seafood

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Food Shops

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Get dinner to go from De la Mer’s new Danforth store

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

“Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish. Do not overdo it,” reads the Lao Tzu quote scrawled onto a subway-tiled wall at De La Mer’s new Danforth location. The ex–dollar store space was transformed into a fish shop that could pass for a Parisian café. A glass case runs the length of the room and is filled with a rainbow of filets from white (Atlantic toothfish) to crimson (never-been-frozen, sashimi-grade tuna flown in from the Philippines). At the back of the shop is a ready-made food counter—this outpost is the only one of the three to have a commercial kitchen. Until recently, co-owners David Owen and Blake Edwards have been limited by what they could prep sans oven. The current roster of oven-ready goods includes a lobster mac ‘n’ cheese topped with panko crust, shrimp-and-pesto topped pizza, smoked trout quiche, zesty dips and a selection of soup, which includes a crab and corn chowder (pictured above).

189 Danforth Ave., 647-344-6922, delamer.ca

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Restaurants

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The high price of cheap shrimp: where restaurants get their prawns from and why you should care

(Image: Brett Lamb)

(Image: Brett Lamb)

Out for dinner recently at a Spanish restaurant downtown, trying to decide whether to order the paella, I asked the chef where he buys his shrimp. He was proud to tell me how much he cares about sustainability, and that all his other seafood is Oceanwise-approved. But the shrimp was from Indonesia and “pretty much grown in poison,” he spat out. Customers want big shrimp, he said, shaking his head, but they don’t want to pay for them.

We’ve gradually come to care about how our beef is raised, who stitches together our clothes and the carbon footprint of our strawberries. We want to know the number of bluefin tuna in the ocean and whether our chicken sandwiches are sold by homophobes. But shrimp? Not yet. People, for the most part, don’t care. But they should. Of the many problems with the global shrimp trade, the worst involve actual slavery and human trafficking. As the Guardian has reported, Burmese and Cambodian immigrants are forced to work 20-hour days on Thai and Indonesian boats, kept awake with amphetamines, chained, beaten and murdered. These aren’t mere allegations: CP Foods, the world’s biggest shrimp farmer (for clients that include Walmart and Costco), have conceded that slavery is part of the supply chain. The company promised to change their practices, no longer buying the “trash fish” from slave boats that’s ground into food for farmed shrimp. But a year after that story out of Thailand comes further news from Indonesia reported by the Associated Press, of slaves fishing for shrimp that’s then dumped onto trucks bound for international seafood suppliers.

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People

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Q&A: John Bil, the in-demand oysterman who’s shucked his way to the top

(Image: Claire Foster)

(Image: Claire Foster)

How do you get to be one of Canada’s most respected seafood experts? If you’re John Bil, owner of the Junction’s new fish counter, Honest Weight, you race mountain bikes and live in a van when you need to. Bil, who the Globe has called “one of the best oystermen on the continent,” has helped open some of the top restaurants in the country, including Montreal’s Joe Beef, but the same nomadic lifestyle that led him down this fishy path has also kept him out of the spotlight. We chatted with Bil about being broke, apocalypse cuisine and his new spot, which focuses on lesser-known tastes of the sea.

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Openings

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Introducing: Fresh Off The Boat, a new seafood sandwich shop on Queen West

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Fresh Off The Boat
Contact Info: 404 Queen St. W., 416-603-3333, @FOTB416
Previously: IWing Pizza & Wings
Neighbourhood: Queen West
Owner/Chef: Quinten Tran, one of the founders of the Buster’s Sea Cove food truck

The Food: The chalkboard menu lists about a dozen seafood sandwiches, salads and other dishes, most of which have a slight Can-Asian flair. The signature “FOB” sandwich (described as an “Asian po’boy banh mi”) is a battered-catfish sub topped with kimchi and smoky aioli. Other options include a lobster roll, a grilled halibut salad and an entire soft-shell crab served on a brioche bun. Chunky fries and broccoli slaw are available on the side.

