What’s on the menu at Daphne, a massive mid-century-inspired modern American restaurant with a 2,000-square-foot patio

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

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Name: Daphne
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.

Chef John Chee

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.

And a Chee-made spread
The food

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.”)

For his take on the classic Waldorf salad, Chee tosses a mix of local red and white Belgian endives in a crisp lemon vinaigrette. It’s all finished with Valdeon blue cheese, pickled celery, pickled onions, thinly shaved Bosc pear and two kinds of radish. A bright buttermilk dressing is served on the side. $23


The smoked Gruyère doughnuts are Chee’s take on Doritos and queso—and they are just as TikTok-worthy. Chee adds seven different types of chilies to a churro dough, which he then pipes out, freezes and fries. Once golden, light and crisp, he tops them with pickled chilies, lime zest and cilantro. House-smoked Gruyère queso is served on the side for dipping. $16


The tuna carpaccio is a sliced loin pounded flat and trimmed for shape. It sits on a bergamot mayonnaise and a Calabrian chili hot sauce painted onto the bottom of the plate. Yuzu-pickled radishes, cucumber and pearl onion, crispy shallots, and arugula sprouts provide some crunch. $28


Chee felt it necessary to build the best baked potato he possibly could in order to call it the Daphne Potato. A Duchesse potato overflowing with Emmental and Gruyère cheeses is sprinkled with chives and finished with a generous dollop of Beluga caviar. $26


The barbecued Boston mackerel is where the menu takes a detour to the southern regions of the US. Butterflied and deboned, the fish is coated in a Kansas-style barbecue sauce and roasted in the Josper oven. It’s served on top of a cubanelle-and-green-tomato relish, sprinkled with dill, and drizzled with Spanish olive oil. $45


For the bone-in tuna rib-eye, the chef starts with the whole fish and removes the loin from either side, then splits the fish down the middle with a hacksaw. The dry-aged fish is roasted on the bone in the Josper oven to infuse it with smoke. It’s served rare on a brumale truffle ponzu and topped with a shiso, oregano, parsley and cilantro chimichurri. $95


Here is the 12-ounce dry-aged New York striploin, wood-fire grilled, served on top of a rich Bordelaise sauce and drizzled with olive oil. For anyone seeking a little extra indulgence, house-made herb butters are available for an additional few bucks. $65


Chef Chee’s spin on the classic key lime pie is made with calamansi for a slightly more tropical flavour. It’s topped with Chantilly cream, spearmint leaves, spearmint powder and puffed amaranth. $15


The strawberry shortcake is a deconstructed take on the original dessert. Pillowy slices of sponge cake layered with strawberry ganache rest on a black sesame crumble and are surrounded by fresh and freeze-dried strawberries. On the side: a strawberry–green chartreuse sorbet and lime leaf cream. $18
The drinks

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.

Nishantha Nepulongoda, the man behind the cocktail menu


Boozy as it is, the Georgian Sour, Nepulongoda’s take on a whisky sour, is balanced and very drinkable. The slight herbal notes from the balsam fir–infused bourbon work well against the drink’s sour lemon and sweet peach purée. The drink is shaken with egg white, poured into a coupe and finished with whisky barrel bitters. $22


A hint of highly aromatic house-made sweet fern honey gives the Low Country Old Fashioned—which is otherwise a stiff bourbon cocktail—a bit of breathability. $22


Nepulongoda’s version of the trendy espresso martini is the Midnight Cap: coffee liqueur, espresso and Grey Goose vodka shaken over ice, poured into a flute and finished with a ricotta foam. $20
The space

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.