Straight out of Humber’s chef school, John-Vincent Troiano cooked at all the right places (Rain, Buca, Acadia, Tutti Matti), shadowed the legendary kaiseki chef Masaki Hashimoto for three years and interned at Copenhagen’s Noma. Now he’s setting out on his own. A Thornhill strip mall isn’t the first place you’d expect to find a restaurant named Frilu—a play on a Norwegian term for finding inspiration in nature. But there’s something to be said for getting away from the pressure cooker of the downtown restaurant scene.
Troiano’s tasting menu (a steal at $95 for a dozen or so courses) is, like the best of them, telling a story about seasonal harvests. He’s not a little pretentious about it, with an Ibsen quotation closing the menu, poetic titles for each dish and the odd fanciful idea that looks better than it tastes, like a reinterpreted Oreo composed of black quinoa and blueberry biscuits sandwiched over gluey whipped spiced pork fat.
But there are far more wows: a funky-forward combo of B.C. sea urchin, burdock root, discs of black radish and roasted chicken jus; the rich, gamey texture of charcoal-roasted venison tongue smeared with a purée of caramelized onion and anchovies; and the bite of a horseradish cream coating a poached lobster tail. One night’s highlight was a whole mini pumpkin perched on a straw-covered plate. Troiano had piped its hollowed centre with a mixture of bone marrow, squash, nutmeg and cinnamon, all flash-roasted until it puffed up like a soufflé. It’s the most luxurious squash I’ve ever met—and a fine excuse for a suburban pilgrimage.
Frilu, 7713 Yonge St., Thornhill, 289-597-8867, frilurestaurant.com