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Openings

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Introducing: Little Fin, the mix-and-match seafood restaurant from the owners of The Chase

Introducing: Little Fin

Name: Little Fin
Contact Info: 4 Temperance St., 647-348-7000, littlefin.ca, @Little_Fin
Previously: Italian restaurant Fiore
Neighbourhood: Financial District
Owner: The Chase Hospitality Group (headed by president Steven Salm), which is also behind The Chase, The Chase Fish & Oyster, and Colette Grand Cafe
Executive Chef: The Chase Fish & Oyster chef Nigel Finley

The Food: The Chase’s latest spin-off restaurant is a casual mix-and-match seafood counter. Diners choose a main item (e.g. crispy fried haddock, smoked maple-brandy wild BC salmon), a preparation method (sandwich, seaweed salad, slaw) and any add-ons or “sea sides,” like chunky potato wedges or chili-spiced broccoli. There’s also a double-decker cheeseburger (served on pitch-black buns, dyed with bamboo charcoal), lobster-topped hot dogs, and whole-lobster meals served with sea-urchin “fancy sauce.”

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Restaurants

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Baby Point brunch spot Camp is now Fish Camp, the city’s latest seafood destination

(Image: Fish Camp/Facebook)

Chef Langley’s Southern-style Steelhead trout. (Image: Fish Camp/Facebook)

In the last year, Toronto’s restaurant makeup has become about 80 per cent fishier. Rock Lobster, once a cute pop-up shop, has morphed into a crustacean-based restaurant chain (soon to open its third location in Leslieville), The Chase has turned haute seafood into the meal of choice for Toronto power brokers, and oysters and tuna tartare have become as ubiquitous on restaurant appetizer lists as last decade’s bruschettas and caprese salads.

Camp, the homey brunch spot in Baby Point, is the latest Toronto dining venue to take a pescatarian turn. The restaurant recently reopened as Fish Camp, a full-service dinner spot with an elaborate raw bar, buck-a-shuck Wednesdays and a menu of fish-focused dishes from former Catch chef Charlotte Langley, who is helping get the new concept off the ground and will eventually hand the reins over to her culinary mentee, Ian Shute.

At Fish Camp, Langley’s goal is to make seafood approachable. “Fish still scares some people on restaurant menus,” she says. “The food I’m making here is simple, user-friendly cuisine.” Menu-wise, that translates into casual, comforting dishes, like bacon-topped lobster rolls, fish-cake sliders on mini milk buns and Steelhead trout with bourbon-butter sauce, plus a handful of fishy brunch dishes on Sundays. “It’s comfort food with the chance to get risky,” Langley says.

Some of the biggest risks, it would seem, come in alcoholic form: the drinks list includes something called the Dark and Screechie—a spin on the Dark and Stormy made with super-potent East Coast rum—and a uniquely fishy martini, which features a submerged oyster along with the obligatory olive-studded swizzle stick.

Fish Camp, 244 Jane St., 647-346-2267, camprestauranttoronto.com

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Trend Watch

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The Top Food Trends and Who Does Them Best: Seafood

Last year’s lobster roll craze has escalated into a full-blown love affair with fresh platters of tentacles, claws and other watery delights

The Top Food Trends and Who Does Them Best: Seafood

The raw bar at The Chase downtown serves up an orgy of seafood to its deep-pocketed clientele

There’s only so much red meat a person can consume. I’m happy to announce that Toronto, for too many years a city resigned to High Liner fish sticks, has turned a pescetarian corner. Quality seafood stores like Hooked and De La Mer are multiplying, and we’re no longer ashamed to serve a locally caught perch at a dinner party. For a few months there, it seemed like every elegant restaurant had a rainbow trout from Kolapore Springs on the menu.

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Restaurants

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St. Lawrence bistro Lucien becomes Toronto’s newest seafood bar

(Images: Olde Towne Oyster Bar)

(Images: Olde Towne Oyster Bar)

Lucien used to be one of the city’s fussier fine-dining institutions. Now the downtown restaurant has undergone a dramatic revamp, bringing in a totally new name and concept. Old Towne Oyster Bar joins the city’s legions of new pescatarian dining options, which include Parkdale’s 1920s-style Geraldine and midtown restaurant John and Sons’ soon-to-open Crudo Room. Aside from the low-key decor, everything about the former Lucien space has changed, including the menu, which now sticks to raw, smoked and cooked seafood (plus one carnivorous entrée), and the price point, which tops out at $18.

