May 3: Yours Truly ★★★★
This foodie’s mecca landed Toronto Life’s coveted best new restaurant award in 2012 and is still busily counting reservations to fill its 12-person quota for its 15-20 course tasting menu. Purported to be Toronto’s longest dinner, these prized spots require at least two weeks’ notice. We skipped the line and shared the four-course onslaught instead. It is just as interesting. Dishes are identified by principal ingredients and the two choices are listed side-by-side for your choosing. This minimalist, ignorance-is-bliss, frankly cocky approach is definitively Torontonian (although it originated at Eleven Madison Park, apparently); it is a briskly novel way to order even if it makes writing the blog entry a chore. The décor is the exposed-light bulb chic that is ubiquitous in the area and the service requires refinement. Including the amuses-bouches, intermezzos and between the two of us, we dabbled in 14 dishes. It’s a little too much because it loses focus. At that length, there should be some common theme which is conspicuously missing. To start, a shot of warm onion soup. It is sharp and clears the sinuses. The following trio of amuses-bouches have only one standout – salted saba topped with lemon paste. Then, the vegetable entrées, impeccably decorated but easy to forget, except for a green tea foam shaped in a perfect cylinder amongst a pastoral display of onions, mushrooms and leaks. Another duo intermezzo, memorably a leaf with sour crisp on top: it looks like snow but tastes like a really good salt-and-vinegar chip. The best dish of the meal was probably a potato purée topped with egg and red potato chips. It’s a high-school chemistry experiment. The egg, not exactly liquid, breaks to let the yolk run over a pasty mash that is not exactly a solid. The chef’s pedigree (ex-Noma, ex-Per se) shows through the cauliflower dish that exhibits the fine ingredient burnt, pulverized and shaved. To purée it brings out the sweet, to grill it brings out the bitterness. The end is spectacular. The fried bananas that resemble shiny rocks, the bread that looks like porous rock and the peanuts look like fragments from a passing comet. It isn’t just for-show; it is a tedious favour matching between levels of sweet and none is completely overbearing. On the other side, a taro paste is smeared on the edge of the plate like it were a paint palette. Clearly the chef’s having a lot of fun. That’s okay because you are as well.
$55, “four” courses
Set 1: ramps, egg, cauliflower, taro
Set 2: asparagus, halibut, chicken, peanut