Sort-of Secret: Crosley’s, a pop-up dinner service run by a couple of Brothers Restaurant alumni
The sort-of secret: Crosley’s, a pop-up dinner service (and soon-to-be restaurant) run by two former Brothers alumni
You may have heard of it if: You follow chef Joachim (Joe) Hayward or sommelier Myles Harrison on Instagram
But you probably haven’t tried it because: They’ve been running a tight operation out of Bar Piquette on Queen West
Hospitality is difficult to package in takeout containers, but Crosley’s has managed it. The pop-up dinner operation, which has made its home in Bar Piquette before opening a permanent place early next year, serves impeccably executed food with details that make a difference. Between the handwritten menu and thorough serving guide—complete with whimsical reflections on what inspired the dishes—this might be the closest you come to enjoying a meal in a really good restaurant.
“Crosley’s is about thoughtful food made with love, as cheesy as that might sound,” says Myles Harrison, sommelier and self-described head bus boy (read: front-of-house specialist). He’s one half of the team behind Crosley’s, along with chef Joachim Hayward; the pair met working at the now-closed Brothers. “This is a tough town, and money’s hard to come by. We want to make sure every dollar people spend is met with equal or greater value.” Done and done: it’s hard to imagine better value at this price point, given the quality, attention to detail and ingredients that are sustainably sourced within Canada when possible.
The star of last week’s meal was a whole Nunavut flounder topped with a compound butter of seaweed, herbs and bottarga (cured fish roe). The fish—perfectly seasoned and tender as can be—came in a convenient parchment paper and foil package to be popped in a home oven to reheat. Delectable herbed butter seeps into every nook and cranny, and for the uninitiated, the fish comes with detailed instructions for getting every last morsel off the bones.
It came with a side of piquant leek and cardoon (artichoke thistle) conserva—Crosley’s version of a winter vegetable escabeche—which made for good snacking while the fish was in the oven. A handwritten label on the jar—held on with a bit of twine—was a cute and cozy touch.
Also on the menu last week was snow crab rarebit—rarebit, a Welsh dish, is something like a cheese toastie. Crosley’s version saw snow crab folded into mornay sauce over a Blackbird baguette, topped with a liberal sprinkling of chives. Crab and cheese are actually BFFs, and this was a solid way to showcase that relationship.
Butterball potatoes and wilted little gem lettuce came on the side, too, with capers and a creamy burnt lemon and lime dressing. If warm lettuce is a hard sell for you, hold your judgment until you try this stuff: heat brings out little gem’s flavours, and charred citrus, blended whole into the dressing, sets them off.
As the thoughtful serving suggestions declare, “You’ve done enough work for the evening”: dessert brought a big slice of pear treacle tart under a hefty slice of Celtic Blue Reserve cheese. Hayward spent two years cooking in England—a place that loves its treacle tarts. As noted in the serving suggestions, this tasty combo is Somerset’s answer to apple pie and American cheese. It comes with two little bottles of Calvados infused with burnt pears—another warm and thoughtful touch that wraps up the experience in a gorgeous, fruity bow.
The menu is different every week, but this iteration was enough to inspire trust for whatever this team puts out in the future. Check their Instagram page for the current selection, and look out for an upcoming New Year’s Eve special, where you’ll also be able to choose wine from a bottle menu put together by Harrison. Unlike previous meals, this one will be cooked out of Crosley’s own kitchen space at the site of their future restaurant—a sneak peak of what promises to be a new Toronto favourite.
Crosley’s, 1084 Queen St. W. (Bar Piquette), @crosleystoronto