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Food & Drink

What’s on the menu at Awai, Nathan Isberg’s new plant-based restaurant

By Renée Suen| Photography by Renée Suen
What's on the menu at Awai, Nathan Isberg's new plant-based restaurant

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Food & Drink

Q&A: Nathan Isberg, the Toronto restaurateur who doesn’t really believe in menus, set prices or restaurants

Name: Awai Neighbourhood: Bloor West Village Contact: 2277 Bloor St. W., 647-643-3132, Facebook, @awairestaurant
Owners: Nathan Isberg (The Atlantic) and Roger Yang Chef: Nathan Isberg

The food

The convention-defying chef is back after a year’s hiatus from Toronto’s restaurant scene, with a menu consisting of plant-based snacks, soups and wood-fired dishes. The pay-what-you-can tasting menu Isberg first introduced at the Atlantic is back, including a 12-course version on Fridays and Saturdays, with a suggested cost of $80 per person. The word “awai” is a concept Isberg came across in a book on Shinto-Buddhist cooking that referenced ways to cook food without manipulating it too much, allowing its inherent flavours to shine.

Porcini mushroom and cauliflower soup spiced with a mountain pepper jerk seasoning. $12.
Porcini mushroom and cauliflower soup spiced with a mountain-pepper jerk seasoning. $12.

 

The endive salad is spiked with slightly dehydrated grapes (that aren't yet raisins), mustard pickles and ras el hanout. $13.
The endive salad is spiked with slightly dehydrated grapes (that aren’t yet raisins), mustard pickles and ras el hanout. $13.

 

Artichoke barigoule ravioles: braised artichoke ravioli with pea shoots and mustard. $19.
Artichoke barigoule ravioli: braised artichoke ravioli with pea shoots and mustard. $19.

 

Charcoal gnocchi (made with coal-roasted potatoes), black kale and Baharat spices. $18.
Charcoal gnocchi (made with coal-roasted potatoes), black kale and Baharat spices. $18.

 

Isberg puts the finishing touches on a shishito pepper coca (Spanish flatbread) with allioli (olive oil and garlic) and Moroccan olives. $14.
Isberg puts the finishing touches on a shishito pepper coca (Spanish flatbread) with allioli (olive oil and garlic) and Moroccan olives. $14.

 

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Here's a closer look.
Here’s a closer look.

 

Mushroom paella with onions and huitlacoche. $19.
Mushroom paella with onions and huitlacoche. $19.

 

Isberg continues to work with foragers from Quebec's Timiskaming Reserve who supply him with sweet fern, which he mixes in a “forest spice” blend with mountain pepper.
Isberg continues to work with foragers from Quebec’s Timiskaming Reserve who supply him with sweet fern, which he mixes in a “forest spice” blend with mountain pepper.
The drinks

A selection of wines, many of which are organic; a daily juice; Michel Cluizel hot chocolate; tisanes (herbal tea) and some single-origin premium teas.

The space

A long open kitchen separates the 30-seat dining room in the front from the 26-seat space in the back. The backyard patio will likely become the restaurant’s greenhouse where Isberg will grow food to supplement the ingredients sourced from suppliers.

The front dining room.
The front dining room.

 

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The open kitchen.
The open kitchen.

 

The back dining room.
The back dining room.

 

Isberg and his oven.
Isberg and his oven.

 

Keeping an eye on the fire.
Keeping an eye on the fire.

 

Isberg grows microgreens in the restaurant’s indoor hydroponic garden.
Isberg grows microgreens in the restaurant’s indoor hydroponic garden.
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