Inside the new Canoe, which just got a top-to-bottom makeover for its 25th anniversary

Inside the new Canoe, which just got a top-to-bottom makeover for its 25th anniversary

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To celebrate hitting the quarter-century mark, Canoe’s dining room and kitchen got facelifts—and thanks to a new back-of-house setup, Bay Street’s favourite spot for haute Canadian cuisine can now deliver even more ambitious plates.

The bison tartare comes with bison three ways: birch-roasted heart, evergreen-cured heart and cured loin. Fat is added to the dish in the form of a foie gras parfait and a bone marrow croquette. Some pickled green strawberries and a few drops of an evergreen emulsion finish the plate. $25.

“Canoe is a restaurant that has really earned its place—though we’re sometimes forgotten about because we’re such a stalwart,” says Anthony Walsh, O&B’s corporate executive chef.

This oyster-waygu dish is part of Canoe’s $120 tasting menu. Plated on the bones of an 800-pound blue fin tuna, two deep-fried, tongue pastrami-wrapped P.E.I. oysters are served on top of a wagyu tartare with truffle custard.

“We’re always searching for the ingredients no one else can get,” says executive chef John Horne, who has seen Canoe’s menu evolve in lock-step with Canadian suppliers. “The availability of Canadian ingredients is now ten-fold what it used to be, and we’re getting some really interesting products in like wild berries from the Northwest Territories, mushrooms from James Bay and turbot that’s caught by Baffin Island Inuit.”

This Inuit-caught Baffin Island turbot freezes almost instantly when it’s pulled from the water as the air is much colder up there than the sea. The fish, which sits on pommes écrasées, is topped with puffed wild grains, nori tapioca crackers and crispy seaweed. The wee rectangle is a buckwheat-and-bulgur stuffed leek, while the maki-looking element is a dashi-cooked, nori-wrapped leek terrine sitting in onion soubise. Salmon roe, sauce vin jaune and sea lettuce emulsion tie the plate together. $46.


“This is not a healthy dish,” says McKinlay about his pigeon pithivier, which takes two days to make. French glazed pastry is stuffed with pigeon (sourced from a Mennonite farm near Kitchener), Quebecois foie gras and collard greens. The leg is stuffed with James Bay matsutake mushrooms and wrapped in crépinette before it’s roasted. At the table, foie gras-cut red currant jus is poured over the gam. $70.

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Canoe isn’t toeing the typical 100-kilometer locavore line. “Local for us means across Canada,” says chef de cuisine Ron McKinlay. “We live in a very big country and we’re in a city that’s not near an ocean. We’re pushing the menu more and more to make it as Canadian possible.” For McKinlay, that means he’s always on the hunt for esoteric ingredients like green pine cones, chaga, and various mosses and seaweeds. Recently, a man popped into the dining room at 6 p.m. on a Friday (just about the worst time for a chef to meet a stranger with no appointment) looking to speak with McKinlay. Any annoyance McKinlay may have felt was quickly quelled when the visitor showed him an unparalleled selection of edible East Coast seaweeds. Now there’s an entire seaweed dessert on the menu.

McKinlay brings the seaside tableside with this dish by piling a box full of oyster shells and evergreens, which he then animates with dry ice. The four-seaweed dessert comes with a nori-parsley ice cream, Nova Scotian sea lettuce sponge, kombu tuille, and some Newfoundland sea salt caramel. An oyster leaf and sea buckthorn-infused creme Anglaise is poured over the dessert, adding to the animation. $14.


The evergreen mille-feuille, made with Hewitt’s buttermilk pastry cream and evergreen bavarois, comes with a scoop of pine nut ice cream sitting on an evergreen caramel crumb. It’s served with a glass of Nova Scotian pine cone cordial. $13.
The Canoe Old Fashioned is made with their house rye—made by Dillon’s—and Maker’s Mark bourbon. $22.


The portholes are intended to be shared. The Pimm’s Porthole marinates Pimm’s with cucumber, orange, seasonal berries, mint and fresh fruit juice. It’s served with a side of soda and berry-garnished glasses. $30.

Given the restaurant’s dizzying perch from 54 floors up, Solid Design Creative applied the theme of perspective to the redesign. Even the decorative tchotchkes—magnifying glasses, microscopes, periscopes—abide by the theme.

But even after the makeover, Canoe remains a shrine to Canadiana, with details like a black granite bar (a nod to the Canadian shield), and a pair of subtle caribou carved into the stone that frames it. Even the acoustic-dampening felt, is on theme: it’s been braided to look like a canoe seat, framed in a tungsten-hued light, and suspended over the dining room.

The Cloche and Dagger arrives in a smoke-filled bell jar. The drink itself is made with smoked Dillon’s 18-year rum and La Copa Rojo vermouth. $42.

The outdated antler chandeliers have been replaced with ceiling-mounted, brass-framed mirrors that refract various reflections around the room—particularly as the sun goes down. “At night it’s really incredible,” says Horne. “During the day we have the amazing view, and at night it really comes alive.”