After 16 years at the top, Canoe, one of the city’s culinary beacons, closed its doors on New Year’s Day for a renovation. Unlike most restaurants, they actually completed it on schedule. Although we previewed Canoe’s overhauled space during its Winterlicious opening, the Oliver and Bonacini flagship officially relaunched last week with a completed dining room and revamped menu, so we thought we’d take a closer look.
The most dramatic change in the million-dollar facelift is the conversion of the minimalistic Yabu Pushelberg design to a warmer room with a palette of browns and taupes. Anacleto Design, responsible for the change, is the same group behind Oliver and Bonacini Café Grill and recent renovations to Biff’s Bistro (the husband-and-wife team are Yabu Pushelberg alums).
In the dining room, the upper-level dividing walls have been removed to open up the space, and a hand-beaten copper backdrop adds a bit of flair. Bare walnut tabletops replace linens, accompanied by mohair-upholstered Saarinen-style chairs. Tipplers can belly up to a dramatic soapstone bar or grab a seat along the window counter for a view of Lake Ontario. Canoe’s two private dining rooms (with capacity for 30 and 40, respectively) were also upgraded with better soundproofing and a unified look.
Notable nods to Canadiana are scattered throughout. The bar sports a pair of caribou-head etchings inspired by the design on the quarter, as well as 150 beaver-embossed porcelain jars. Three custom-carved antler chandeliers by Brothers Dressler dangle in the main room, while an eye-catching topographical bronze and copper wall map of Canada by Unit Five dominates the private room.
Executive chef Anthony Walsh and chef de cuisine John Horne have added some new plates to their regionally focused menu. Classics, like the hand-chopped Cumbrae Farms steak tartare ($24 at dinner) and the popular corn nut–hazelnut milk chocolate cake ($12) are joined by braised short ribs with a tree syrup–glaze ($28). Slices of medium-rare venison are paired with Soma chocolate ($47), and foie gras is served with tea-smoked duck breast ($44). The PB&J sandwich, a lunchbox staple, is reinvented with baker David Wilson’s buttery brioche, Brampton-grown Kernal peanuts, house-preserved Concord grape jelly and a seared slice of La Ferme foie gras ($27). Come springtime, expect fiddleheads, morels and other seasonal finds to make their way onto plates and the ever-changing six-course tasting menu ($100 per person).
Canoe, 66 Wellington St. W. (at Bay), 54th Floor, 416-364-0054, oliverbonacini.com/Canoe.aspx