A LOOK BACK AT A FEW OF THE DINING TRENDS THAT IMPACTED TORONTO RESTAURANTS AND FOODIES OVER THE PAST YEAR
In recent years it’s been fairly easy to pinpoint the developments that most influenced Toronto’s diverse but fickle eating-out industry. Not too long ago, “Middleterranean” fare was all the rage. Before that it was vegetables that took centre stage (or, if you will, centre plate). And most locals no doubt recall the days when charcuterie dominated all dining discussion.
Trend spotting in 2015 has been more challenging—in part because the city saw a relative slowdown in restaurant openings, cooling the pace of change. But if you look closely, it’s still possible to discern some characteristics that have lately defined Toronto’s food scene.
All too often, the point in a meal when savoury switches to sweet is also the point when innovation becomes an afterthought. Thankfully, the dessert course is enjoying a modest renaissance at a number of Toronto restaurants. Pastry chef Farzam Fallah of Richmond Station (though he’ll soon be departing for Hong Kong) continued to lead the way with his repertoire of beautiful, complexly flavoured concoctions, while the sweet endings at Los Colibris are informed by executive chef Elia Herrara’s time at Barcelona’s revolutionary desserts-only restaurant EspaiSucre. Upscale patisseries are also emphasizing much more than chocolate croissants and Black Forest cakes: visit Roselle Desserts for gooey caramel Turtle Tarts and banana cream pie éclairs; Millie Patisserie for offerings with Asian flavours like matcha, azuki bean and yuzu; and The Eatery, where master chocolatier David Chow sells his boundary-breaking confections. Sweet teeth can look forward to even more satisfaction in the new year, when Brandon Olsen, formerly of the Black Hoof and Bar Isabel, opens his own confections shop, Chocolates x Brandon Olsen.
TASTING MENUS OR BAR BITES?
Traditional white-tablecloth restaurants may be all but dead in Toronto, but their signature offering, the tasting menu, has made a bit of a comeback. See, for example, the continued popularity of the themed multi-course meal at Canoe. Or the fact that Splendido now survives by serving nothing but a $180 per person chef’s-choice dinner (though, granted, owner-chef Victor Barry recently announced the restaurant would close at the end of this year). Or the recent raves for tasting menu–oriented Alo. At the same time, the opposite end of the spectrum is also growing crowded, with casual spaces like Linwood Essentials and Kanpai Snack Bar specializing in stylized bar bites, street eats and, of course, cocktails. Peoples Eatery admirably presents the best of both worlds, with a primary carte of shareable small plates and a weekends-only tasting by chef Dustin Gallagher.
Chefs are increasingly embracing the lunch hour as an opportunity to bring gourmet cooking to the masses (and eager diners are eating up their efforts, literally and figuratively). Sandwich shops like Barberian’s Steakhouse spin-off TLP, seafood-centric Fresh Off the Boat, and Flock, a rotisserie chicken–slinging outpost from The Harbord Room’s Cory Vitiello, are just a few of the exemplars. And it’s been getting progressively easier for downtown denizens to get their noontime fix, with more and more establishments embracing delivery apps like UberEats, Hurrier and Ritual.