The Black Hoof itself is not, in my view, as fabulous as it was under Grant.">

Table Talk: Joanne Kates reviews Hoof Raw Bar


Published:

Since Grant van Gameren hoofed it from The Hoof last year, it’s not been clear whether (now sole) owner Jen Agg has the creative vision to sustain and renew the brand. A mixologist by trade, she was never going to have it easy with the departure of her wunderkind chef/partner. The Black Hoof itself is not, in my view, as fabulous as it was under Grant.

But Agg’s new project, the Hoof Raw Bar (next door to The Hoof) proves the lady can cut the mustard. How daring to diverge entirely from meat and do an all-seafood menu! Of course it’s still very Hoof — no reservations, and the menu follows The Hoof formula: cured, smoked and raw are the main themes, transmuted here to seafood.

How clever to morph the famous charcuterie board to seafood, following The Hoof formula of tastes going from mild to intense as you get closer to the handle of the board. Olive cured branzino is pale and delicate, the light fish barely flavoured with olive.

Miso black cod gives the fish, rarely served raw, a slightly pungent sweetness. Gravlax tuna, a play on gravlax salmon, profits less well from its salt and sugar cure. Tuna, being so much less fatty than salmon, toughens a bit, though the flavour is grand. And over by the handle is the most overt nod to Hoof tradition — chorizo-cured scallop, the spicy strong outside a great foil to raw wet scallop on the inside. The sweetness of house-pickled baby onions goes with the cured fish like gin goes with tonic.

Chef Jonathan Pong, a Hoof alum, riffs on shrimp cocktail with smoked shrimp cocktail, almost raw super-sweet shrimps barely smoked, served, tongue in cheek, in a retro shrimp cocktail goblet with superb cocktail sauce zinged with crunchy mustard seeds. He makes chawan mushi (savoury Japanese egg custard) his own by serving it cold, topped with smoked salmon roe, kale chips and mushrooms for a delicate summery invention. His sole misstep is clam chowder with baby gnocchi replacing the traditional potato cubes. Cute, and we love the barely cooked clams and the leek “hay” on top, but the gnocchi have gone gluey.

Seafood aficionados are always wanting it cooked less … and less … and less. To satisfy our cravings for sashimi, chef always offers some raw. He tops raw scallops with tiny green apple cubes, crisp salty potato fragments and curried apple cider reduction. Fantastic!

Shrimp on toast is baked perfect: soft shrimp with tiny kohlrabi cubes and coriander leaves woven through with a ribbon of sous vide egg yolk dotted with black sesame seeds. Baked oysters are amazing, not really cooked but perhaps heated simply to firm them slightly, then topped with cured foie gras and a big pile of raw shallots crisped with panko crumbs. Briny salty and sweet, all balanced on a knife edge: quite the flavour feat.

The room itself is more charming than The Hoof (not saying that much), thanks to a high Aspenite ceiling set off by white brick walls, blonde wood tables  and a huge old mirror. All is light and bright — just like the food, which is indeed evanescent.

Hoof Raw Bar, 928 Dundas Street West, $70 Dinner for two

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, and she was the Globe and Mail’s restaurant critic for 38 years.

Edit Module

Join the conversation and have your say by commenting below. Our comment system uses a Facebook plugin. Please note that you'll have to turn off some ad-blockers in order to see the comments.

Edit Module

Follow us on Twitter @PostCity for more on what to eat, where to shop and what to do in Toronto.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

You may also like...

How the Food Dudes put their multi-faceted stamp on Toronto’s dining scene

How the Food Dudes put their multi-faceted stamp on Toronto’s dining scene

Adrian Niman and Brent McClenahan are the official co-owners of the Food Dudes, overseeing two acclaimed restaurants — Rasa and Omaw — two grab-and-go Pantry eateries and two food trucks. Oh, and they cater over 1,500 events a year.
Posted 18 hours ago
Eat This Minute: T.O.’s newest New York City import has tongues wagging

Eat This Minute: T.O.’s newest New York City import has tongues wagging

Posted 2 days ago
First Look: Adamson adds Conspiracy Pizza next door to their BBQ operation

First Look: Adamson adds Conspiracy Pizza next door to their BBQ operation

Midtown’s newest pizza joint is now in its soft opening phase and doling out 18-inch pizzas ranging from $20 for a plain old cheese pizza to $28 for the brisket pizza. The style of pizza served at Conspiracy is a “New York-Italian hybrid,” says their pizzaiolo, Dan Rios.
Posted 3 days ago
At the Bar: One-two milk punch from Good Fortune

At the Bar: One-two milk punch from Good Fortune

Craft cocktail bar Good Fortune has us fooled. Clarified punch is a super old-timey way of crafting cocktails, with the best-known recipe reaching back to 1711.
Posted 4 days ago
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit Module