Toronto: Edulis

I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Edulis and especially since it made 2012’s En Route list.  We’ve been meaning to try it but reservations are not easy to come by. Nonetheless, when the restaurant came out with their 8 course tasting menu (including 2 Croatian White Truffle courses) last November I immediately called to reserve to satisfy our addiction to the rare and aromatic tuber.  The décor was homely with added touches charm.  There was a duck press on display and items the owners may have picked up from their travels around Europe.

Edulis-pintxosTo amuse our taste buds we started off with a plate of Pinxtos (Basque style tapas). Guilda olives stuffed with anchovies and peppers and some cubes of homemade toasted bread with Spanish olive oil.

Bread. Baking and cooking are two separate crafts.  One should perfect and specialize their skills to offer their best product.  I’ve been to a few restaurants with home-made bread where they should have just ordered from Ace’s (which I believe makes a fine baguette and is widely available in almost any grocery store in the Greater Toronto Area).  In the case of Edulis, they should continue baking because it is some of the best in-house baked bread I’ve had at any restaurant in the city.

Edulis white truffle 1We then moved on to the first truffle course, which by the way blew my mind.  Raw Portuguese fish with shavings of white truffles. The fish’s clean and fresh flavour brought out the earthy butteriness in the white truffles.  An unusual but perfect duo. My most memorable item of the night.  You can shave truffles on pretty much anything but in my experience, it’s best paired with a simple dish.

Edulis fish with rice crispTheir next  course was an incredible torched mackerel in a cucumber and apple juice with shaved cucumber and puffed rice.  Refreshing with a delightful texture from the cucumbers and puffed rice.  Edulis’ fish preparation is exquisite yet so modest.

Edulis duckGround duck dumpling. Yatsutaki mushroom with a duck consommé with shaved radish.  I liked the idea but the consommé had a gameness which was borderline unpleasant and even for a person like myself who adores duck.

Edulis cooked fishFluke over Japanese charcoal with chanterelle mushrooms with sliced radish, celeriac purée and sunchoak chips. Again another superb fish course but this time cooked. The flavour and texture combinations were just right.  The tenderness of the fluke’s flesh with the crisp chip and creamy purée were a perfect combination.

Edulis potato risotto white truffCelery root and potato risotto with white truffles.  Instead of the typical Arborio, the chef chopped tiny celery root and potato cubes. Creamy, seasonal and comforting.  However, because this dish was salty it somehow diminished the white truffle aroma instead of enhancing it.

Edulis first meat courseHouse made rabbit and pistachio sausage and brussel sprouts, mushrooms and kale.  I’m not the biggest fan of rabbit.  Overall, my least favorite course.

Edulis duck courseRoast duck breast, spelt, kilrabi, carrots and spinach. The duck breast was chewy but the duck confit croquettas were enjoyable.

Edulis dessertDessert was a homemade citrus tart with a side of Ontario kiwis.  Who knew Ontario grew such exotic fruits. About the size or even smaller than an M&M.

Overall, an inspirational and rustic Mediterranean meal.  Comforting and unpretentious dishes using superior ingredients and skillful preparation.  The white truffles were divine and I will be returning tonight for their winter black truffle menu. The dinner started with a big bang with incredible fish, however, after the risotto I felt the meal plateau-ed somewhat. My only major complaint of the evening was that I was freezing cold!  When it’s minus 20 degree Celsius the owners need to crank up the heat.

169 Niagara Street, Toronto, ON

edulisrestaurant.com

5 course tasting menu price per person = $65

7 course tasting menu price per person = $85

8 course truffle tasting menu price per person = $150

Toronto: Splendido

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Hope y’all will be spending time with family and friends you love.  Instead of dining at a restaurant with a special prix-fixe V-day menu, my husband D. and I opted to have our dinner 2 weeks ago at Splendido for their exceptional Winter Tasting Menu.  The price was $125 per person for a 12 course feast,  superb service and delightful ambiance. Some of the best service in all of Toronto with the chef presenting some of the courses himself, soliciting our opinion and answering all of our questions.  They offer a 5 course menu for $75 as well.

