Ten Toronto dishes putting innovative spins on traditional cuisine

Ten Toronto dishes putting innovative spins on traditional cuisine

The Year of the Ram is all about the f-word: fusion (don’t worry, that’s the last time we’ll use that bad, bad word). Hogtown’s new food obsession mirrors our city’s melting pot makeup. Chefs are concocting mash-ups that combine two—sometimes three, or four—cultures into a single recipe. A rib-sticking gnocchi poutine, for example, combines Italian and Quebecois traditions into a perfectly cheesy mess that’s sure to help you survive the dregs of winter. Here are ten tempting plates that fuse, mix and mash traditional cuisines, creating distinctly Torontonian dishes.



  • Gnocchi Poutine

    Mildred’s Temple Kitchen’s gnocchi-poutine combines seared gnocchi with hunks of three-hour braised oxtail. The dish comes out of the oven in a cast iron skillet, the Ontario cheese curds still bubbling. This is a dish best reserved for cheat day.

  • Pierogies

    Fewer than 1,500 Koreans live in Poland, but it was a Jamaican-Chinese Canadian chef that first gave pan-fried jiaozi the pierogi treatment. At Patois, Craig Wong tops potstickers with kimchi sour cream and bacon.

  • Bresaola

    At Borealia they’ve reimagined pemmican, a calorie-packed First Nations staple. Instead of a wad of mashed fat, meat, fruit and nuts, they’ve given the centuries-old dish an Italian makeover that would make a nonna beam. Juniper-pickled blueberries are tucked into folds of bison bresaola and lardo shavings. www.borealiato.com

  • Jerk Chicken

    Chef Craig Wong’s jerk chicken is the juiciest in town. Instead of baking or grilling the bird, the Patois chef uses to a Portuguese rotisserie. Not only does the chicken fall off the bone, but the crispy skin has the perfect piquant punch.

  • Jewish Ramen

    Chicken soup is the go-to home remedy for colds, but you might consider bucking mom’s in favour of takeout next time you start sniffling. A single bowl of Essen’s ramen matzoh ball soup is packed to the rim with egg noodles, matzoh balls, soft-boiled egg and deep-fried wonton-wrapped brisket kreplach. www.essentoronto.com

  • tartare

    Yorkville’s swishy new Asian steakhouse, NAO, has taken surf and turf to the next level. Finely minced tenderloin gets a zing from makrut lime leaves, chili oil, galangal and fish sauce. The fan of squid ink chips that accompany this Thai take on a French favourite is as striking as it is tasty. www.naosteakhouse.com

  • dailo

    DaiLo’s arty turret of deep-fried Argentinian red shrimp, drizzled with tom yum buerre blanc, served atop kimchi-studded grits seamlessly combines Low country, French, Korean, Thai cuisines. You’d expect a dish that integrates four different cuisines to be confused or at least confusing for the diner, but Nick Liu’s innovation just works, and is it ever addictive. www.dailoto.com

  • kung-pao

    Move over kale, your reign as the super vegetable du jour has come to an end. Broccoli’s anaemic cousin has usurped you as the foodies’ veg of choice. Thoroughbred’s right on trend with their vegetarian kung pao, which swaps chicken for white florets that are deep-fried and that drenched in a sweet-tangy chilli-spiked sauce. www.tbto.ca

  • kedgeree

    Kedgeree—a combination of flaked fish, boiled eggs and curried rice—became a favourite Victorian breakfast for the moneyed nineteenth century-set. Borealia’s chef Wayne Morris takes the British variation of an Indian classic and reinvents it again.

  • Singaporean-style Slaw

    Susur Lee was one of the first chefs in Toronto to marry French technique with Chinese flavours. His signature dish, the Singaporean slaw, is an impressive tower of julienned root vegetables layered with vermicelli and edible flowers.