Tom Brodi

The Dish

Restaurants

30 Comments

Toca relaunches with a new head chef and a new menu (and without Tom Brodi) 

The Ritz-Carlton Toronto announced yesterday that Montreal-born and European-trained Gihen Zitouni is the new chef de cuisine at Toca, replacing Tom Brodi, who left at the end of May. Zitouni has been in the Ritz-Carlton family for years, working as a cook at hotel restaurants in Florida, Barcelona and the Caribbean. In her most recent stint she was head chef of the Ritz-owned Arola Restaurant in Portugal. With Zitouni’s arrival, Toca is changing its menu from Brodi’s focus on classic Canadiana, to a Mediterranean-Canadian concept built around small plates designed for sharing. At a preview dinner on Wednesday evening, she presented an array of dishes, including B.C. octopus salad, smoked Nova Scotia trout and Tunisian sandwiches with tuna and harissa mayo. The new menu officially launches on Oct. 29.

The Dish

Features

4 Comments

Eastern Promises: hearty, meaty, carb-heavy Eastern European food is Toronto’s next big comfort cuisine

The Way We Eat Now: Eastern Promises

Wvrst Sausage Hall on King West

In the ’60s, Toronto had a bustling Eastern European food scene. Polish, Hungarian and German immigrants opened up humble cafés and grocery stores along Schnitzel Row (the stretch of Bloor between Spadina and Bathurst), in Kensington Market and on Roncesvalles Avenue, servicing mostly the expat community, and a few WASPs who fancied themselves adventurous for ordering fried chicken livers or cabbage rolls. By the ’80s, much of that first wave of Eastern Europeans had retired to the suburbs, taking their goulash and spaetzle with them (RIP Hungarian Goulash Party Tavern). The remaining downtown restaurants, like The Prague on Queen West, have turned into haunts for hungover students scarfing cheap smoked salmon palacinky or doughy pierogies.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Restaurants

1 Comment

Tom Brodi leaves TOCA by Tom Brodi

Chef Tom Brodi back when the restaurant opened last February (Image: Gizelle Lau)

TOCA by Tom Brodi, the restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton, is in the midst of a byline change after Brodi announced his departure from the restaurant, effective May 26. Known for its Canadiana menu—including Alberta lamb sirloin and B.C. scallops—TOCA opened its doors last February to mixed reviews, despite Brodi’s Canoe pedigree. Brodi told Post City that conflicting visions between himself and hotel management were behind the split, adding that he has no major plans for himself in the short-term. The Ritz-Carlton has yet to name a replacement, and as yet it is uncertain if the restaurant will be undergoing any major changes. We’d imagine they’ll want to start with the name.

The Dish

Food TV

4 Comments

Top Chef Canada recap, episode 7: modernist warfare

Date night at judges' table (Image: Top Chef Canada)

TOP CHEF CANADA Season 2 | Episode 7

We’ve often noted that the dishes on Top Chef Canada are a good deal simpler than the fare on the show’s U.S. forebear. Compared to, say, the ambitious yet elegant work of Top Chef Texas winner Paul Qui, the Canadian crop of grilled cheese sandwiches and roasted strip loin can start to feel a tad unambitious. Perhaps that’s why the producers chose to fly in Top Chef All-Stars winner and modernist cuisine avatar Richard Blais to judge last night’s episode. Did it work? Find out in our recap below.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Food TV