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Smoked Oyster Potato & Chive: an incredible start to our 2.5 hours meal. The oyster, on top of a whipped, creamy and velvety potato purée, was perfectly smoked, only with a subtle hint of smokeyness. All topped off with a crisp apple chip.  Unfortunately, our waiter forgot to advise us of the Osetra Venetian Caviar supplement for $30.

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Norwegian Salmon Sashimi Avocado & Nori: the salmon was organically presented on top of a polished stone. The sashimi itself was nothing extraordinary but I did like the crunchy nori tempura and that one slice of spicy pepper which cleared my sinuses.

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Parsnip: Sorbet, Crumble & Foam. The creamy sorbet, bubbly foam and crackling chips were perfectly combined. This was an incredible frosty version of an underused winter root veg.  The sweet and savouriness were well-balanced with a mild but very unique flavour.   My second favorite course for the evening!  What I love most about a tasting is the element of the unknown and this was definitely a very cool surprise.

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Bolero Carrots Ginger, Coriander seed & Pumpkin oil: A four hours roasted carrot, pumpkin seeds and candied granola with a ginger jus. The carrot is taking a prominent role on many tasting menus that I’ve tried as of late.  At esteemed establishments such as at Eleven Madison Park (New York) and L’Atelier (Ottawa), chefs take the ordinary carrot and turn it into an extraordinary fare.  Still, just because you roast something longer doesn’t necessarily make it better. The carrot had a soft stewed consistency and was too sweet. I like my carrots roasted just enough so that the inside is soft and outer layer has a brown caramelized texture. Pumpkin seeds were a predictable pairing and the spiced granola was quite frankly very granola.  Too add dimension, I would have preferred a less familiar toasted seed such as poppy, black sesame or buckwheat.

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Jassen Farms Endive Crème Caramel & Garlic: at the bottom of the espresso cup, there was a layer of crème caramel, then polenta with sous-vide prepared endives, topped with garlic foam and a very generous shaving of Spanish Périgord black truffles.  I loved the silkiness of the crème with the effervescent foam and the bits of tangy endives.  Overall delectable but very sweet.  This was also my first time trying black truffles from Spain. It added some earthiness but overall I prefer the aroma and intensity of white truffles.

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Ingersoll Creamed Burrata Broccoli purée, Hazelnut & Honey:  My least favorite course and redundantly presented on top of another stone.  The poached burrata with puréed broccoli and lemon seemed very much like eating a spread without the cracker, piece of baguette or crudité.  In order to have the cheese stand out, chef Victor Barry could have displayed it in a more playful manner.

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Mille-Feuille Smoked Sweetbreads, Pomegranate navet & Vanilla jus: The sweetbreads were accompanied with button mushrooms and a mille feuille pastry. My sweetbreads were a tad bit too stringy for me but I enjoyed the crisp mille feuille and the tart pomegranate. The mushrooms didn’t add much value as its texture was very similar to the sweetbreads.

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Spanish Périgord Truffle Agnolotti Seti’s Ricotta: The evening’s winner!  After visiting Bologna, Italy, I truly appreciate a well made fresh pasta and Splendido did a phenomenal job. The whipped ricotta inside the agnolotti was frothy. The truffle oil had an enticing aroma and the black truffle bits gave the needed texture to complete a truly decadent dish.

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Hidden Bench Hen’s Egg Smoked Pulled Pork, Garlic butter and Fried chicken skin: I love it when chefs incorporate an interactive component.  In a hot mini cast iron we dropped the piece of herbed butter, cracked our own hen’s egg, mixed in the greens, added the pulled pork and topped it all off with deep-fried chicken skin. The flavour was uneventful but the preparation was fun.   This course was appropriately placed right before our refreshing palette cleanser.

 

splendido23Cornet Blue Spruce Sorbet: Creamy yet still invigorating.  The chef is following the trend of incorporating leafy greens into desserts.

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White Chocolate Tamarind cake, Nutmeg & Orange: Our plate came with a single white chocolate sphere.  The chef poured a hot orange bourbon sauce on top which then melted the chocolate and magically opened up the dessert.  Inside we discovered pieces of blood orange, tamarind cake and ginger ice cream.  The reveal and flavours were grand except the ginger ice cream was quite intense.

