What’s on the menu at Then and Now, Parkdale’s new Asian fusion restaurant with a no-tipping policy

What’s on the menu at Then and Now, Parkdale’s new Asian fusion restaurant with a no-tipping policy

It’s a certified living wage employer

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Name: Then and Now
Contact: 1316 Queen St. W., thenandnowrestaurant.com, @thenandnowrestaurant
Neighbourhood: Parkdale
Owner: Eric Wang
Chef: Ian Yau
Accessibility: Fully accessible
Eric Wang, the owner of Then and Now, isn’t afraid of the F-word: his new Parkdale kitchen is unabashedly an Asian fusion restaurant. “I wanted to explore the flavours I grew up eating at home, but through the lens of the French and Italian restaurants I worked in as an adult,” says Wang, who has worked as a GM at spots like Rosalinda and Peter Pan Bistro. But, as the name suggests, there’s another form of synthesis going on here—this spot is also about moving away from outdated norms in the restaurant industry.

Then and Now owner Eric Wang

Then and Now is a certified living wage employer, and tips are not expected. Wang wants to break the association between tipping and quality of service. He’s also challenging racial stereotypes in hospitality. “Unfortunately, there’s still an industry perception around the kind of guest some servers don’t expect will tip well, like students and people of colour. It’s not acceptable, but it does happen, and I didn’t want to leave any space for that at my restaurant.”

This is Wang’s first restaurant, but he’s known that he wanted this gig since his first night working in a dish pit. He’s nothing if not an individualist: in ninth-grade orientation, he took one look at the syllabus, marched into the guidance counsellor’s office and declared that he wasn’t interested. After being told that he couldn’t legally drop out until he was 16, Wang bided his time, dropping out the moment he could and getting a job as a dishwasher at Turtle Jack’s. Now that he’s worked his way up to his own space, his passion for the industry is palpable—his is the kind of hands-on, deeply engaged ownership that makes for durable restaurants.

The food

If you took a cursory glance at the menu and saw its oysters, tartare, risotto and carpaccio, you might think you were in for a Franco-Italian dining experience. And while the blueprints of these dishes are decidedly Western European, the foundation is Asian flavours. The tartare is laced with ginger and Chinese chili crisp and topped with crispy fried noodles; the carpaccio swaps out beef for salmon and adds ponzu and miso mayo. There’s a lot going on here, but thanks to thoughtful ingredient choices and meticulous assembly, the dishes feel cohesive rather than chaotic.

Here we have the ricotta dumplings, Then and Now’s bestselling dish. It’s a twist on ravioli, given that traditional Asian dumplings typically don’t include dairy. The handmade parcels are filled with ricotta and prawns, served in a rich lemon butter sauce and garnished with watermelon radish, nori flakes and furikake made with dried kimchi. $22


Somewhere between sashimi and beef carpaccio is this dish: thin strips of salmon in a pool of citrusy ponzu, chili oil and miso mayo. It’s finished with nori chips—crispy with a potato-starch coating—radishes, pea shoots and pickled pearl onion. $19


Beneath a tangle of crispy fried burdock root chips is meaty fried tofu, braised burdock, and braised and pickled lotus root. It’s garnished with sesame seeds and enveloped in a soy-based sauce used to braise the roots. $17


A punchy take on steak tartare made with ginger, pickled pearl onion, shallot, chive and chili crisp. There’s also a pleasantly pungent secret ingredient that smells like wasabi (though Wang swears it’s not). It’s garnished with radish, micro cress and crispy noodles and served with slices of grilled sourdough (not pictured). $20


The bones of this dish (so to speak) is a relatively classic steak frites: a tender 10-ounce striploin is topped with a house-made truffle butter (torched tableside) and served with crispy frites. Hiding behind the blowtorch is a powerhouse Sichuan chili and garlic aioli. It’s technically meant for the fries, but if some steak happens to fall in, it won’t hurt. $52
The drinks

There’s a fun collection of signature cocktails, some of which also have fusion elements. The T&N Sour, for instance, features whiskey infused with eight Chinese herbs and spices. Classic cocktails are also available upon request. And there’s sake, mostly local beers and a tight but growing wine list.

The ultra-summery Kiss Me by the Ocean is a mix of blue Curaçao, Malibu rum and sparkling wine. That orchid garnish is edible. $19


The tri-coloured Empress Violet is made with layered cassis, raspberry syrup, tonic, lemon and purple Empress gin (which gets its hue from butterfly pea blossom). $20


This is the T&N sour—a fairly classic sour, except that the whiskey is infused with eight Chinese herbs and spices including star anise, goji berry and clove. $21


The Fountain of Youth is just one of the bar’s excellent zero-proof cocktails. It’s made with fresh celery juice, lime, ginger syrup and muddled jalapeno and finished with a piece of candied ginger. $13
The space

Guests enter into a sunny white-walled foyer with a few counter seats. Behind is a dim, moody dining room that screams date night—but not so loud that you would hesitate to bring your family. Neon lights and refreshing pops of colour bring life to the space, including a hand-painted mural featuring koi fish, a tsunami and a peaceful mountain stream. It’s symbolic of Wang’s journey: the fish, he says, swim upstream through the tsunami and end up on a mountain surrounded by blooming flowers.