Hot Plate: Eight Toronto takes on steak tartare

Hot Plate: Eight Toronto takes on steak tartare

The city’s restaurants are beefing up the bistro staple with modern meaty makeovers

Torontonians are no strangers to getting a raw deal. Here, dreams of the Stanley Cup skate on thin ice, and our traffic woes have put us on the global gridlock map. However, in the world of gastronomy, a “raw deal” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Our city’s love affair with French cuisine means Toronto is full of top-notch takes on steak tartare. Here, eight of our current favourites.

Related: Six takes on steak frites you need to eat right now

The Joneses' Big Mac-inspired steak tartare
Photo by Ashley van der Laan

The McTartare

1 At the Joneses, O&B’s new restaurant in the Financial District, Americana reigns supreme. And with this fast food–inspired steak tartare, chef Andrew Piccinin has perfected high-low gastronomy. A familiar special sauce gets mixed with hand-cut tenderloin and an ample amount of diced white onion. The mix is then topped with thinly sliced pickles and shaved iceberg lettuce. A side of sesame-encrusted crostini—made from Thuet baguette—completes the Big Mac allusion. $21.

The steak tartare at Mimi Chinese in Toronto
Photo by Lauren Wesanko

The umami bomb

2 The culinary wizardry of Mimi Chinese is on full display with this addictive mashup of wok-seasoned beef and jian dui (the sesame balls often found on dim sum menus). The meat—either a Speckle Park hangar steak or Penokean Hills Farms striploin, depending on the day—is given a short toss in a piping-hot wok with Shaoxing cooking wine. The lightly seared beef is then seasoned with chili oil and Sichuan peppercorns. It all comes together with a gently fried glutinous rice ball base and a finishing flurry of shaved salted duck egg yolk. $22.

Beef tartare with oysters, capers, mustard, cornichons and Oscietra caviar
Photo by Joshua Best

The surf and turf

3 For French dishes that are très authentique, restaurateur Yannick Bigourdan cherry-picked a straight-from-France culinary brigade to helm Lucie’s kitchen. Drawing from the flavours of his Norman grandmother’s tartare—where combining bivalves and beef is the norm—executive chef Arnaud Bloquel adds familial flare to this classic. Lucie’s tartare marries PEI oysters with hanger steak, seasoned with the traditional ensemble: cornichon, capers, shallots, chives, lemon zest and grainy mustard. For peak indulgence, he’ll deck out the dish with an opulent oyster-cream sauce and a quenelle of Osetra caviar. Available as part of Lucie’s three-course table d’hôte menu, priced at $130 per person.

Bitter Melon's beef tartare
Photo by Daniel Neuhaus

The sweet and spicy

4 Chinatown’s Bitter Melon is stirring up the culinary scene with its 13-month-old “Toronto Chinese” concept. Here, dim sum meets a continental twist, with sharing plates that blend Asian and European flavours. Chef Hermawan Lay’s beef tartare remixes the bistro staple: out with the parsley, capers and olive oil, in with the zing of haam choy (pickled mustard greens), the crunch of Asian pear and the silkiness of sesame oil. A swipe of gochujang sends it sizzling. The result? A tartare that’s subtly sweet, delicately nutty and perfectly piquant. $21.

The steak tartare at Bouffe by Adjey in Toronto
Photo by Daniel Neuhaus

The cube

5 During the mid-aughts, David Adjey was all over the Food Network on shows including Restaurant Makeover, Iron Chef America and The Opener. After four years of private cheffing for a member of the Saudi royal family in Bali, Adjey decided it was time to come home to enjoy the “golden years” of his career. Bouffe by Adjey is his passion project—it’s Adjey in his chef whites behind the pass every night, whipping up exquisite French dishes like this very classic tartare. Despite the cubist plating, this is no modernist reinvention. Even the unexpected addition—a soupçon of cognac—comes from an antique cookbook Adjey flipped through for inspiration. $25.

Related: Six of the city’s best new bistros and brasseries

The steak tartare at Skylight in Toronto
Photo courtesy of Skylight

The lamb

6 We tried to keep this list focused on beef, but the halal lamb tartare at Skylight was just too tempting to resist. Although inspired by kibbeh nayyeh, a Levantine dish that’s traditionally made with minced raw lamb and bulgur, this dish packs more punch and freshness (thanks to preserved lemon and heaps of herbs) than the original. Chef Karan Ramchandani makes just about everything here from scratch—from the harissa to the dill chermoula (the Middle East’s answer to chimichurri). The flavour-packed tartare comes together with shavings of preserved egg yolk and a rice cracker crown adorned with edible petals. $25.

Caviar-topped beef tartare at Maxime's, a steakhouse in Toronto, Ontario
Photo by Joshua Best

The maximalist

7 At Scale Hospitality’s luxurious new King Street steakhouse, Maxime’s, extravagance reigns supreme. Ted Corrado’s decadent beef tartare—made with hand-cut top sirloin sourced from a Wellington County farm—is tossed with the typical Franco accoutrements (cornichons, shallots, parsley, Dijon mustard, chives). But crème fraîche steps in for the traditional egg yolk, infusing the mix with a creamy tang. Served in an elegant glass dish, the tartare is then festooned with roe pearls. Some might say an Osetra caviar garnish on tartare is the edible equivalent of a hat on a hat, but we fully endorse the over-the-top-ness. $27.

The steak tartare at Then and Now in Toronto
Photo by Joshua Best

The east-meets-west

8 According to Then and Now’s chef-owner Eric Wang, this tartare is “definitely not a traditional one.” Ingredients like soy sauce, aged vinegar, chili oil and chili crisp, pickled ginger, furikake, and a crispy noodle topper bring the Asian influences, while classic ingredients rooted in tartare’s French origins include mustard, Tabasco and cornichon. Together, they make for one singular dish. $21.