Take a restaurant dream team, add a pinch of hipster, a soupçon of cream and a healthy dollop of impeccable seafood, season it à la française, and what have you got? The dishiest new resto to hit Toronto in a year!
Cherry-picking the menu works really well. Some of the fusion items, where East meets Latin, are really fun. Chef’s suite of ceviches are superbly entertaining: we’re captivated by the variegated flavours of tiraditos, raw tuna napped in passion fruit and lulo sauce, with black and white sesame seeds, chili-studded purée of butternut squash and baby greens.
It’s an Argentinian grill: the Argentinian tradition is to cook over a live fire of hardwood and Argentinian lump charcoal, which imparts a bit of a smoke undertone to the meat along with a charred crust that’s kissin’ cousin to crispy. Rather splendid.
Hence my excitement when Guu, the Vancouver mothership, opened a branch in Parkdale. Guu has been fooling around with the Toronto market for a few years. They first opened a fabulous Guu on Church Street and a second one on Bloor West.
I want to adore this restaurant. Guy Rawlings’ pedigree is sterling. Most recently he was operations manager at the esteemed Bar Isabel and Bar Raval, and long before that he was sous chef at Il Mulino on Eglinton, when it was great, and pastry chef at Celestin when it was great.
It’s a great concept. Who doesn’t love lobster and hate paying for it? Lbs. has picked a price point of $22, for which they sell four (!!) mains only: a 1.25 lb. lobster, a warm lobster roll, a brisket burger and a lobster salad. All but the salad come with fries. Sweet and simple.
Chantecler 2.0 has nothing to do with the Asian fusion lettucy thingies of chef Poon, but the room is unchanged — still a small and incredibly sweet bistro with thick wooden tables, some high-top, some regulation height, white tile floors a la française and a cheerful atmosphere with friendly service.
John Bil, the owner, pours shots of skull vodka for a couple of regulars and says he never wanted to open a restaurant that a lot of people made a fuss over. He only ever wanted a neighbourhood place, which is why, he says, “It’s only 20 seats.”
The slowing down part is why he named the new place Piano Piano (which means “go slow” in Italian). The family part is why his two-year-old daughter’s art is on the walls and the place is informal, family-friendly and inexpensive. Lotsa pizza ’n’ pasta.
What does it mean when someone pursues a career against their parents’ expressed wishes? And sticks with it? It means you’re a person of enormous grit and passion. This is chef Noureen Feerasta and Rickshaw Bar is her dream come true. She is not about to screw this up, which is why the lovely little bistro receives 110 per cent of her passion.
Being of the superficial persuasion, I was quick to cast premature judgment on Markham’s new Spanish restaurant, Tapagria. Here is a place with a bad name, I thought; a place that is lamely tagging along with Toronto’s Spanish food trend. Here is a place that has put a lot of effort into appearing downtown-esque, with its wood, exposed brick and Edison bulbs; a place, I thought, that would probably be a style-over-substance affair.
If I were orchestrating a Big Night Out, let’s say a date with somebody I wanted to impress, and that somebody was not a sushi lover … and money wasn’t really an object, hands down I’d take them to Miku.
I’m still trying to figure out why one of the best chefs in the world (yes, the world!) opens a restaurant called Fring’s in collaboration with a rapper. Susur Lee’s name is on the menu as chef and owner; his partner is Drake, and it’s tough to get a reservation at Fring’s.
The conundrum here is that I love the food at Parcae, the service is charming, and it deserves to survive. What, says the waiter, you don’t like the risotto? I’ll take it off your bill. Okay, now we know who we’re dealing with. These people are beyond nice.