Potvin on sealing the deal (yes, he’s found some buyers)

The deal hasn’t been signed yet, but we have high-fived and done a shot of tequila, which I believe is legally binding in Toronto.

–Now former Niagara Street Café owner Anton Potvin, explaining that he’s found buyers for his quiet restaurant off King West [Toronto.com]

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Drinks

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Best Bars: Toronto’s top six places to cozy up with a glass of wine

Best Bars: Wine

CHECK OUT OUR SIX FAVOURITES »

JUMP TO: BEST ANTI-LCBO LIST | BEST IBERIAN TAPAS AND WINE | MOST INTRIGUING WINES BY THE GLASS | BEST SMALL-BATCH WINES | BEST FOR A WINE-DRENCHED GIRLS’ NIGHT OUT | BEST GRAPPA MENU

By Denise Balkissoon, Ariel Brewster, Andrew D’Cruz, Matthew Hague, Malcolm Johnston, Emily Landau, Jason McBride, Alexandra Molotkow, Mark Pupo, Peter Saltsman, Courtney Shea and Eric Vellend. Photographs by Jess Baumung, Emma McIntyre, Liam Mogan, Sean J. Sprague, Christopher Stevenson, Vanessa Heins and Carlo Mendoza

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Closings

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Steve Gonzalez to fill in at Niagara Street Café as owner Anton Potvin readies it for sale

Steve Gonzalez and Nick Liu at the What’s on the Table fundraiser for the Stop (Image: Jenna Marie Wakani)

Last week we reported that Nick Liu is leaving Niagara Street Café to open his own place, an Asian brasserie. As it turns out, he’s not gone quite yet—he’ll be manning the stoves until January 29, at which point he makes way for Top Chef Canada contestant Steve Gonzalez, who’s filled in for Liu at the café on several occasions in the past. But the bigger news is that after owning the quiet restaurant off the main King Street strip for almost eight years, Anton Potvin is casting about for buyers.

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Restaurants

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Nick Liu leaves Niagara Street Café to open an Asian brasserie

Nick Liu serving his General Tso’s sweetbreads at this year’s What’s on the Table fundraiser for The Stop (Image: Jenna Marie Wakani)

After manning the stoves at Niagara Street Café for three years, Nick Liu, who won acclaim for his ever-changing menus and creative takes on Asian ingredients, has left to open his own place. As Eric Vellend reported on Winefox, Liu’s last night at the cozy King West restaurant was on New Year’s Eve, where he served a six-course tasting menu featuring some of his greatest hits from 2011. Liu tells us that during his stint at Niagara Street, his first as an executive chef, he “learned to be a more creative and resourceful chef.” Next up for him, an “Asian brasserie” concept he’s developing with his partners, slated to open later this year. “I’m using new techniques and adapting classic dishes,” he told us. “Y’know—shit my dad made.”

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People

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GALLERY: At this year’s What’s on the Table benefit, Toronto’s top chefs came out to support The Stop

(Image: Jenna Marie Wakani)

On Wednesday, 550 Toronto foodies and philanthropists gathered in the Wychwood Barns for What’s on the Table, the annual fundraiser for The Stop Community Food Centre. The sold-out event featured 35 food and drink stations representing a staggering array of top Toronto restaurants, including Canoe, Scaramouche, Niagara Street Café, Parts and Labour, Jamie Kennedy Kitchens, C5, Ruby Watchco, Noce, Cowbell, George and the Gabardine, with desserts from Frangipane, Nadège and Soma, and drinks from Steam Whistle, Henry of Pelham, Frodpond Farm and Château des Charmes, among many others, not to mention two contestants from season one of Top Chef Canada.

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