What’s on the menu at Daphne, a massive mid-century-inspired modern American restaurant with a 2,000-square-foot patio
Including savoury churros and a caviar-topped baked potato
Contact: 67 Richmond St. W., 416-203-1414, daphnetoronto.com, @daphnetoronto
Neighbourhood: Financial District
Owners: Ink Entertainment (Charles Khabouth and Danny Soberano) and Dream Unlimited
Chef: John Chee
Accessibility: Fully accessible
Over the past 10-plus years, Charles Khabouth and Danny Soberano, the duo at the helm of of Ink Entertainment, have taken Torontonians on culinary journeys across the globe—from Spain (Patria) to Italy (Sofia) to Greece (Byblos) to Lebanon (Amal). Daphne, the pair’s spin on a modern American restaurant, is their first project that represents this side of the globe.
Opening restaurant after restaurant comes with the pressure to outdo the previous one. And while Khabouth jokes that “this is the problem: we set the bar too high,” there really is a sense that Daphne—a 3,900-square-foot space with an additional 2,000-square-foot patio that threatens to out-polo Ralph Lauren—is coming out on top.
Everything about the place is big and bold (U-S-A!), but the fine details—like the 11 iterations that design firm Paolo Ferrari had to go through to get the dining room’s chairs just right for Khabouth—are certainly there. This massive-yet-measured dichotomy carries over to the food. Huge cuts of meat are grilled over Japanese-imported binchotan charcoal, giant “rib-eye” steaks of tuna are plated over truffle ponzu and the double-stuffed potato is sprinkled with caviar. In short, elegantly tasteful, utterly luxurious and quite a way to spend a night.
Chef John Chee (who also runs Hamilton’s Fisticuffs in his spare time) serves up a classically big American menu that’s crowd-pleasing but not pedestrian. Think juicy, josper-smoked burgers dripping with Fifth Town Artisan’s Muenster cheese; or beautifully butterflied Spanish mackerel, coal-roasted and slathered with sweet-and-spicy house-made Kansas-style barbecue sauce; or—wait for it—deep-fried savoury churros dusted with house chili powder and served with smoked Gruyère queso for dipping. (Chee cheekily refers to the sauce as “the most expensive Cheez Whiz you’ll ever eat.”)
On-trend classics with flair is the best way to describe the cocktail card that award-winning mixologist Nishantha Nepulongoda (Blowfish, Sofia, Amal) developed for the bar. Standouts include the eponymous Daphne Negroni and the 67 Shaken, a tropical vodka martini punched up with notes of acid, spice and sweetness from passion fruit purée and house harissa jallab syrup.
The restaurant brings a sense of Old Hollywood glamour that is bound—at the very least—to help patrons forget the pylons and potholes they avoided to get inside. The main room is divided into two distinct spaces: a sitting room decked out in plush velour banquettes and linen-draped arm chairs (think smoking dens of the past, sans actual smoke) and an art deco–inspired dining room full of dignified archways and geometric flooring. Walk through a hallway lined with mirrors that reflects a forest hand-painted linen wallpaper and end up in the lounge, a mid-century masterpiece. Connected to the lounge, a massive L-shaped terrace features bright-yellow striped banquettes, a backlit bar and Busby Berkeley–inspired movie flooring. Even Rotten Tomatoes would give it a high score.