New Reviews: Café Belong, Elle M’a Dit and Estiatorio Volos
Farmers’ market fine dining at the Brick Works, stylish Greek food downtown and a proper bistro on Baldwin
550 Bayview Ave., 416-901-8234
Chef Brad Long’s soaring new room, looking out on the Evergreen Brick Works, will doubtless appear in international travel magazines. The interior design, by John Tong of 3rd Uncle, is reminiscent of an enormous reclaimed farmhouse. The menu, executed by former JK Wine Bar chef de cuisine Dan DeMatteis, is built somewhat earnestly (“Food Is Fuel, Food Is Medicine, Food Is Love,” it announces in flowing script) around the ingredients that appear at the Brick Works’ weekly farmers’ market. There are some fantastic dishes, including a plate of cured meats with lovely smoked duck breast, trout with a slightly sweet cure, and smoked whitefish and fennel that’s been sweetened on the grill and topped with pickled ox-eye daisy buds. A hot pot of steamed mussels, good clams and a few oysters is properly done, if a bit humdrum. By contrast, the sweet and sticky pork with apples—cubes of melting, crisped-up pork belly—is deadly good. But the sum of a meal here is a little underwhelming—the food is well prepared, and the ingredients are as virtuous as a Slow Foodist’s newborn babe; it’s just not that different from the food at Ed Ho’s Globe chain, or Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, or Ruby Watchco. It’s fresh, it’s local, it’s familiar. A liquor licence should be coming any day now. In the meantime there’s house-made lemonade and sodas. Mains $15–$24.
ELLE M’A DIT
35 Baldwin St., 416-546-3448
The chefs at this new Baldwin Street bistro trained under Toronto’s well-known French chef Marc Thuet, so it’s little wonder the menu focuses on Alsatian specialties with a few eclectic, crowd-pleasing touches (pesto, yuzu). The most successful plates of the evening arrive first: house-smoked trout salad is almost too delicate (the fish could be smokier and more pungent), but mixed with avocado and green onion, it makes a perfectly light starter. The duo of terrines is just right, showcasing a vegetarian slice (layered eggplant, peppers, herbed chèvre) alongside a carnivorous one (ham hock, white bean). However, mains falter. A miniscule portion of greasy sweetbreads arrives with overcooked foie gras and sautéed plums. The idea is good, but the execution is not. Coq au vin is better, especially with fresh spaetzle and a rich jus, but the meat needs more aggressive seasoning. A rich, dense chocolate terrine drenched in delicious salted caramel with a few tart plums alongside makes up for the missteps earlier in the meal. Exceptional service and very good wines by the glass. Closed Monday. Mains $12–$29.
133 Richmond St. W., 416-861-1211
If you’re intent on an ouzo-soaked night of smashing plates, shouts of “Opa!” and a three-day garlic hangover, you’d best look elsewhere, like to the Danforth. Andreas Antoniou’s modern Greek restaurant on Richmond, just across from the city’s opera house, trades in a fresher, more stylish, more cosmopolitan type of dining than its Hellenic counterparts. Antoniou, who is 28, has remade the space, which his father, Bob, once ran as Mediterra. The room is bright and airy, with linens and crystal on the tables and a chandelier made from green-glass fishing buoys and Edison bulbs. The crowd is a mix of the area’s office workers, tourists and an army of young, beautiful patrons who make for good people-watching. The food is excellent in many cases—for example, unbelievably tender grilled octopus, dry-packed scallops seared perfectly and sided with walnut-goosed eggplant purée, and a delicate phyllo pie of braised lamb, feta and spinach that leaves diners in awe. Good wine list with lots of range. Professional service. Mains $19–$34.