Comments

Top Chef Canada reveals the rather stacked list of guest judges for season two

Remember last year when Chris Cosentino, one of the pioneers of the offal revival, visited Toronto for undisclosed reasons and claimed he could smell Chinatown from three blocks away? Or when Richard Blais, the molecularly inclined winner of Top Chef All-Stars, tweeted about the interesting tasting menu he’d just lunched on in Toronto? Or when Italian food legend Lidia Bastianich dropped in at All the Best Fine Foods? Turns out they weren’t here just because they love us—they’re all guest judges on season two of Top Chef Canada. Other notable judges and tasters include—and let us be clear, this is a bit of a spoiler for those who really like to keep their Top Chef Canada viewing pure—east-coast chef Michael Smith, season one host Thea Andrews (no hard feelings, we guess!), chef-about-town Matty Matheson of Parts and Labour, Leafs assistant captain Colby Armstrong, Susur Lee and his soon-to-be restaurateur sons Kai and Jet Bent-Lee, Toca’s Tom Brodi, Roger Mooking, Top Chef Masters winner Marcus Samuelson, last season’s winner Dale MacKay and his adorable son Ayden, Keisha Chante, Rick the Temp Campanelli, Lorenzo Loseto of George, Charlie’s Burgers mastermind Franco Stalteri, husband-and-wife dynamos Marc Thuet and Biana Zorich, Odd Bits author Jennifer McLagan, Vancouver Indian restaurateur and chef Vikram Vij and assorted competitors from last season, not to mention the somewhat bizarro guests we already told you about, like Alan Thicke and Mike Holmes. (Whew!) Not bad.

The Dish

Food TV

1 Comment

Under the Bajan sun, Mark McEwan drops a few hints about season two of Top Chef Canada

(Video: Si Si Penaloza)

At the Barbados Food and Wine and Rum Festival in November, Canada was represented by Toronto chefs Mark McEwan (Bymark, North 44, One, McEwan Foods) and Tom Brodi (Toca, Canoe), along with the likes of celeb chefs Tom Colicchio, Ming Tsai and Marcus Samuelsson. In this clip, we grilled chef McEwan, head judge on Top Chef Canada, about the upcoming season. With the Bajan sun beating down and the gas stove cranked up, McEwan, struggling with his gnocchi, dropped a couple of tiny clues. First, just as in the U.S. version of the show, the calibre of chefs in season two seems to have been ratcheted up. Second, it appears as though there will be more than one Toronto chef in the final six. Of course, we’ll have to wait until March 12 (and the weeks thereafter) to find out.

The Dish

Restaurants

18 Comments

Weekly Lunch Pick: a luxe take on a classic sandwich at a new King West TIFF hub

Lunch at Toca: olive sourdough, watermelon aloe cocktail and LBLT (Image: Renée Suen)

This Thursday marks the start of TIFF, with its usual flurry of stars. Celeb hunters hoping to avoid the red carpet crush should know that the new Ritz-Carlton Toronto will host its fair share of TIFF press conferences and undoubtedly some stars as well. At Toca, the luxe hotel’s eye-catching restaurant, chef Tom Brodi serves Canadiana-focused food made with local ingredients. Lunch starts with warm slices of spongy, olive-laced sourdough. The LBLT ($23) features soft, tarragon-laced chunks of poached Yarmouth lobster, a stack of Canadian back bacon and diced tomatoes pressed between two dense halves of a Thuet pretzel bun. The hearty sandwich comes with two vegetable sides: a sweet and crunchy coleslaw of shredded red cabbage, carrots and red pepper and a simple mixed green salad dressed with a tart vinaigrette (which is apparently where the dish gets its second L). A watermelon and aloe cocktail ($8)—a virgin mix of aloe water, lime, watermelon juice and earl grey syrup—washes everything down nicely.

The cost: $42 including tax and tip

The time: 60 minutes, including a quick stroll to inspect the restaurant’s $250,000 cheese cave

Toca, 181 Wellington St. W., 416-572-8008, tocarestaurant.com.

The Dish

People

11 Comments

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. 

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Features

7 Comments

Bringing Sexy Back: Chris Nuttall-Smith takes on Aria and Toca

After three years of restaurant restraint, Aria and Toca, two unabashedly flashy new spots, are giving diners a reason to get dressed up again

Opulence, I missed you. I missed high thread-count table linens and hand-blown water glasses and even edible gold leaf a little. I missed the dining rooms whose owners gave carte blanche to talented designers, insisting only on “something grand.” But mostly, I missed gasping when I walked into restaurants—having to stop to take a space in, to admire. Though restraint wasn’t all bad for dining culture these past few years, it wasn’t always easy on the eyes.

