August 30, 2014
Aug 13, 2012
12:13 PM

First Look: Red Fish, a new sustainable seafood restaurant on College

Weathervane scallops with an octopus hash, $17 (Images: Anna Silman)

Chef David Friedman and General Manager Jaime Duran, co-owners of Red Fish restaurant, are no strangers to deep-sea dining. Previously of Fishbar — the trendy fish-focused offering at Dundas and Ossington — the duo are now taking their aquatic inspirations a couple of blocks northwest to their brand new sustainable seafood spot at the corner of College and Delaware.

In creating Red Fish, the two sought to create a seafood experience that would be simultaneously classy and affordable, as well as adhering to standards of sustainability.

Red Fish’s menu is crafted from a variety of locally sourced ingredients, including fish from Hooked, meat from Sanagan’s and produce from 100km Foods and Kawartha Ecological Growers. Add to that an in-house forager and an herb garden on site, along with an in-house bread program, and Red Fish seems to be hitting all the requisite locavore bullet points.

But as Friedman says, he’s “not militant” about eating local.

“My approach is just to use the best ingredients, and the best ingredients are always the ones you can reach out and get,” he says.

When it comes to seafood, Red Fish is firmly committed to its motto of “spawning sustainability.” And Friedman and his team have the credentials to prove it: having trained at a Vancouver culinary school involved with Ocean Wise, Friedman is now also involved with the Toronto chapter of Slow Fish, an international campaign for sustainable fishing.

The fish-friendly menu steers away from tapas-style dining in favour of a more traditional a la carte menu, with a diverse selection of appetizers and mains designed to be enjoyed consecutively (although you can share if the need strikes).

The brightly coloured “Chef’s bored” (market price) — quirky spelling intended — features a mélange of raw fish, pâtés, rillettes and quick cures, and changes from day to day depending on Friedman’s whims. Although it looks like a charcuterie board, at Red Fish there’s much more of an emphasis on freshness than on the curing process itself.

“We’re focusing less on the method than on the taste of the fish,” Friedman says.

Fish lovers looking for something a little more, well, cooked, can chow down on hearty mains like a whole sustainable blue sea bream with potato, basil and lemon ($32), or a B.C. ling cod ($27), as well as smaller nibbles like fried smelts ($7) or steelhead trout rilettes for two ($14).

Yet while seafood is the common thread, beyond that, Friedman’s culinary influences are varied.

“It’s Toronto food,” Friedman says. “And Toronto is made of international neighbourhoods.”

In that vein, Friedman stays true to Toronto’s multicultural ethos, with Japanese, Korean, Jamaican, French, Spanish and other flavours infusing the menu.

“It all fits, because the palette is the fish.”

And with space for 92 (including a spacious patio), as well as an oyster bar, an extensive wine list and plans for a future seafood brunch (Red Fish only does dinner service for now), the new eatery is sure to become a favourite destination for Toronto’s legions of fish-heads to get their fill – and feel good about it.

Red Fish, 890 College St., 416-733-3474

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