School Bakery and Cafe

The Informer

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Q&A: Levi Bent-Lee, the man behind Bent and the son of super-chef Susur Lee

Levi Bent-Lee is opening his first restaurant, Bent, at Dundas and Bathurst. His dad will run the kitchen. Things could get complicated

Levi Bent-Lee

(Image: Mark Peckmezian)

You’re 22. What qualifies you to open a restaurant?
I essentially grew up in a restaurant, and my father has taught me so much. I’ve travelled to Japan, Bali, Hong Kong, mainland China, Macau and Singapore, and all over Europe and the U.S. I’ve eaten some crazy stuff: turtle, pig snout, fish sperm. That one was gross. You eat it with soy sauce.

I assume it won’t be on the menu at your restaurant. What will be?
There will be a raw bar in the front for ceviche and Japanese crudo, and a hot kitchen in the back. I’ll run operations, my younger brother Kai will run the bar, and my dad will run the kitchen.

Your dad is famously untamable. If he’s late for work, will you give him hell?
My dad is late all the time, but somehow, he always has a good excuse for it. Even if he’s just been sleeping, it’s because he works so friggin’ hard and deserves that sleep.

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The Dish

Licious

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Alternalicious: a roundup of Summerlicious 2012’s prix fixe rebels

Elle M’a Dit is offering a $17 lunch and $24 dinner prix fixe (Image: Karolyne Ellacott)

One-hundred-and-eighty-one restaurant kitchens across the city are in full onslaught mode with Summerlicious now in day six—but of course, not everyone is on board with the annual foodie festival. Criticisms lobbed at the popular city-wide fête include hurried guests and hastily thrown together food as restaurants work overtime to deal with the influx of low-tipping and no-showing diners. This year, as in past years, a handful of restaurants have taken matters into their own hands, crafting rogue prix fixe menus outside the parameters of the official program.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Get outside: Toronto’s 10 best patios

The patio season started early this year, which simply means there’s more time to hit the city’s best al fresco dining and drinking destinations. Here, 10 of our favourites »

The Dish

Random Stuff

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Veggie praise, critics vs. the Internet, guns in restaurants

Balking in Memphis: Restaurant owners in Tennessee are scoffing at a law that allows guns near booze (Photo by Mykl Roventine)

Balking in Memphis: Business owners in Tennessee are scoffing at a law that allows guns in restaurants (Photo by Mykl Roventine)

• After years of mushy bean burgers and what she calls the “tyrannical rise of mushroom risotto,” a London veggie says she finally found decent vegetarian right here in Toronto. She was so impressed with Fresh’s sunflower rice bowl that she lugged their cookbook back across the sea. Start marinating the tofu, Toronto—our food culture is getting props in Europe. [Guardian]

• Tennessee’s gun owners now have the right to bear arms in bars and restaurants, as long as they carry a permit and the establishment allows it. Angry business owners in Memphis have reacted by posting no-gun signs, which show a picture of a pistol in a red circle with a slash through it. [Biz Journals]

• The food critic for the Baltimore Sun says her reviews just aren’t as influential as they used to be, and she’s blaming it on the proliferation of Web sites like Urbanspoon. Elizabeth Large wants to remind the amateurs that she’s never enjoyed eating bad meals or hurting feelings. When will people learn that reviewers like HungryDood69 just aren’t as good as the pros? [Baltimore Sun]

• Speaking of amateur reviews: The School Bakery and Café offered a response to a recent comment on Martini Boys. After anonymous reader “Chris” chastised the restaurant for slow brunch service, School posted an apology that would make a New York publicist proud. While we applaud SBC for its honesty, we’re a bit worried about the precedent. There’s no way to tell if the comment was posted by a maligned customer or just malicious competition. [Martini Boys]

• USDA prime steak is showing up at Costco for $10 per pound, all thanks to shrinking demand. Just two years ago, the entire supply of prime beef would have been snatched up by high-end restaurants, leaving none for the shelves of the local megastore. The article says even Wagyu has come down in price. Combine that with barbecue season and the lousy economy, and steak houses certainly do have a reason to worry. [Wall Street Journal]

The Dish

Restaurants

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The new patios of summer ’09: Fresh grazing grounds for outdoorsy appetites

Queen Street in patio season (Photo by LexnGer)

The new leisure class: Queen Street will benefit from some of the city's new patios (Photo by Alexa Clark of CheapEatsToronto.com)

With spring heating up into summer, we scoped out some new (and renewed) terraces that will get a beer-drenched baptism this summer. From east to west, here are six of the hottest new patios.

Oddfellows
Opened in September, this Queen West newcomer has yet to see a balmy season. The space faces Shaw Street and offers views of the sprawling CAMH grounds, seats about 12 and stays open for cocktails until 2 a.m. (though the kitchen closes at 11). A new spring menu arrives just in time for picnic chic, with such fresh dishes as venison tartare to usher in the season. Rest assured, regulars: the house favourite, bison rib-eye, is still on offer. 936 Queen St. W., 416-534-5244.

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Restaurants

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Toronto’s hidden brunch gems

Brunchables: Blueberry buttermilk pancakes at School (Photo by Renee Suen)

School's blueberry pancakes (Photo by Renee Suen)

Some brunch spots may be worth a long wait, but lining up can be the least desirable activity for a weekend morning. We’ve put together a list of alternatives for those who’d rather get served than queue up. Our picks, organized by neighbourhood, after the jump.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Shops with multiple identities: Creative trend or a sign of the (bad) times?

Toronto's too busy to do one thing at a time (Photo by jethros_tale)

Toronto's too busy to do one thing at a time (Photo by jethros_tale)

Nothing is more Torontonian than the ability to multitask. The daily toggle between BlackBerry and iPhone is de rigueur, as is the commute-telecon- ference-breakfast. So entrenched is this poly-purpose tendency that it is emerging as a new trend in the city’s eating and drinking culture. Multi-concept spaces—bars that are also boutiques, cafés that double as galleries and triple as schools—are on the rise. Hogtown boasts an embarrassment of retail riches, which means that shoppers can afford to be choosy—even lazy. “You have to offer more these days,” explains local goldsmith Elena Ginsberg. “People want quality, and they also want to be entertained.” That’s why she’s applying the café-boutique concept to modish bar Unit, which will offer coffee and her Kvell designs, as well as full bar service at night. Starting in late April, Queen West crawlers who stumble in after dark will find that metalworks are on sale until close, and maybe discover that it is dangerous (and fun) to shop for jewellery after a couple of cocktails.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Cooking it old school: Brad Moore’s new café introduces brunch and education puns

schoolbradmoore1

Brad Moore at School (Photo by Renée Suen)

Class is in session at School Bakery and Café, which served up its inaugural Saturday brunch this past weekend. Since opening mid-January, chef Brad Moore’s Liberty Village project has been attracting attention for its gimmicky take on education, complete with ruled-paper menus, school bells and trivia-covered banquettes. But collegiate accessories are for style only. Moore, who assures us that the first full weekend brunch service went off without a hitch, is very clear on the fact that “there are no rules at School.”

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