Posts Tagged ‘Richmond Station’

Top Toronto restaurants reflect city’s many faces

Note Bene in Toronto
During our brief stay in Toronto, we managed to dine at three of the city’s leading restaurants not run by Susur Lee. (For a look at his Luckee, see our earlier post.) The Top Chef Canada cooking competition (2011-2014) helped drive the dining culture here, placing an emphasis on restaurants that are personal expressions of the chef. So each of the three had the firm stamp of a strong personality in the kitchen.

Nota Bene


Crsipy duck salad at Nota Bene in Toronto Chef David Lee was a partner when he opened Nota Bene to great acclaim in 2008. After becoming full owner, he overhauled and redesigned the restaurant last February. More than ever, this is a classy yet casual fine dining room expressing the latest fascinations of a very talented, classically trained chef. Born in England and trained in France, Lee also draws on his Asian heritage for inspiration.

His crispy duck salad is a perfect East-West hybrid. In concept, it’s a lot like the duck confit salads ubiquitous in Parisian cafés. But Lee spins it as northern Cambodian by adding green papaya, fish sauce, and Asian chiles and herbs. Instead of bitter melon, he uses cool local cucumber. The dining room (shown above) has a little more decorum than many Toronto foodie haunts. In the face of many new upstarts with exciting and locally focused menus, Lee has shown real staying power. His command of multiple cuisines—from French to Chinese to Peruvian to Scandinavian—is his strong suit. It’s hard to pick a Toronto spot that can appeal better to diners with divergent tastes.
Nota Bene, 180 Queen Street West, 416-977-6400, notabenerestaurant.com

The Good Son


Chef Vittorio Colacitti competed on Top Chef Canada before opening The Good Son in spring 2015. An Italian-Canadian Toronto native, he eschews red sauce and pasta, but he is wed to his wood-burning oven and grill. Most dishes are kissed by fire, whether it’s roasted black cod or the pizzas that appear on almost every table. Decor is self-consciously shabby-chic with mismatched wooden tables and chairs augmented by button-tufted banquettes and booths. But the food is bold and most plates are meant to be shared. The chef’s stint at Thai & International Food Academy in Bangkok gives his food an Asian accent. He even makes a kimchee fried rice to accompany the unctuous bolgogi braised short ribs. Colacitti treats seasonal local products on the eclectic menu to a touch of smoke and bold seasonings.
The Good Son, 1096 Queen Street West, 416-551-0589, thegoodsontoronto.com

Richmond Station


charcuterie at Richmond Station in Toronto
Chef Carl Heinrich launched this Financial District farm-to-table gem in 2012, the same year he won season two of Top Chef Canada. Still an ingredient-focused restaurant, Richmond Station has a strong charcuterie component. Pickled vegetables appear across the menu, and the charcuterie plate (above) even includes a house-made head cheese. Our experience was atypical, of course, since we were sequestered in a small dining room with an extended wine tasting (see previous post).

Richmond Station duck pate in TorontoNonetheless, some of the menu classics were featured on the pairing menu concocted by chef de cuisine Hayden Johnston. There’s a hint of Jewish comfort food with this menu, including the delicious duck liver pâté on a toasted brioche. Johnston topped it with a small scoop of tart cherry mostarda and a sprinkle of Maldon finishing salt. Paired with an intense Charles Baker Riesling, it set up all the rich and deep flavors to follow.

The seasonal focus of Toronto restaurants meant that brassicas were big on most of the October menus. Richmond Station normally serves a cauliflower agnolotti with baby greens, pickled shiitake mushrooms, and fried sourdough. To accompany a Tawse Gamay Noir, Johnston adapted the dish to create the quintessence of Toronto fall cuisine. Shown below, the pasta was served with toothy cauliflower, brussels sprouts leaves, and juicy thin slices of dry-aged beef tenderloin.
Richmond Station, 1 Richmond Street West, 647-748-1444, richmondstation.ca

Richmond Station in Toronto - cauliflower agnolotti

11

11 2016

Ontario wine country becomes a world player

Magdalena Kaiser pours tasting of VQA Ontario wines in Toronto.
Meeting Magdalena Kaiser of Wine Country Ontario during our recent visit to Toronto was a real treat. She hails from Ontario wine royalty. Her father, Karl Kaiser, was a co-founder in 1975 of Inniskillin Wines, Inc. The first winery licensed in Ontario since 1929, Inniskillin was a pioneer in making world-class wines on the Niagara Peninsula east of Toronto. The area quickly became known for exceptional ice wines but has broadened out to a huge variety of table wines as well.

We started visiting the Niagara Peninsula in the late 1980s. At the time, winemakers were shifting into European vinifera grapes from hardier French-American hybrids. They also launched Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA), which oversees quality standards and certifies the origins of the wines in Ontario and British Columbia.

From that base on the Niagara Peninsula, wine-growing has expanded in several choice areas in Ontario. As Kaiser led us through a broad tasting of wines from three main wine regions over dinner at Richmond Station (richmondstation.ca), she seemed to know every pour as if it were one of her own.

Ontario terroir


bottles-1 We were struck by the sudden maturity of the youngest region, Prince Edward County. Located northeast of the other wine regions, it occupies a limestone peninsula on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Lake effect temperatures and stony soils give the wines a profound minerality. We tasted the Norman Hardie Chardonnay Unfiltered 2014 from Wellington. The wine displayed pronounced fruit and a supple elegance in the Burgundian style. The fresh acidity made it a perfect accompaniment to a charcuterie tray. This is cold-climate winemaking at its best. Hardie says his vines and barrels come from France, his terroir from Ontario, and the taste and nose from him. Have a look at www.normanhardie.com.

Many Prince Edward County wineries focus on sparkling wines. We sampled several, including Whitecap from Hinterland (www.hinterlandwine.com). Made with the Charmat method, it’s a crisp and inexpensive sparkler that could be Canada’s answer to Prosecco. Hinterland also makes some sparkling wines in the traditional method of secondary fermentation in the bottle. Its best is Ancestral Method Rosé made with the Gamay grape.

The Gamay surprise


Ontario wines have matured to a level that many are ready to compete in the world market—especially if they play up the perfect match of the terroir to the Gamay noir grape. Gamay has been sullied in popular imagination by sour and fizzy Beaujolais Nouveau that typically appears on shelves in the U.S. just in time to spoil Thanksgiving. But real Beaujolais—the French wines sold as Beaujolais-Villages or Beaujolais Cru—is a wonderful wine with bright raspberry or wild cherry notes.

Some Ontario winemakers bleed their grapes for rosés or use early-picked Gamay for sparkling wine. But the best of the Ontario Gamay wines—like the Tawse Gamay Noir Unfiltered (www.tawsewinery.ca) and the range of Malivoire wines (www.malivoire.com) built on Gamay—resemble the Beaujolais Cru wines from Fleurie in France. These wines have depth, utterly delicious fruit, and a rounded acidity. They are great with cheeses and lighter meats such as chicken, turkey, or rabbit. Tawse, by the way, was named Winery of the Year in Canada in 2016.

Exploring the world of Ontario wines


vineyards in Ontario This tasting piqued our interest in Ontario wines, especially since so many wineries have figured out how to ripen Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc to produce wines that promise a future for superb reds. We expect to be heading up to Ontario wine country to explore in greater depth. If you’d like to do the same, start your planning with the Wine Country Ontario web site at winecountryontario.ca. The wineries have put together a comprehensive guide to visits that is one of the best marketing examples we’ve seen for a North American wine region. The vineyard photo above and the map below are courtesy of the Wine Marketing Association of Ontario.

Ontario wine regions

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11 2016