More summer treats

More summer treats

Back to Toronto and happy to find that summer still lingers here, though Canadian friends (typically) are getting gleeful about the imminent glories of autumn with its brisk days, colourful trees and hockey. Talking of which, Tie Domi was sitting at the next table to me on Thursday when we had dinner at Mark McEwan’s new restaurant, One. So much more exciting than the fanfaronade of film stars and starlets also swanning about the highly glamorous room. One is already terrific—there’s a Beverley Hills buzz to the place—and the food was impressive for any restaurant that was only three days old. Ingredients of notable quality cooked simply—just what the elite like. I was particularly happy with a warm salad of roasted carrots (so tender and flavourful) paired with big chunks of avocado, fresh orange and a subtle cumin–coriander dressing. By no means complicated but such a great match of flavours and textures. It’s a bit early to be talking about the food quite yet, however. Even the hyper-organized and savvy McEwan deserves a week or two before the critics drop in—though I noticed at least two of them there, quietly forming judgements…

One will be the special place for stars coming to Toronto for years to come, which is a relief for those of us who have always been dismayed to read that actors we admire dined at Sotto Sotto or Bistro 990 or Sassafraz, in its day, and left town thinking that was the best Toronto could offer.

Another lovely late summer ritual is dinner on the quiet patio at Amuse-Bouche. Saturday night was warm and still, the candles illuminating; the warm orange walls inside the restaurant seeming to glow contentedly. We arrived at eight and found the restaurant curiously empty. Apparently a number of customers had called to say they were stuck in traffic and would be late—something to do with the film festival perhaps. Manager Sarah Lyons was her usual superfriendly self and the owner-chefs Jason Inniss and Bertrand Alépée were performing marvellously well in their tiny kitchen. I like their summer menu—such intense flavours.

The amuse was a soft, rich morsel of fishy halibut rillette with a dot of red pepper coulis and a slice of garlicky gazpacho jelly. Sarah Lyons doesn’t usually pair a wine to the amuse, but she couldn’t resist pouring us each an ounce of Cave Spring’s extraordinary 2006 Chenin Blanc. It’s the sort of wine that blows off a person’s socks by dint of its deliciousness—available only at the winery, I fear.

Truffled horse tartare had that lean, uniquely springy texture that horsemeat has, its flavour lifted not hidden by gherkin, mustard, capers and the usual tartare spicing. It shared the plate with a gorgeous little fricasee of baby wild mushrooms, a panko-crusted quail egg and a lollipop-shaped disc of raclette cheese, just to add a little extra forcefulness on the palate. Very crispy fingerling chips were the tissue-thin, greaseless nonpareil of all potato chips.

I could go on for hours about the scallop ceviche with avocado ice cream. And the corn chowder with littleneck clams and lobster tortellini. And the olive oil-poached lobster impaled on a liquorice stick with awesome seared tuna tartare, edamame and a rhubarb-pink peppercorn emulsion. And what about the grilled Alberta lamb loin (double-wow) with a soft juicy merguez-like sausage, sautéed fava beans and a truffled sweet potato beignet? Yes we tasted a good number of treats that balmy night. And still had room for such desserts as a tall shot glass of icy milk chocolate rich as a mousse but runny as a shake. Or wild Ontario strawberries molecularized into spaghetti as a topping for raspberry mousse and pistachio sponge. So yummy.

Congratulations to my friend (and former boss when she was Toronto Life’s food editor) Sasha Chapman, who has been nominated as the World’s Best Food Journalist at Le Cordon Bleu World Food Media Awards in Australia. The judgement comes down on October 20th… Canada’s fingers are crossed.