Olde Towne Oyster Bar, 36 Wellington St. E., 416-504-9990

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Restaurants

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Review: Rock Lobster’s delightfully chaotic Queen West outpost

Review: Rock Lobster Queen

(Image: Rock Lobster/Facebook)

SEE ALL NEW REVIEWS
Rock Lobster 1 star½
538 Queen St. W., 416-203-6623
We’ve updated our star ratings system since this article was first published.
Read more about the change here, and
find the up-to-date rating in our restaurant listings.

The first location of Rock Lobster, which opened on Ossington last winter, was so successful that the owners added another on Queen West just a few months later. The new restaurant is delightfully chaotic—the kind of place where tables are so cluttered with oversized Caesars, seafood platters and shell bowls that you may end up balancing a tray of oysters on your lap (as we did).

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Openings

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Introducing: Smoked and Cracked, a new lobster shack on Mount Pleasant

Introducing: Smoked and Cracked

Name: Smoked and Cracked
Neighbourhood: Davisville
Contact Info: 516 Mount Pleasant Rd., 647-748-5722, smokedandcracked.com
Owners/Chefs: Catering vets Michael Kash and Ron Raymer, who trained under James Beard Award recipient Jean-Marie Lacroix

The Food: A short blackboard menu of lobster rolls, chowders, slaws and boils. Among the non-crustaceous offerings: a smoked duck breast panini with Swiss and deep-dish butter tarts that sell out early.

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Restaurants

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Recipe: butter-poached lobster from the virtuous fishmongers at Hooked

Toronto Life Cookbook Recipe 2012: Butter Poached Lobster
Toronto Life Recipes | Entrees
BUTTER POACHED LOBSTER
By Dan and Kristin Donovan
Hooked

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Openings

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Introducing: Geraldine, a new spot for absinthe, oysters and Edwardian hospitality in Parkdale

Introducing: Geraldine

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Geraldine
Contact Info: 1564 Queen St. W., geraldinetoronto.com, @GeraldineResto
Neighbourhood: Parkdale
Owners: Alexandra Albert and Peter Ramsay
Chef: Peter Ramsay, the former sous-chef at snout-to-tail bistro Cowbell, which occupied the same space

The Place: A throwback to Gilded Age hospitality, complete with silver serving trays and bow-tied waiters bussing tables to jaunty ragtime tunes. Bonus points for authenticity: the dinnerware is vintage Limoges and two of the chandeliers are 19th century originals.

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Openings

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Introducing: The Chase, a swishy new penthouse restaurant in the Financial District

Introducing: The Chase

Name: The Chase
Contact Info: 10 Temperance St., thechasetoronto.com, 647-348-7000, @TheChaseTO
Neighbourhood: Financial District
Owner: Steven Salm, who also owns The Chase Fish and Oyster on the main floor
Executive chef: Michael Steh, who used to be the executive chef at Reds
Chef de cuisine: Amira Becarevic, former chef at EPIC in the Fairmount Royal York

The Food: Contemporary Canadian food with a focus on seafood, seasonal produce and handmade cheeses, like house-whipped goats’ milk ricotta. Family-style entrées include halibut with brown-butter tartar sauce and a foie gras–stuffed roast chicken. For lunch: salads and sandwiches, like pesto chicken on brioche with Parmesan-truffle fries.

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Openings

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Introducing: The Chase Fish and Oyster, a new Hamptons-style seafood bar in the historic Dineen building

Introducing: The Chase Fish & Oyster

Name: The Chase Fish and Oyster
Contact Info: 10 Temperance St., thechasetoronto.com, 647-348-7000, @TheChaseTO
Neighbourhood: Financial District
Owner: Steven Salm, the former general manager of upscale steakhouse e11even
Executive Chef: Michael Steh, who used to be the executive chef at Reds
Chef de Cuisine: Nigel Finley, former executive chef at Catch

The Food: Oysters and other raw seafood, plus po’ boys, lobster rolls and chowder. Non-pescatarian options include burgers, steak, lamb chops and fried chicken.

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Restaurants

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College West seafood shack Red Fish is closed

Red Fish

(Image: Megan Leahy)

The restaurant from the former chef of Fishbar on Ossington opened last summer to positive reviews for its dainty fish charcuterie and other West coast seafood dishes, as well as its commitment to sustainability. But like a handful of restaurants before it at 890 College, including popular neighbourhood brunch spot Mitzi’s, Red Fish shut its doors earlier this summer. [Red Fish]