To get to his new restaurant, Origin, Claudio Aprile goes around the world to travel one block
Though Claudio Aprile’s new restaurant, Origin, isn’t slated to open until early 2010, the edgy chef had us in to play guinea pig for some culinary experimentation. Aprile is testing out a handful of new dishes for his more relaxed Stroudfoot-designed spot at 107 King Street East. Though Origin comes second, Aprile considers it the ready-to-wear counterpart of Colborne Lane’s haute couture. “Origin is in many ways the first restaurant, what Colborne Lane was meant to be,” he says. The venture will recapture Aprile’s original, unfussy vision, featuring an open concept (the kitchen is at the centre of the dining room), “modern global” classic dishes and an ambience even louder than Colborne Lane’s (“Believe it or not,” he says).
Origin is about 50 paces from Colborne Lane, but Aprile is intent on taking us on the scenic route. The menu will consist of tastes from the chef’s travels through Thailand, Spain, England and other places. “I’ve gone back and tried to recall what food experience made a light bulb go off,” he explains. To start our gastronomic journey, Colborne Lane’s new mixologist, Michelle Tham, serves up a Japanese cocktail and punnily assures us that the drinks at Origin, which are still in development, are sure to “create a bit of a buzz.”
For the first course, tuna salad, we stay in Japan: tender sashimi slices sit atop cubed Asian pear and ripe avocado dressed in ponzu sauce. A sprinkle of sesame seeds and puffed rice add texture; spikes of salty nori have architectural appeal. Our next taste is Thai: Bangkok beef salad served on a boat-shaped plate. Aprile’s inspiration for this dish came from an 18-year-old chef (who has been cooking since the age of three) he met overseas. Traditional East Asian touches (palm sugar dressing, caramelized peanuts, crispy shallots) happily cohabit with Western elements (finely sliced seared Alberta hanger steak).
The standout dish comes via Spain: juicy chorizo (from specialist Luis Suares) is served alongside a perfectly poached smoked egg and creamy manchego risotto. A splash of salsa verde adds freshness, and dehydrated black olives (we weren’t going to get through this meal without something dehydrated) are like high-salt staccato injections. A self-professed perfectionist, Aprile forgoes the advertised grits, which didn’t turn out to his liking tonight.
We finish closer to home, with thick black pepper–spiced chocolate pudding, a blanket of tangy fromage frais, chocolate cookies and a crispy avalanche of frozen cocoa “rocks.” The dessert eats like an upside-down chocolate cheesecake and feels like a birthday party in Alaska. What a trip.