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Petit Fours: The maple marshmallow was the most interesting but the other petit endings did not satisfy my sweet tooth as I’m not a chocolate lover.

Overall, a very elegant evening.  A luxurious meal with some exceptional dishes. Definitely a worthwhile fine dining experience in Toronto to celebrate any occasion.

88 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON

splendido.ca

Tasting menu price per person = $99 or $150

Toronto: Momofuku Shoto

shoto1After our gastronomical adventures in Paris and Central Italy last fall, I thought it was appropriate to have my first gourmet meal back in Toronto at the highly written-about Momofuku Shoto for our anniversary. I hadn’t really thought of trying it until my friend J dined there for her own anniversary and kept raving about it.  I wasn’t impressed with NYC’s Momofuku Ssam or Toronto’s Momofuku Noodle bar and I also read mixed reviews about Shoto. So I showed up with minimal expectations for the 13 course meal using local/seasonal ingredients with some Asian inspiration. This dinner cost us $150 per head, not including taxes or gratuities, by far my most expensive tasting menu in Toronto.  For those of you who aren’t ready to take the full plunge, Shoto has recently introduced a 5-6 course tasting for $95 per person from Tuesday to Thursday evenings.

I’ll share some of my thoughts and photos on just a few of the dishes to give you a sneak peak..

Amuse bouche: the petit pot had a bone marrow mousse on top of a beet jelly.  The mousse and jelly complemented each other both in texture and flavour.  My first impressions were very positive and continued throughout the meal.

Lamb consommé

Lamb consommé

Lamb consommé poured onto ground lamb with eggplant and tomatoes wrapped in a rice paper roll. The consommé had a very clean flavour. An excellent rendition of a classic Cantonese dim sum dish normally filled with shrimp or ground beef and then topped with soy sauce before serving.

Spaghetti: ramen like noodles sautéed with crab meat in Momofuku’s spicy sauce topped with white kimchi.  The kimchi was crunchy and a bit sweet. Personally, being Korean, I would have preferred a more fermented and sour white kimchi. This was Shoto’s version of a Korean Bee-bim-myun (cold Korean buckwheat noodles sauteed in a red hot spicy sauce).

Foie gras

Foie gras

Foie gras: Le plat de résistance and distinctly presented in an egg shaped bowl. Ontario pickled plums with Ontario walnuts and Ontario Reisling gelée topped with shaved cured foie gras.   I prefer pan seared foie gras but this was one of the most unique, interesting, fun and flavorful ways I’ve tried non-seared foie gras.  I later saw on Serious Eats that this was one of NYC Momofuku Ko’s signature dishes. I’m not surprised that some of Shoto’s dishes are Ko’s original creations with tweaks here and there.  Regardless of the dishes inspiration, it was amazing! Loved it and will be talking about it for a long time.

Brisket: the last savory course and least favorite.  Roasted beef brisket with green onions, cilantro and a white sesame gelato. It was a slab of gourmet smoked meat without any bread to soak up the grease.  A heavy finish before our dessert courses.

Sweet cream and popped corn

Sweet cream and popped corn

Corn: sweet cream, cocoa and popcorn.  Ever since I tried Korean corn flavoured ice cream I love almost any dessert with corn.  The sweet corn flavour and popped corn texture are a fun tasting dessert pairing.

Peach dessert

Peach dessert

Peach: white chocolate, spice cake.  This was a deconstructed pie using Ontario roasted peaches and topped with peach ice cream. D was not crazy about this last course but I love fruit with my desserts as I find it adds a crip freshness.

We thought $150 was pricey for a pleasant but not so impressive ambiance.  Some diners expect a white table cloth setting and service for that price.  The dining room was a U-shaped bar around an open kitchen with leather stools. Pictures of your food are permitted but kitchen staff photos are forbiden (as I was warned twice)! On the other hand, I thought the flavours were balanced and David Chang’s team made appropriate use of fall local/seasonal produce. I whole-heartedly agree with Chris Nutshall’s 2012 review giving it an extraordinaire 4 stars for the food. It definitely tops my list of high end and pricey meals in T.O.

momofuku.com/toronto/shoto/

10 courses five days a week (tuesday – saturday, $150)

5-6 courses including both individually plated and sharing dishes (tuesday – thursday, $95)