Summerlicious at Canoe Restaurant
Summerlicious in Toronto has rolled around again! That wonderful time of year when even twenty-something peasants like us (I kid) get the chance to try out the fanciest restaurants in the city at a much more reasonable price. I blogged about our experience at Toula restaurant during last year’s Summerlicious festival, but this year, we set our sights even higher.
Canoe restaurant, towering high above Toronto’s financial district, is one of the best restaurants Toronto has to offer, and as such, getting reservations there during Summerlicious is no easy feat. People clamour over each other trying to snag resos, and we’ve tried and failed many a year through a combination of poor planning and lack of co-ordination. But not this year.
Through a heroic tag-team effort, we managed to get through to the restaurant after our 150th collective phone call to make lunch reservations. (You probably think I’m kidding – I’m not. We called on the very first day of Summerlicious reservations, as soon as the phone lines opened, and got busy signal after busy signal.)
The gang got dressed up and set out for our culinary adventure on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
For those just joining us, that’s me on the left, Wendy, Katya, Nik, and Daniel, who was holding the camera. Monica (who, unfortunately for us but very fortunately for her) is currently on the other side of the globe trekking through Mongolia, was with us only in spirit.
I didn’t really know what “Canadian cuisine” was before this, to be honest. I kind of thought it was just poutine (which I love), maple syrup, and a smorgasbord of staples from elsewhere, like pizza, pasta, hamburgers, and noodles.
If you were wondering what high-level Canadian cuisine looks like, Canoe is it. Known for his refined flavours and extraordinary presentation, Executive Chef John Horne put together a menu infused with his passion for local cuisine made with seasonal ingredients.
Oliver & Bonacini’s flagship restaurant is perched atop the TD Bank Tower, all the way on the 54th floor. So naturally, the views are breathtaking.
Those seated by the massive windows overlook all of downtown Toronto, including the CN Tower, the mammoth skyscrapers of the financial district (which are dwarfed in comparison to the CN Tower), the Toronto Island, and the entire waterfront.
It was a beautiful, clear day, and difficult to tell where sky ended and the water began. And check out the view at night!
The decor of Canoe is crisp, modern, elegant, and completely bathed in light.
Waiters bustle to and fro, polite and always attentive – taking orders and making sure your glass of water is always full.
We were seated near this beautiful golden mural, which, if you look very closely, is actually a map of Canada.
Different restaurants offer different price points during Summerlicious. Canoe’s 3-course prix fixe menu is $25 for lunch, and $45 for dinner.
Everything on the menu sounded mouthwatering, and since I wasn’t sure when I’d get the opportunity to eat there again, I was sent into a bit of a panic trying to decide what to order.
While I wrestled with my decision, our ridiculously good-looking waiter brought over fresh bread with a chickpea spread. (Which he specifically called a “chickpea spread” and not “hummus”. Perhaps hummus isn’t Canadian enough?)
Tasted good, though. Rather like hummus.
Choosing a drink was a much easier task. I went for something off the non-alcoholic menu: the strawberry basil mojito. It was wonderfully refreshing and not overly sweet.
Katya went for something fruity and gin-based.
For appetizers, between the five of us, we tried three of the four choices provided. (None of us opted for the field lettuce salad, big surprise.)
A few of us ordered the colourfully-plated potted rainbow trout, with paper-thin radishes, tender shoots, and a slice of pumpernickel bread.
Katya opted for the chilled cucumber and melon soup, made with spicy compressed melon and a fresh herb yoghurt.
I went for the Aurora chicken terrine, a local dish made with Holland Marsh leeks, scrunchions, mustard seeds, and wild gribiche. I chose it because I only recognized a few of those words, and was curious to find out what they were.
It was absolutely fantastic, my taste buds sang. The chicken terrine (that rectangular thing in the middle) was moist and jam-packed with flavour. It tasted like chicken salad wearing a tux.
For the entree, all but two of us went for the tree syrup rubbed bison short rib with charred cauliflower, a cream made with Ras el Hanout (a Moroccan spice blend roughly translating to “Top of the Shop”), and pont neuf potatoes.
Katya and Nik instead ordered the Canadian bouillabaisse, a stew made from coast to coast seafood, chimichurri, and profiteroles.
Bison is not something you often see on a menu, so I was eager to experience something new.
I was afraid it would be chewy, dry, and tough, but was pleasantly surprised to find it juicy, tender, and scrumptious instead, particularly paired with the sweet glaze.
As good as the first two courses were, I must confess that dessert was my favourite part of all.
Half of us chose the coffee chocolate gâteau with banana cremeux and milk chocolate chantilly cream topped with dill.
The other half of us (myself included) went for the buttermilk and lemongrass flan, made with wild blueberries and discs of angel food cake. The dish is local and made with buttermilk from Hewitt’s Dairy in Ontario.
It was absolutely heavenly – light as a cloud and perfectly creamy. My only complaint is that I was only served one, when I could have easily gone for five more.
After we finished lunch, Daniel and Wendy showed us photos from their cruise to the Bahamas they just returned from (lucky ducks!), including photos of towel animals the cruise staff left them every night.
In an effort to mimic this, Daniel and Nik tried to show off their folded napkin art skills.
This was “squid” apparently.
After that wonderful meal, we headed over the Wendy’s condo to catch the second half of the World Cup finals. Congratulations Germany!
Summerlicious runs from July 4-20, so it’s not too late to catch a last minute reservation at one of the 200+ participating restaurants, which you can book here. xx