Cover story: Love in the GTA

Chef Steve Gon­za­lez is back with his gi­gan­tic new King West eatery

Richmond Hill Post - - CONTENTS - JOANNE KATES Joanne Kates trained at the Ecole Cor­don Bleu de Cui­sine in Paris. She has writ­ten ar­ti­cles for nu­mer­ous pub­li­ca­tions, in­clud­ing the New York Times, Maclean’s and Chate­laine.

I’m con­fused about Baro.

Try get­ting a res there. Good luck. Even in the slough of de­spond that is the depths of the grey Toronto mid­win­ter, ta­bles at Baro are like hen’s teeth. So I went. How could I not, with ev­ery­one flock­ing? Four floors, 15,000 feet.

It does not be­gin that well. The glam women at the front desk check you in and hand you to the head­set peo­ple, none of whom of­fer to take one’s coat. They ask if we want a high or a low ta­ble. We say low. They put us at a high ta­ble. We or­der wine. The food comes be­fore the wine, which is ap­par­ently for­got­ten.

We have to do em­panadas and guac with salsa and chips be­cause these are part of owner/chef Steve Gon­za­lez’s sig­na­ture from his pre­vi­ous place, Valdez. But the guac and salsa are un­ex­cep­tional, and the em­panadas of beef, peas and potato are un­flaky pas­try with mushy fill­ing. Rather a dis­ap­point­ment.

But cherry-pick­ing the menu works re­ally well. Some of the fu­sion items, where East meets Latin, are re­ally fun. Chef ’s suite of ce­viches are su­perbly en­ter­tain­ing: we’re cap­ti­vated by

the var­ie­gated flavours of tira­di­tos, raw tuna napped in pas­sion fruit and lulo sauce, with black and white se­same seeds, chili-stud­ded purée of but­ter­nut squash and baby greens.

The other fab fu­sion item is cha­ufa, in­vented by homesick Chi­nese im­mi­grants in Peru. Like Korea’s bi bim bap, cha­ufa is a big bowl of rice with flavour­ings and crisp edges from the su­per-heated bowl: $35 is a bit much for a rice bowl, but cha­ufa is much more ex­cit­ing than its Korean an­tecedent. The rice is cooked on the flat­top with shreds of con­fit duck, edamame, egg, to­biko and papi kung fu, a sauce made from sweet­ened soy with duck fat. Which makes it coat the rice with splen­did grease and slide down sweetly.

Much more sweetly than the blah tres leches cake, which seems thin com­pared to oth­ers of its kind. Rather like the ser­vice at Baro. There are staff hus­tling around the tall glam room, al­ways look­ing very busy.

Some of them are men in suits wear­ing head­sets. This makes them seem very im­por­tant. Per­haps too im­por­tant to no­tice that our servers (of whom there ap­pear to be two) rarely visit our ta­ble.

Maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s the new nor­mal. Maybe it mat­ters more that the place ex­udes cool, from the head­set peo­ple to the good-look­ing gals up front, from the long mar­ble bar over­look­ing the big open kitchen, from the trop­i­cal plants and brass ac­cents, from the speakeasy am­bi­ence, from the pass­word-only bar on one floor ( re­ally! It ap­par­ently changes daily).

Which all goes to show you that a good-look­ing restau­rant with spotty food and less than stel­lar ser­vice can do re­ally well in the party district. All it needs is snazzy bar food on the menu and com­pli­cated cock­tails.

The Em­peror doesn’t, ap­par­ently, re­quire much of a wardrobe.

From top: Baro’s hand­some in­te­rior, the cap­ti­vat­ing tira­di­tos ce­viche

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.