Sunday, December 8, 2013

Toronto chef of Canoe, Centro and Auberge du Pommier fame opens his own venture: The Guild

Sunday, December 8, 2013
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!

Yours in food,



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