Restaurant Review: Canis on Queen West fixes the prix fixe for Joanne Kates


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Chef Jeff Kang busy plating in the kitchen

I’m usually borderline hostile about fixed price multi-course menus. First off they offend my control gene. I like to choose my own food, thank you. Secondly I get impatient and don’t want to sit there for three hours while chef produces a parade of small artworks to impress me with his (it’s rarely a her) oeuvre.

Which is why I am doubly blown away by Canis. It’s four courses for $65, and for each of the four courses there are three choices. So the choice thing is taken care of. As for the time thing, when the server brought the third (and last!) savoury course, I whined. The food was so fabulous I would have been delirious to sit longer and inhale more courses.

Dinner starts with impeccable sourdough bread and two impeccable spreads: sharp goat butter sharp with chives, and ricotta with complex chimichurri.

Then begins the parade of four courses. The first course can be carrots, scallops or beef tartare. The tartare is marvellous, hand-chopped and perfectly seasoned, with turnip shreds on top for bite. The scallops are splendiferous — raw, sweet and tender in strong mignonette with tiny onion bits to balance the sweetness of the scallops. For vegetably oriented foodies there is the carrot course: three kinds of carrots — fresh, dehydrated and pickled — atop creamy burrata with toasted almonds in light vinaigrette.

The second course is celeriac, squid or duck. Again the marvellously imagined veg option: it’s two forms of celeriac, one a braised chunk, cooked down to intensity. The other is slices, more fresh-tasting. With sweet/tart caramelized whey and nasturtium flowers for glamour. The squid is magnificent — super-tender squid in black ink sauce with romesco sauce and toasted almonds on top. The duck is melt-in-the-mouth confit sitting on rich caramelized onion purée, with grilled pearl onions on top.

By the time the third savoury course arrives, I have fallen all the way in love with Canis. The room and the tableware support the local and artisanal message of the food — vertical pine slats on one wall and all the dishware ceramic or wood. Course three is lamb, halibut or beef. Lamb is rare pink loin with pressed eggplant, toasted almonds and eggplant almond relish. Beef short rib is fork-tender and jazzed with toasted hazelnuts plus hazelnut miso and toasted carrot with miso ribbons. We had trout — fresh and moist, served with sweet buttery sunchoke pieces, sunchoke cream, green garlic and nettles. They’ve now replaced the trout with halibut.

And yes, we’re still ready for more, entranced, not hungry any more but blessed by the parade of delights. It ends with three desserts. I like the milk chocolate mousse with buckwheat ice cream and shards of meringue. I appreciate the thin crisp wafers layered with pear and almond cream. But my heart belongs to buttermilk snow with rhubarb curd and toasted hazelnut. Buttermilk snow? This is frozen balls of sweetened buttermilk foam playing very nicely with jam-like rhubarb curd and toasted hazelnuts. Only the most beautiful gastronomic mind could dream this dessert.

Canis, 746 Queen St. W., 416-203-3317

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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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