What’s on the menu at Aera, O&B’s new steakhouse on the 38th floor of the Well

What’s on the menu at Aera, O&B’s new steakhouse on the 38th floor of the Well

Think of it as Canoe’s slightly more relaxed (but still pretty sleek) younger sibling

A view of the dining room and open kitchen at Aera, a restaurant in Toronto

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Name: Aera
Contact: 8 Spadina Ave., 38th floor, 647-258-5207, aerarestaurant.com, @aera.restaurant
Neighbourhood: Wellington Place
Owners: Oliver and Bonacini
Chefs: Partner and corporate executive chef Anthony Walsh and executive chef Binit Pandey (Oliver and Bonacini Café Grill)
Accessibility: Fully accessible
 
Aera (pronounced “era”) is the new jewel to rival Canoe in O&B’s crown. Taking over the entirety of the Well’s penthouse floor, this swish already-almost-impossible-to-get-into restaurant is the antithesis of pandemic austerity.

Toronto's skyline as seen from Aera, a new restaurant on the 38th floor of The Well in Toronto
The view

The concept—a modern steakhouse riffing on 20th-century classics—was born during lockdown. When Andrew Oliver (O&B’s current CEO and son of Peter Oliver, the company’s co-founder), saw the 30-year-old hospitality empire shutter indefinitely back in 2020, he was mired in existential angst—was it time to quit restaurants? Oliver found himself in a deep depression; he even stopped eating at one point, shedding not just a few but 125 pounds. After a few months of this, he woke up one day with renewed faith in the industry. “I guess I’m a masochist,” he jokes. That’s when called up the Well’s developers and told them he’d take every single available restaurant lease in the building—but there was a catch. He’d also need them to redesign the building’s 38th floor, office space at the time, to accommodate a world-class dining destination.

A restaurant with windows that look out over Toronto from the 38th floor of a building

Aera benefits from unparalleled views. As the sun dips below the horizon and glittering lights replace landmarks, the energy here shifts from enchanting aerie to luxe lounge—complete with DJs, bottle service and late seatings (it’s open until 2 a.m.). Canoe’s younger sibling is all about youthful revelry. Even the food is unfettered by modern fine dining’s usual penchant for fussiness. Guests can expect ultra-high-calibre ingredients turned into familiar (albeit highly polished) plates, like a wedge salad followed by a porterhouse served with a seriously decadent baked potato and mind-blowing creamed spinach. (Yes, I just used “mind-blowing” to describe spinach.)

A person slices steak on a cutting board

The food

If turf isn’t your thing, the surf selection is equally excellent. Aera’s sushi program is based on top-tier seafood that’s a mix of Japan- and domestic-caught fish. There’s even a dedicated sushi chef—Rhett Sacdalan (previously of Dasha, Miku and Yamato)—who oversees the maki, nigiri and sashimi selection.

Aera's executive chef, Binit Pandey
Executive chef Binit Pandey

The tuna currently used throughout the menu, in the sushi and in the tartare, is all from the same line-caught 350-pound bluefin behemoth. It was shipped here from a small New Brunswick fishing operation and then butchered in house. Every part of the tuna is being used—even the vertebrae were turned into decorative ornaments for the sushi platters. “We believe in sustainability,” says executive chef Binit Pandey. “That means not throwing out any part of the fish.”

A nigiri platter featuring chutoro , akami, ikura-topped salmon belly, scallops topped with flying fish roe, and madai
This nigiri platter features chutoro (fatty tuna), akami (tuna loin), ikura-topped salmon belly, scallops topped with flying fish roe, and madai (sea bream). Two pieces per order. $13 and up

 

A platter of sashimi
This sashimi platter has a similar array of briny delicacies. The only difference is that madai has been swapped out for hamachi (amberjack). Two pieces per order. $13 and up

 

A platter of maki rolls
The nigiri and sashimi are highly traditional, but the maki selection definitely aims to please North American palates. Jiro likely wouldn’t approve of a vegetarian roll stuffed with asparagus, avocado, chipotle soy and sea truffle ($15). He might, however, be swayed by this creamy tuna crunch roll, topped with black kaluga caviar and 24-karat gold flakes and brimming with tuna, avocado, diced takuan (pickled radish) and scallion. $30, plus an additional $45 for the caviar add-on

 

Hamachi crudo with maitake mushrooms
Artfully plated hamachi crudo with maitake mushrooms. $37

 

Tuna tartare with a cracker made from puffed tapioca
A sushi-steak mashup may seem like a stark juxtaposition of flavour profiles, but the kitchen creates cohesiveness by weaving Japanese ingredients throughout the menu. Take this tartare, for example, which is seasoned with a blend of wakame and chilies. And the vegan chicharrón, made from puffed tapioca, is dusted with nori. $39

