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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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