Two ambitious, expensive, flashy new dining rooms have opened downtown in recent months, one of them from a hotel chain that’s synonymous with conspicuous luxury, the other from a pair of neighbourhood restaurateurs who’ve come out shooting for the moon. Both are fine dining (more or less), and both are likely to make you gasp when you enter.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Drinks

9 Comments

The sipper club: meet the city’s competitive cabal of top sommeliers

Will Predhomme belongs to a competitive cabal of top sommeliers who sniff, sip and spit their way through hundreds of bottles a week. They do this to help you decide what to drink with your dinner, while making you think it was your idea all along

One hundred and fifty-one people have reservations at Canoe tonight. Among these are many Bay Streeters, a couple celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, dozens of people on dates, including the bar manager from Crush, and a young woman who plans to propose to her boyfriend over dinner. The two private dining rooms are fully booked.

Canoe, part of the ever-expanding Oliver and Bonacini empire, is routinely considered one of the finest restaurants in the city. Last summer, in a rigorous competition held by the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers, known as CAPS, Canoe’s head sommelier, Will Predhomme, was proclaimed Ontario’s best. Predhomme has devoted a third of his life—he’s 29—to wine scholarship. He now knows more about wine than almost anyone in Toronto.

Just after 5 p.m., the bar area begins to fill up with commuters sipping cocktails as they wait for the traffic on the clogged Gardiner, 54 floors below, to dissipate. One of the restaurant’s first guests, a retired trial lawyer, arrives. As a young female host escorts him to his large corner table, he puts an arm around her shoulder. “I don’t like to pay bills,” he says. “I want a fucking account. Last time I was here, I offered those ladies”—referring to the hosts who greeted him at his last visit—“$300 and told them to set up an account for me. And I still don’t have one.” He and his three dining companions, Canoe regulars, have brought in several bottles of their own wine, including a cabernet franc from the ex-lawyer’s private vineyard in Tuscany. When Predhomme arrives at the table to discuss the wine, the ex-lawyer, captivatingly bratty in a way that only the rich and sort-of-powerful can be, repeats his complaint. “Look, I spend about $50,000 a year at Bymark, and I’d do the same here if I had a fucking account.” Predhomme is unmoved, but gracious. “If you give me your contact information,” he says, “I’ll make sure that it gets to the right people.”

“You’ll get me an account?”

“I’ll look into it.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Openings

Comments

Introducing: Toca, refined Canadiana at the Ritz-Carlton

Back in October, we reported that chef Tom Brodi (formerly of Canoe, North 44 and Gramercy Tavern in New York, under Tom Colicchio) would be behind the new Ritz-Carlton’s signature restaurant. When the luxury hotel opened last week, we got our first glimpse at Brodi’s year-long project, Toca (the name is a play on TOronto, CAnada).

Read the rest of this entry »

The Informer

Real Estate

2 Comments

Introducing: the Ritz-Carlton, Toronto’s newest five-star hotel

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

The glamorous new Ritz-Carlton Toronto is open for business, nearly five years after its groundbreaking in November 2006. The hotel is the first to bear the Ritz-Carlton brand in Canada (Montreal’s Ritz just licensed the name). Housed in a new 53-story structure on Wellington Street West, across from Metro Hall Park and Roy Thompson Hall, the Ritz features 267 guest rooms and suites with a strong contemporary Canadiana theme. Other amenities include Toca, a new restaurant helmed by chef Tom Brodi (formerly of Canoe), Toca Bar, Deq Terrace and Lounge, a 16 treatment-room spa and Toronto’s largest luxury ballroom.

We were there for the opening, camera in hand. Check out our tour of the hotel »

UPDATE: Check out our look at the Ritz-Carlton’s new restaurant, Toca »

The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto, 181 Wellington St. W. (at John St.), 416-585-2500, ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/Toronto .

Our Introducing series explores newly opened restaurants, bars, hotels and shops throughout the GTA. This is not a review. Toronto Life’s starred reviews can be found in their entirety in our Restaurant Guide.

The Dish

Openings

7 Comments

Ritz-Carlton announces its locally focused anchor restaurant

Puttin' up the Ritz: Toca and the hotel to which it's attached will open in January

Since news broke that the opening of the Ritz-Carlton had to be pushed back to January due to flooding, the chain has been looking to share a little good news. Well, this week, they got it. The Simcoe Street hotel announced the details of its signature restaurant this week. (Hey, at least now they have an extra month to get the place ready.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement