♫ Sprinkles of Saffron
And Wagyu and Uni
Shavings of Truffles and braised Abalone
Crisp Peking duck with the crunch that it brings
These are a few of my favourite things ♫
(Sing to the tune of My Favourite Things, The Sound of Music)
Toronto is alive with the taste of luxury ingredients. Here are ten of our favourites at ten of our favourites:
1) Peking Duck at Quan Ju De (7095 Woodbine Ave, 905-604-7798)
Established in Beijing in 1864, this is the first QJD location licensed to operate in North America. The chef is from Beijing; the duck is free range from Ontario. Thickly sliced crispy skin is offered with a mound of sugar, followed by artfully carved-duck arranged in the shape of a chrysanthemum. A bamboo steamer reveals warm rice flour pancakes in which to roll the tender duck morsels with cucumber and Hoisin sauce.
2) Uni at Shoushin (3328 Yonge St, 416-488-9400)
Chef Jackie Lin is an artist who strives for perfection and creates beautiful Edo-mae style sushi. His obsession with sourcing quality seasonal ingredients includes a variety of delicate sweet uni like Aka, Bafun, Ensui and Murasaki from the cold waters of Hokkaido.
3) Jamon Iberico de Bellota at Bar Isabel (797 College St., 416-532-2222)
These days so many restaurants serve Jamon Iberico, but we crave authenticity of experience. In addition to the quality of this delicacy, the ambience and the pairings of tapas and wine here transport us to Spain.
4) Abalone at Golden Court (270 West Beaver Creek Rd., 905-707-6628)
The galaxy of Chinese restaurants across Richmond Hill is where we get an education in the diversity of Chinese cuisine. A favourite for dim sum, this authentic Cantonese style restaurant specializes in abalone, sliced or braised, tender and buttery.
5) Truffles at Trimani Ristorante (8555 Jane St. #6, 905-660-7474)
We all get excited when truffles are in season. Toronto is flush with restaurateurs giddy to reveal their catch of this hidden treasure. Chefs swoon over the aromas, and create entire menus to exalt this jewel of an ingredient. Here, our waiter, like a symphony conductor, lavishes a dish of fresh pasta with enthusiasm and generosity.
6) Wagyu at Terre Rouge (162 Enterprise Blvd., 905-597-5668)
It’s one thing to offer wagyu beef on a menu; it’s another to actually know how to prepare it with perfection. Chef Forrest Liu has a lot of passion and a velvet touch. He sources this American wagyu from Snake River Farms in Idaho and presents it a la carte, robust, juicy and impeccably tender. For even more decadence we add seared foie gras. True bliss.
7) Foie Gras at Bacchanal (60 Sudbury St., 416-586-1188)
For a palate opener it is served as a seductively light parfait with cipolini and figs, but it’s the Foie Paupiette de Veau entrée that is deceptively addictive. Set like a crown atop tender veal and laquered in a luxurious Périgord sauce, be forewarned, this is an intensely tantalizing dish.
8) Saffron at David Duncan House (125 Moatfield Dr., 416-391-1424)
We did not come here for Paella. This is, after all, a renowned steak house. However, the menu is Pan-Mediterranean, and that unmistakable sweet aroma of saffron wafting though the air, with vibrant colours bursting from a paella pan chock full of seafood and wholesome goodness, had me at “Hello”. This was a sumptuous expression of those exotic crimson threads for one of our most satisfying dishes of the year.
9) Caviar at Sofia (99 Yorkville Ave., 416-479-8974)
Caviar is one of the world’s oldest documented and most prized delicacies. Seated on crushed red velvet with a glass of champagne, we dine like Russian Czars, selecting between Imperial Osetra and Beluga caviar served with polenta blini, mascarpone and chives. Na zdorovie!
10) Chocolate at Soma (32 Tank House Lane, 416-815-7662)
For every visitor to Toronto I ask, “Do you like chocolate?” When they say yes, I direct them to Soma. Here we travel the world through magical micro-batch chocolate. In the lab, there must be a team of Umpa Lumpas roasting and winnowing, refining and conching, while on display are the most voluptuously textured truffles and confections, including intense shots of drinking-chocolate that could conquer the Olmecs.