Best New Restaurants 2015: #2, Dandylion
Jay Carter studied at the best cooking school in town: Susur Lee’s kitchen. He worked as the master’s sous-chef for four years, then as chef de cuisine for another six, then left to become exec chef at the storied Centro. Last summer he finally struck out on his own, taking over the lease of a narrow bar on Queen West, in the row of studiously cool hangouts that sprouted up between the Gladstone and Drake hotels. He cooks from a modest open kitchen at the back, assisted by a sous-chef and a kitchen porter. His starting menu was an inspired distillation of Nordic trends, a little Canuck and plenty of Susur. (Side note: I’d nearly forgotten what a pleasure it is to encounter a menu of appetizers and entrées, not a list of tastes or sharing plates or dishes organized by temperature or food group or some other pretentious whim.)
Dinner starts with a warm loaf of naturally fermented whole grain bread with a bracingly sour fresh cheese and shallot spread, followed by a plate of smoked trout with cream and pops of roe, followed by a variation on stracciatella: poached eggs in an earthy jerusalem artichoke broth strewn with lightly pickled cabbage, trumpet mushrooms, and a pine nut, sunflower seed and black sesame granola. Another night I tried what’s now my favourite salad of all time, a combination of musky ripe persimmon, sprouted lentils and crisp baby spinach, sweetened by a few drops of almond oil. Carter cooks like a guy with a thousand clever ideas, finally let loose to do exactly what he wants.