 

Bread made with a blend of fresh corn and corn meal, roasted garlic, a blend of various cheeses, aged garlic and diced jalapeño peppers
Even the bread is decadent. Made with a blend of fresh corn and corn meal, roasted garlic, various cheeses (pimento, Emmental, Monterey Jack), aged garlic and diced jalapenos, this side—which easily serves three—is a star in its own right. $15

 

A double-baked potato
This may look like a by-the-book baked spud, but it’s far more decadent. It’s a Delmonico double-baked potato casserole: the tater is baked and hulled, then its skin is deep-fried and stuffed with a fork-mashed mixture of baked potato, sour cream, Gruyère, cheese curds, aged cheddar and scallions before it goes into the oven for a second stint. $18

 

A PB&J foie gras appetizer at Aera tops a slice of brioche with some house-made peanut butter, a seared lobe of Quebecois foie, Ontario concord grape jelly and a quail egg
The PB&J foie gras appetizer is a bit of a menu outlier. Not Japanese-inspired or a steakhouse standard, this plate is just plain fun. The dish tops a slice of brioche with some house-made peanut butter (sweetened with maple and honey), a seared lobe of Québécois foie, Ontario concord grape jelly and a quail egg. $36

 

A piece of sablefish sits on a plate next to a braided eggplant and under a single green onion
Aera’s answer to Nobu’s black cod is a miso- and maple-marinated sablefish (which is actually a type of black cod) served with a braided eggplant that’s lacquered with unagi glaze (fermented eel, miso, mirin) and then charred under the broiler. Just like with the tuna, the kitchen orders whole sablefish and butchers them in house, so each portion will be slightly different. $52

 

A spoon drips jus on a porterhouse steak topped with green onions
Steak cuts on offer stick to the North American classics: tenderloin, rib-eye, striploin and, pictured here, porterhouse. Steaks are sourced from south of the border (US Prime), Wellington County (AAA beef) and Australia (Wagyu). $95 and up

 

Sticky toffee pudding
Sticky bourbon toffee pudding served with vanilla ice cream. $17

 

A banana split
This here is a very grown-up, practically hoity-toity banana split. Slices of banana are candied, the ice cream (chocolate, vanilla and strawberry) is presented in profiteroles, and little cubes of brownie (along with some hot fudge) bring the chocolate. $20

 

The drinks

Signature cocktails are available by the glass or decanter, and the wine selection avoids trendy stuff—nothing too funky, too orange or too niche. “The guests know what they want: steak, sides, a stiff martini and then a big Cab from California or Bordeaux,” says Jane Suh, associate director of restaurant operations.

A cloche is removed to reveal a smoking cocktail
Winter calls for bold, boozy cocktails. The Runway, a riff on an old fashioned, is one of the more spirit-forward recipes on offer; it combines Woodford Reserve Bourbon, orange, maple and smoke. Like many of the cocktails on the menu, it can be ordered by the glass for $25…

 

A decanter filled with a whisky-based cocktail sits next to two glasses
…or by the decanter for $125

 

A coupe filled with a pink-coloured cocktail garnished with a sprig of mint
For those who like fresh and fruity cocktails, the drink list is sprinkled with easy-sippers like the Amelia (named after Earhart), which blends Belvedere vodka, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, blackberry and lemon. $25

 

An espresso martini
Given the cocktail card’s up-in-the-air theme, we’re a bit surprised they didn’t name this espresso martini the Red Eye. That being said, the Late Night is probably more marketable. Instead of vodka, this potent potable mixes Hennessy VS Cognac with Kahlúa, house-made cold brew, cinnamon and nutmeg. $25

 

The space

The aperitif here is undeniably the view, so drink it up. The 5,000-square-foot restaurant, which takes its name from the Greek word for air, aero, benefits from three different exposures: the Toronto Islands to the south, a towering cityscape to the east and an uninterrupted sunset vista looking west. To ensure everyone has an optimal vantage point, Solid Design Creative (the firm behind Bitter Melon, Paradise Theatre and Koukla) put the more central tables in the room on a raised platform.

A bright and sunny dining room at a restaurant

There’s also a 16-seat sushi counter and a four-person chef’s table looking into the open kitchen. And for when dinner’s done but the night’s far from over, there’s a 24-person lounge outfitted with conversation couches and bucket chairs. Coming next spring: a 4,500-square-foot rooftop patio.

A restaurant with windows looking out over a city skyline

Barstools at a marble-topped bar, behind which, wooden shelves are lined with liquor bottles

The view into a restaurant kitchen where many chefs are at work

Sushi counter seating at Aera, a Toronto steakhouse

A sitting area with couches in the dining room of a restaurant, next to windows looking out over the city of Toronto

A long hallway lined with arches