Best New Restaurants 2015: #7, Flor de Sal
Anyone nostalgic for the Corner House’s creaky, sunflower-yellow rooms and old-fashioned gastronomy is in for a shock. Cristina Da Costa, the new owner, gutted the midtown cottage, converting it into something like an over-decorated condo showroom of frou-frou mirrors, marble slab fireplaces and vases of nodding orchids everywhere you look. It’s rare to encounter such ostentation in Toronto restaurants these days, but it’s an apt setting for chef Roberto Fracchioni’s high-roller surf and turf menu. Fracchioni last oversaw a magnificent, modern tasting menu at Monk Kitchen, the idiosyncratic basement restaurant in the club district’s Templar Hotel. Cooking is his second career—he used to be a civil engineer—and he brings to it the love of a true calling. At Flor de Sal, I was wowed by the herbal crab and celery root soup, by the sophisticated cognac and brown butter glaze coating a plate of lobster and gnocchi, and by the sharp red wine mignonette that came with first-rate East Coast oysters. The star of the night was a hefty Azores fish called cantaro, which Fracchioni grilled whole with fragrant lemon and chili, stuffing the cavity with couscous, fennel and garlicky braised rapini. Whole fish are back on menus all over town, but this one was the most moist, delicate and memorable to date.