Restaurant Review: Perched above Bay Station, Brothers is home to a very clever kitchen


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Beef carpaccio with enoki mushrooms

Image: David Ort

How is it that a 28-seat wine bar with food, with the subway rumbling under the floor at frequent intervals and a curmudgeon behind the bar has caught the fancy of so many Toronto foodies?

It starts with getting a reservation: you have to phone because they don’t do online reservations. Their outgoing voice message says: “Our menu changes at whim and is not available online.” 

OK. So I phone for a reservation. I ask for 7 p.m. The guy on the phone offers 6:30 or 9 p.m. I push, can’t I have 7 p.m? 

“Never,” he says, “It’s not good for us.” I say it’s not great for me. To which he replies: “There will be a reservation after you.”

This is a new definition of hospitality. Where are we, New York?

We show up and are seated at the bar. The corner of the bar is very nice. There are six small tables in the back, and I ask the bearded guy behind the bar (the curmudgeon) if we can get one of those next time. 

“Two people never get a table. Always at the bar,” he growls.

Remind me why we’re here.

Easy. Every single plate of food they put in front of us is … fabulous. Glorious ingredients, sourced carefully, fresh, pure, excellent. All treated with utmost respect and grace. Worth putting up with the guy.

Like they say in the voice message, you can’t eat what I ate because the menu changes “at whim.” It was great. It will be great. 


Crisp-skinned mackerel on pickled eggplant (IMAGE: DAVID ORT)

 

To start, we inhaled perfect ungreasy mackerel atop puckery pickled eggplant in vinaigrette tinged with mint. There were ethereal sweetbreads with carefully braised Belgian endive in a light purée of almond sauce.

Steak tartare, lighter than usual thanks to leaving out the egg yolk, knife-edge seasoning with a little heat, to spread on magnificently crusty grilled Prairie Boy sourdough. 

You may meet lamb at Brothers, for chef clearly has a bahhhd infatuation. There were little lamb sausages, house-made, tender and juicy and wrapped in shallot skins (!!) atop cumin-scented creamy mustard sauce. 

Chef’s lamb neck is a tender melting braise in delicate garlic sauce, the sweet of the lamb in clever counterpoint to the butter of chicory.

Chef’s steelhead trout is special for its crispy skin and melting pink heart. It sits on lighter-than-air beurre blanc flavoured with fresh tarragon. 

It doesn’t matter if the entire menu has changed when you go to Brothers. The feel of the food will be the same. This is a very clever kitchen, with superb taste buds and a light touch. 

As for the curmudgeon behind the bar, click your heels three times and imagine you’re in Manhattan. It won’t hurt so much. 

Brothers, 1240 Bay St., 416-804-6066

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Joanne Kates trained at the Ecole Cordon Bleu de Cuisine in Paris. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the New York Times, Maclean’s and Chatelaine. Follow her on Twitter @JoanneKates.

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