Chef Mani Binelli, who has cooked at big-name Toronto restaurants like Canoe, Centro, and Auberge du Pommier, has a new restaurant on Dundas West near Dufferin. The Guild says if it’s on the menu, it was made in house. Fresh-made pastas, cured meats, sausages, spices, sauces, preserves and pastries - Binelli also has a hot box smoker that he uses to smoke meat.
The space in particular was fascinating - it was converted from a 20-year-old flower shop into a 90-seat restaurant by Binelli himself. The dining tables are made of 100-year-old Ontario barn wood, refinished and built by Binelli. The birch bark bar and hostess stand are made of fallen Haliburton forest trees. Dining chairs are covered with coffee sacs from The Guild’s coffee supplier. The tin ceiling was hand pressed by a Guelph, Ontario artisan. There is a massive open kitchen and full view chef’s table as well. The bathroom walls fascinated me, as they subbed out wallpaper for some shellac and pages from a classic food encyclopedia.
The cocktail menu read very "manly" to me from start to finish - the two cocktails we sampled ("Mother's Tough Love" with Gosling's Black Seal rum & house-made ginger beer and "Dun West Trading Co." with El Jimador Reposado tequila, Leyenda mezcal, benedictine, spice pineapple shrub, lemon, West Indian orange bitters) may have put some hair on my chest! They were strong and bold but nothing is worse than a weak cocktail - you feel completely ripped off. So I'd rather a nice strong one than a weakling! Good drinks for winter as they definitely warmed me up.
My favourite dish was the Seared Omega Pork Belly with tequila peach compote and kimchi. The kimchi wasn't overpowering as I thought it may be, and the tequila peach compote is something they need to keep doing, because it was HEAVEN alongside the pork belly. I'm weird about pork belly, I'm very particular about the way the fat is rendered, and I can't stand when it ends up being chewy. They got it right here - this was my favourite pork belly I've had ANYWHERE as the fat was rendered perfectly and it was extremely flavourful. It may not look like much below, but looks can be deceiving.
Some other highlights: Their house-smoked chicken had a rich smokey flavour that fake liquid smoke can't compete with, so I'd recommend that you grab something house-smoked off their menu. It's a real treat. Also, whatever Quebec goat cheese ended up in their aged balsamic marinated tomato salad was killer good (I forgot to ask, as one tends to do after a long day at work and a few cocktails!) - shredding the arugula in the salad was a little different, I think I may have preferred whole pieces, but the flavours were excellent. Enjoy the food porn pics!
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend a knife skills class held by CUTCO.
Chef Neil Noseworthy of Taste Worthy Cuisine and the CUTCO team instructed us on the use of various knives to prepare a number of dishes from salads to mains.
We were really impressed with the sharpness and solid hand-feel of the CUTCO knives. They felt precise and cut through especially difficult to cut areas, like in-between orange wedges, with ease. The knives are made of surgical grade high carbon stainless steel and have thermoresin handles to keep them performing well for a long time.
The trimmer we used had CUTCO's "Double-D" edge which I never really noticed on a knife before. It made it feel safer to handle... yes we did try touching the edge; but kept it really efficient at slicing through even tough food items.
Yamato is a popular Japanese restaurant in Yorkville for Teppanyaki, where a chef cooks the food on a griddle in front of the customers with as much flair as he can muster, and sometimes a little song and dance. The highlight of the performance is the onion volcano, which you can see in the video below.
Yamato is a relatively inexpensive lunch option for the entertainment value you get, all while enjoying a steak or seafood with rice and vegetables. I highly recommend the fried rice option. There are other typical Japanese items on the menu as well, but that's not why people go to Yamato, so why bother?
There are some places one goes to just to kick back and enjoy a simple meal. Diners as a whole fit that bill most of the time as who can argue with the calming effects of eggs, greasy potatoes and a good stiff coffee?
I'm sure everyone has their opinion on the best or trendiest greasy spoon in Toronto, and honestly... I'm pretty reluctant to write about Flo's. Not that the food is bad, it's pretty good. I don't want to tell everyone where it is, because it's my diner!... and I better not see you there. I've been going there since I came to Canada in high school, one score and some odd years ago.
It used to be in this really cool Art Deco building on 10 Bellair across from Harry Rosen, a stone's throw away from a derelict ruin of a theatre marquis / parking lot which is now the entrance to Pottery Barn.
Oh I so loved that place, what comfort and nostalgia.
"Built mid 1980s, Retro brushed steel Art Deco dining car restaurant....Originally called 4D's Diner when first opened, later location of Flo's, demolished in 1998 for condominium 10 Bellair (photo off the internet)" - Greg Stacey on Flickr
Thanks to Mona Bhalla for the 4 photos below. I swear I'll get an iPhone one of these days.
They have a pretty decent menu of diner classics including various melts and sandwiches, but we really end up there for the all day breakfast, usually their excellent eggs benny or some variation thereof.
I usually get steak & eggs sunny side up with some egg bread and home fries.
Diners are so deeply embedded in the fabric of North American culture. Here's a clip from the upcoming Tom's Restaurant movie a.k.a. the "Restaurant" in Seinfeld.
Which also happens to be the diner in this 90s hit... yeah I'm really dating myself!
Fresh Canteen at www.freshcanteen.com is an innovative new food service in Toronto that allows you to have a fresh home cooked meal ready in around half an hour, without the fuss of finding a recipe and shopping for all the ingredients.
All the meat, veggies, seasonings and sauces you need are conveniently packaged in a gel-packed insulated box, delivered right to your door. The gourmet recipe with easy to follow instructions to make a meal for 2 are also included.
We tried their Mock Butter Chicken kit at home -- it's mock since butter is optional. As you can see below, the naan, side salad ingredients and Basmati rice are included.
Fresh Canteen adds another dinner option for time strapped folk to enjoy a variety of nutritious home cooked meals. It's especially appealing to not have to stock up on a multitude of ingredients that would otherwise go bad if you only wanted to make enough for 2 servings.
Last weekend was the annual Roncesvalles Polish Festival. This celebration of Polish food and culture drew in quite a large crowd with many live performances and samples of Polish cuisine from pierogies to blood sausage and kielbasa to borscht. As with most Toronto street festivals the other local merchants also had their wares out, so there was also a taste of other foods, from Australian meat pies to churros.
On an imported slab of heat-retention stone from Australia, you cook your own meal. Looks like fun! However it might be more about the experience than anything else - we heard some not-so-good reviews from a friend recently. We'll try anything once though!
¤Kultura (King East - Furniture District) Heard a lot about Roger Mooking's restaurants - think we're more obsessed with going there because of the fact that he used to be in Bass is Base!
¤ Cafe Gilead (King East - Furniture District) Jamie Kennedy's stuff is usually pretty good so we want to try it. ¤ Guu (Church St - The Gaybourhood) This place is trendy, so some people go there for that reason alone, but we'd be heading there to see what "Japanese tapas" is all about.
Follow a couple of foodies around the city as they discover the best (and worst) of what Toronto's culinary scene has to offer.
You can visit this site for some more info on the bloggers: http://www.tastingtoronto.ca/2009/06/so-who-is-behind-tasting-toronto.html