Although I have lived most of my life in Toronto, it seems to be a city I do not know much about, and this is especially true when it comes to its food scene. This is probably because the years I spent in Toronto were my earlier years and whenever I go back to visit now, it is a rare opportunity for me to step out of the social dynamics I whirl around in while in other cities, Boston in particular.
This year, because of an injury I have been dealing with, I have made it back to Toronto more than usual and on this most recent trip, I finally managed to get out and experience some of the excitement most people associate with this city. Just a couple experiences, one in particular, have been enough to show me what I have been missing out on.
It all started with an introduction to Chef Scott Vivian, made by a very reliable source in Boston. Scott is the chef/owner of one of Toronto's most exciting restaurants, Beast. Located on a residential street, tucked away in a corner just off of King and Bathurst (a hub intersection in Toronto), Beast serves mostly neighbors and those who seek it out...in other words, it attracts the best sort of relationship between food and guest, chef and food enthusiast.
After meeting with Chef Scott briefly and a mere glimpse of his weekly, sustainable and locally sourced menu, I knew this was a place I needed to experience fully. And so, on the Friday before my departure, I took my mother and her friend, and made a reservation for three. From the start to the finish, we were all blown away by the delicious quality and attention given to each dish.
We started off with some bubbly and oysters..because why wouldn't you?
Their bread board showed up next with house-made (to be clear, everything is made in house) baguette and brioche.
Chef Scott certainly had a few tricks up his sleeve and once we had put in our order, he started with an amuse bouche of pork hock confit with kimchi and candied peanuts. It was a delightful introduction to what was about to follow.
Beast puts the 'whole animal' concept to work and so naturally, we ordered their pig's board. Changing according to daily selection, this particular board consisted of head cheese, pig tongue, pork rillette and crispy pig ears...a charcuterie board of 'oomph' and finesse at the same time:)
A bone marrow brule also showed up at our table and I was most excited to introduce this unique preparation to my mother.
On the lighter side, they have a nice selection of fish dishes. We opted for their smoked steelhead trout. Served in a pot with the summer's first crop of corn and fresh feta cheese crumbles.
The piece de resistance and in all fairness, the dish that first caught my attention right from the get-go, was their gnocchi poutine. A symbol of Canadian pride, Chef Scott managed to spruce this classic up while maintaining its integrity. His involved the indispensable cheese curd, but had gnocchi instead of fries and big juicy lumps of bison. It was so good, we had to order another one to-go.
Somehow we had room for dessert and ordered their maple panna cotta. As with the rest of the meal, it was simply splendid.
My mother held up a running commentary of wonderful quotes, my favorite of which was:
'I think I need a bison poutine to go....otherwise I won't be able to sleep tonight.'
Now, I understand that not every restaurant will produce such enthused remarks, but what matters most to me, is that Chef Scott provided me and my family with a meal to remember, and an incredible introduction into what Toronto has to offer. Can't wait to explore more:)