Inside Enigma: Toronto’s newest high-end tasting menu-only restaurant
Torontonians have endless options when it comes to dining on familiar flavours or regional specialities. When the occasion calls for a memorable experience, that’s where the Michelin-trained team at Enigma Fine Dining, a new contemporary European restaurant in Yorkville, step in.
Leave the bustle of Bloor Street behind and step into this sumptuous dining room where progressive cooking and attentive service await. A friendly host guides you through the sophisticated and energetic space past velvet curtains hugging slate-covered walls to a table reserved just for you. From the comforts of your tufted-leather seat, you’ll be able to appreciate every opulent detail rising from the marble floors including copper pendant lights dripping from a ceiling made of eye-catching mosaic tiles.
Anticipation turns to excitement as courses from Executive Chef Operator Quinton Bennett’s seasonal tasting menu begin to parade out of the restaurant’s state-of-the-art open kitchen.
Having led kitchens in London, Copenhagen and South Africa, Bennett’s most recent post was as executive chef in Vancouver before moving to Toronto (specifically for Enigma). Dedicated to the art of cooking, the South African’s pursuit of excellence and deep appreciation for international culinary standards are unveiled in Enigma’s thoughtfully composed dishes.
Over eight courses, Bennett explores the breadth of the country’s pantry from sea urchin harvested off the coast of BC, PEI-potato finished beef, to brassicas from Clearwater Farm in nearby Georgina, Ontario. Although he isn’t strict about using items that are Canadian-grown or raised – only the best, Bennett does subscribe to using labour-intensive processes, in addition to traditional and modern techniques that will coax out the most desirable characteristics that let ingredients shine.
An ode to Autumn, the Fall Menu is a multisensory journey—from a flight of snacks to palate-whetting starters and more substantial flavour-packed mains – that echoes the sight, warming smells and vibrant colours of the season.
Opening with whimsical bites that have been reimagined from classic flavours, an ode to maize fills a delicate tartlet shell with shucked kernels from this season’s sweetest ears which Bennett blankets with corn espuma and dainty popped sorghum and amaranth. His delectable chicken sandwich canapé tucks shredded chicken with an umami-rich mushroom-miso butter between crispy chicken skins.
The same meticulous approach is applied to every course. Meaty and rich, steak-like Iberico pork pulma is transformed into an ethereal dish that’s supported by a medley of flavours and textures from savoury pork XO sauce, toothsome diced apple and white peach and celery salad to jellied and powdered apple garnish. Cooked until medium, the supple marbled cut melts in the mouth, leaving the aromas and essence of its proud char siu-like lacquer lingering until the next course.
A fine balance of technique and flavour, silky chawanmushi (Japanese egg custard) crowned with delicate poached Nova Scotian lobster is sided by an exquisite pickled seaweed salad and flakey sablefish kromeski (croquette). Tender beef filet, on the other hand, is presented like a fresh leaf-laden forest floor with smoked bone marrow, roasted king oyster mushrooms and brilliant beetroot pickled onion petals.
Even deceptively simple-looking dishes hide all the work the kitchen has put into it until the first revelatory bite. The salad starter, for example, gives humble black cabbage and kale the royal treatment; the leaves are first fried until translucent and crispy, then gilded with shaved smoke foie gras, Parmesan dust and truffle honey vinaigrette.
To elevate the dining experience, Enigma offers three beverage pairings. Choose from the restaurant’s curated wine list, its wine pairing, or let Bar Manager John Ko guide you to new culinary epiphanies through his inventive cocktails or fresh-made juice blends. The latter is an engaging exercise that is mind-opening and happens to be zero-proof.
A chef-alumni of the Culinary Institute of America, Ko draws flavours from the pantry, creating unconventional pairings that might seem audacious, but are a perfect compliment to the ambitious plates created by Bennett’s kitchen.
The unassuming apricot-celery-rhubarb blend is a sleeper hit elevating the sweet earthy flavours of the jewel-like beetroot wrapped yellowfin tuna course, while the master blender’s cocktail pairing – a shiso-infused gin that’s laced with kombu and corn – plays perfectly with Bennett’s pristine kombu-poached Yukon Gold potatoes. Presented in three forms, the tuber comes as aromatic and tender morsels capped with lobes of BC uni, crunchy fried threads, and as a luxurious roasted potato skin beurre blanc. Even the brown butter fat-washed bourbon cocktail accompanying the closing beef course could be its own act.
For sweet tooths, Enigma’s closing courses will surely delight. Resembling an untouched autumn landscape that’s kissed with maple smoked ice cream snow, desserts start with fallen cassis and spiced tuile leaves shielding a savoury squash custard. Arriving with the restaurant’s homemade petit fours, Enigma’s show-stopping cherry entremet coats a crisp chocolate shell filled with creamy fruit tea-flavoured mousse and a bright cherry compote core with silky cherry-gelée. Carefully handcrafted to perfection, the jewel-like treat is finished with a delicate spun sugar stem and arrives to the table in a custom-crafted copper tree stand, ready to be plucked off its copper branches.
Embodying world-class refinement from start to finish, food lovers can enjoy Enigma’s Fall Menu from Wednesdays to Sundays. To book a table, click here, call 416-961-1111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Valet parking is available for dine-in guests.