Hoof Raw Bar’s cured fish board: the coolest thing to hit Dundas West since, well, charcuterie
By Jon Sufrin
A cure for what ails you (Images: Jon Sufrin)
Jonathan Pong is holding in his right hand a piece of art worthy of samurai. It’s a Takeda blade, pretty much a sword, double-beveled, forged by hand out of Aogami Super Steel, tempered for two days and two nights, designed specifically for slicing fish. Which is what he’s doing with it: slicing some of the best fish available in the city and placing those slices on a wooden slab.
Dundas West’s The Black Hoof reached legendary status for putting slices of meat onto wooden slabs. So when stuff gets cured and sliced thin at its new sister restaurant, Hoof Raw Bar, where Pong is the chef, expectations are high.
This particular wooden slab is probably the first in the city to showcase solely cured fish. But seafood charcuterie is an actual thing, even if Toronto’s not that familiar with it yet. Earlier this year, a Boston Globe chef survey indicated seafood charcuterie as the number one “hot food trend” of 2012. It’s fitting, then, that we are seeing this stuff emerge on Dundas West.
Hoof Raw Bar’s cured fish board ($22) is not charcuterie per se, Pong says, but it’s close. Certainly, it’s been modeled as a counterpart to The Black Hoof’s renowned charcuterie board. The scallops, in particular, are reminiscent of The Hoof’s legacy: they have been cured in a chorizo spice mix of chili peppers, smoked paprika, black pepper and a bit of sherry. It’s about as charcuterie as scallop can get.
Chef Jonathan Pong, previously of C5
The rest of the entries consist of lightly cured fish — mackerel, albacore tuna, black cod and branzino — all of it from Leslieville’s Hooked, paired with tart, pickled cippolini onions.
The board’s current iteration is the product of much collaboration between Pong, Brandon Olsen (head chef at The Black Hoof) and owner Jen Agg. It’s delicious, but equally as interesting as the product is its potential. It’s begging for experimentation. Pong isn’t dishing much on the few tricks he’s got up his sleeve, but it’s hard not to imagine the possibilities: salmon pastrami, smoked bluefish rilettes, fish pate. This board is a threshold to some fascinating stuff.
Curing fish requires less time investment than meat, Pong says, but fish presents its own challenges. It’s fragile, and it has a shorter shelf life. And then there is the issue of slicing it, which requires skills not unlike those required for sashimi.
Godspeed to the person who has three minutes to slice a cured fish board, in the middle of dinner rush, with a samurai sword.
Hoof Raw Bar, 926 Dundas St. W.
Click below for a close-up of the fish board