Introducing: Borealia, a new all-Canadian restaurant on the Ossington strip

Introducing: Borealia, a new all-Canadian restaurant on the Ossington strip

Borealia’s braised whelk. (Image: Caroline Aksich)

Name: Borealia (which was one of the alternative names proposed for Canada during confederation)
Contact Info: 59 Ossington Ave., 647-351-5100,
Neighbourhood: Trinity Bellwoods
Previously: Ardor Bistro
Owners: Evelyn Wu and Wayne Morris. The pair met while working at Waterfront Wines in British Columbia. They married last year.
Chefs: Morris, with sous chef Fabrizio DeCicco (previously of Bellwoods Brewery)

The Food: Borealia serves Canadian cuisine befitting its pre-confederation name. There’s no poutine, no tourtière, and no Nanaimo bars. “We were inspired by the immigrants that built Canada and how they tweaked their recipes to work with the indigenous plants,” says Wu. The restaurant’s whelk, a giant sea snail braised in a kombu beurre blanc and served on a soya-spiked bed of seaweed and burdock, blends French and Chinese cuisine. Other dishes on the menu draw from antique French, British and Chinese recipes, some of which date all the way back to Queen Elizabeth I’s reign. The oldest dish on the menu is the pemmican, once a high-calorie staple for First Nations people and, later, Arctic explorers. Instead of a fatty wad of powdered meat mixed with dried fruit, Morris reimagines the dish as a pretty plate of bison bresaola topped with shaved lardo and juniper-pickled blueberries.

The Drinks: The cocktail card is a mix of updated antique cocktails. Borealia’s Chamomile Nonino Flip—which combines Amaro Nonino, rye, lemon, chamomile syrup and egg white—is a serious improvement over the 300-year-old recipe that inspired it (a mix of rum, beer and sugar, heated until foamy).

The Place: The room definitely has an early Canadian atmosphere, thanks to the fur throws and the forest scene on the walls. Decorative wooden beams along the ceiling allude to a longhouse, while the bar is meant to look like a turn-of-the-century general store. Qanūk Interiors even made a light fixture out of bent copper that’s supposed to represent the aurora borealis (a few cocktails and a dimly lit room might help the effect).