On Saturday, I had a relaxed morning (which involved a haircut!) before heading to Canoe, a restaurant in the Financial District of Toronto. Canoe is located on the 54th floor of the TD Bank Tower and has over twenty years of serving Toronto.
I decided to go to Canoe, a contemporary Canadian restaurant, because of Winterlicious, a Toronto event that allows anyone to order three courses from a set menu for a fixed price. Canoe’s lunch was $28 for three delicious courses – you’ll see!
While I waited for my 1:15 reservation, I wandered around the lobby, where there was an Inuit art gallery. It was my first time exploring Inuit artwork, and I found it both fascinating and simplistic. The carvings were lovely and vaguely reminded me of the ancient Hindu statues I saw when volunteering in Nepal last summer.
After a long elevator ride, I arrived at Canoe! There was a glorious view of the CN tower and Lake Ontario. I was lucky to have a seat at the high bar, where I could watch the chefs and servers work together quickly and efficiently. The restaurant itself is decorated stylishly, with copper accents, unique light fixtures, and wood chandeliers.
As for the food, Canoe is inspired by the raw, rich, and diverse lands of Canada. The dishes served here are not only seasonal, but also reflect our country’s history, environment, and culture.
I was greeted with a plate of warm bread. There were two large chunks of pumpkin seed and spelt bread, and two big pieces of potato sourdough. Both breads were incredibly tasty, and the texture was spot-on. I’m not normally one to finish all my bread at a meal, but I devoured the entire basket here!
I was actually lucky enough to speak with Coulson, the chef, as well as Robyn, Canoe’s social media manager. Both were very welcoming, patient, and gracious, and it was truly a pleasure to meet them both. I found the staff to be both friendly and extremely productive (especially considering the fact that it was a Winterlicious Saturday at noon), and before I knew it, I was handed my starter.
fogo island salt cod rillettes: dill cornichons, roasted dulse mayo + molasses crumble
One server recommended this tasty appetizer to me. After scanning the menu, I was debating between the heirloom squash soup with pesto, toasted fennel oil, and crème fraîche (doesn’t that sound incredible?!) and the radicchio and bibb lettuce salad with smoky onions, daikon, bannock, and a creamy mustard dressing. I was more than happy to order the waiter’s personal favourite, despite never having heard of cod rillettes before.
I was very pleasantly surprised by this dish, which was creamy from the flavoured mayo, crunchy with the dill cornichons (pickles), crisp with the crumbled molasses, and flaky with the cod. This dish encompassed a large variety of flavours and textures, which is a win in my book. The presentation was also exquisite.
foie gras parfait: Niagara grape jelly, walnut butter + pie crust crisp
I am certainly not one to order foie gras, a luxury food made from the fattened liver of a duck or goose. I was lucky, however, that the chef brought me a plate of this starter to try. It was my first time eating foie gras, and I enjoyed the sharp, tangy flavour reminiscent of a strong parmesan cheese. Savoury, rich, with a silky melt-in-your-mouth texture, I was very impressed by this appetizer.
The foie gras was adorned with a smear of walnut butter, jellied grapes and some sweet halved grapes, as well as shards of crispy pie crust. The pie crust added excellent texture, and I loved how each piece shattered in my mouth. The walnuts and jam provided hints of fruitiness and nuttiness to the creamy foie gras, and I took my time to savour each bite of this flavourful dish.
leo’s paccheri pasta: fresh mozzarella, creamed celeriac, fried capers, charred rapini + Tamarack chili oil
I watched the kitchen staff prepare many schnitzels, salmon filets, and beef dishes, but surprisingly, not many people seemed to order the vegetarian pasta. As I sat at the counter, watching kitchen staff carefully create plate after plate of chuck flat and pork schnitzel, I started questioning my choice of ordering the pasta dish.
Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Chef delivered this main dish with a smile and a great description: smooth paccheri (large tube-shaped pasta), smoky rapini and creamy celeriac, sprinkled with salty crisped capers, and a drizzle of chili oil to add some heat without overwhelming the dish.
Every bite of this dish was divine. The rapini was cooked perfectly, and I loved how there wasn’t too much pasta. Instead, the ratio of toppings-to-pasta was just right. In my experience, this is rare, because restaurants try to bulk up dishes as much as they can with excessive amounts of pasta, then load on a heap of bland sauce. This was certainly not the case at Canoe, where each topping had been carefully-chosen and delicately-placed. The crunchy capers added blasts of flavour, and the crisped breadcrumbs atop the dish provided the right amount of contrast. The capers were actually my favourite part, and I wish there were more. There was a generous amount of freshly-torn mozzarella decorating the dish, adding a velvety texture. Goat cheese would have also been heavenly with the flavours in this dish!
Anyone who knows me knows that I have a serious dessert problem. On Saturday, how was I supposed to choose between toffee pudding, a flourless chocolate cake (with peanut butter and espresso meringue!), and yogurt with honeycomb?
This is what I finally decided on…
sticky toffee pudding: caramel mousseline, seed tuile + Muskoka cranberry compote
… and it was phenomenal. Every bite was a blast of flavour. Sour cranberries. Rich, golden caramel with the perfect velvety texture. Nutty shards of pumpkin seed tuile and whipped vanilla chantilly. The toffee pudding itself was pleasantly sweet, but balanced by the juicy and tangy cranberries. I thoroughly enjoyed each and every bite of this well-balanced dessert.
I was stuffed and super-satisfied after this meal, in the best way possible.
Unrelated to my experience, but Canoe is even having a Valentine’s Day feast! You all need to check out their menu. From salmon with caramelized yogurt, pumpkin, and chestnut chickpea fries to tarts with peanut butter, hazelnut mousse, and honey hazelnuts… drooling. Dessert lovers beware – you have to CHOOSE from a caramel budino, a chocolate tart, and a strawberry-rose cheesecake!
I loved my experience at Canoe and can’t wait for the Summerlicious edition of this post. 🙂