What’s on the menu at CKB, a brand-new Italian-ish bistro on Roncesvalles

What’s on the menu at CKB, a brand-new Italian-ish bistro on Roncesvalles

After 20 years working in Italian kitchens, chef David Brace finally has his own


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Name: CKB
Contact: 391 Roncesvalles Ave., 416-530-7507, ckbrestaurant.ca, @ckbrestaurant
Neighbourhood: Roncesvalles
Previously: Cider House
Chef-owner: David Brace (Five Doors North, Lolita’s Lust)
Accessibility: Not fully accessible
David Brace is not a Roncesvalles local. But, somehow, his new bistro on the west-end strip already feels like a neighbourhood fixture. Maybe it’s the creative, unfussy menu or the low-key romantic decor, but there’s something grounded about CKB, especially for a restaurant that’s been open for less than three months. It isn’t a trend-attuned spot likely to attract throngs of TikTok influencers—and that’s exactly what Brace hopes will give CKB longevity.

Chef-owner Brace, with his wife, Danielle
Chef-owner David Brace with his wife, Danielle

Brace spent two decades helming Italian kitchens before deciding to open his own spot. “I just wanted to have a good, bare-bones restaurant,” he says. “Solid food, wine and service—and reasonably affordable. But I didn’t want a static menu. Constantly adapting the food helps keep me engaged.” The menu rotates on the first of every month, and while there’s some focus on seasonality, it’s mostly determined by whatever Brace finds inspiring at the time.

The food

Given Brace’s culinary background, the menu mostly features Italian and Mediterranean influences. A fist-size arancina is stuffed with celery root and roasted garlic and served alongside a coriander-heavy celery root salad for two different but congruent takes on the vegetable. House-made tagliatelle subs puréed preserved lemon for water in the pasta dough, yielding a bouncy, daffodil-bright noodle with briny bites of lemon laced through butter sauce.

While Italian cuisine pulls its weight on Brace’s menus, it doesn’t own it. A fall-apart tender lamb shank, for instance, has a North African bent, with a distinct hint of cinnamon. It comes on a pile of colcannon, the Irish mashed-potato-and-cabbage staple, surrounded by its own braising liquid. It may sound discordant on paper, but on the plate, it works—and it’s the kind of magic trick Brace pulls off again and again.

Tender arugula and crunchy endive form the base of this salad. Brace cures salmon for a couple of days, cold-smokes it and sous-vides it for a hybrid of gravlax and hot-smoked salmon. Golden brown potato chips, walnuts and julienned apple add some crunch. On the side, there’s a swoosh of acidulated cream (a chef’s dupe for crème fraîche—basically heavy cream thickened with lemon juice). $18


This chonky arancina is stuffed with roasted garlic, celery root and house-smoked mozzarella. On the side, a deceptively simple-looking celery root salad, heavily spiced with coriander and fennel seed. Connecting the two is a vivid romesco of puréed almond and red pepper. $16


Here we have rich Australian Wagyu carpaccio finished with fried garlic and sliced caper berries. Brace cuts the fat with a zippy arugula and horseradish vinaigrette salad. $26


House-made ravioli stuffed with a purée of rich duck confit, caramelized onions, roasted garlic and caramelized parsnips. The sauce is reduced duck jus, and plate is scattered with more parsnips, pearl onions and peas, echoing the filling. $30


The dough for this house tagliatelle is made with puréed preserved lemon instead of water for a pleasantly lip-puckering noodle. There’s also preserved lemon scattered throughout the butter sauce, along with red pepper, roasted garlic and arugula. Fear not the whole pink peppercorns it’s topped with: slightly sweet and only moderately punchy, they tie the dish together. $23


Pan-fried branzino with buttery sweet potato purée, Chinese broccoli, fermented Calabrian chilies and a medley of charred citrus (grapefruit, orange, blood orange). What could have been an overwhelmingly sweet combination of sweet potato and delicate fish is cut with spice and acid for satisfying balance. $38


CKB’s take on steak frites is a perfectly medium-rare PEI striploin and Yukon gold frites dressed with thyme, parsley and pecorino. On the side, a charred tomato and saffron ketchup—it’s meant for the fries, but if it happens to touch the steak, it’s not the end of the world. Market price


Here we have the aforementioned continent-hopping lamb shank. The meat—so tender a strong breeze could debone it—is aromatized with cinnamon and sits on a hefty serving of colcannon (mashed potatoes, cabbage, green onion). Asparagus spears and reduced pan juices round out the plate. $37


And here’s the whole spread
The drinks

Classic cocktails and a tight, mostly Italian wine list. You won’t find funky natural stuff here, but there’s an accessible list of food-friendly classics at excellent price points, with bottles starting at just $35. There are also a few non-alcoholic options, including bubbly and a zero-proof negroni.

Here we have the rosy gin-and-apricot-brandy-based Charlie Chaplin ($16) and a classic negroni ($14)


On the left, the Isle of Harris, a gin-based martini ($21). And on the right, a bubbly French 75 with prosecco, Tanqueray and limoncello ($15)


Up front, a solid espresso martini—not too sweet, and with the expected caffeine kick ($16)
The space

Warm and minimal, the room’s focal point is a colourful mural along the side wall depicting pomegranates, peaches, grapes and cocoa beans. The room is otherwise clean and subtle, with dark wood, romantic lighting and a few floral touches.