Get­ting friendly with cheese in Thorn­hill

Plus masters of pocket-sized restos strike again

Thornhill Post - - Food -


On the culi­nary play­ground, we all wanna make friends with cheese. (OK, the lac­tose in­tol­er­ant don’t, but that’s be­side the point.) And the own­ers of Game of Cheese, Thorn­hill’s brand new cheesy pocket of de­li­cious­ness, are bank­ing on that idea.

With one foot in­side the res­tau­rant, lo­cated at High­way 7 and Les­lie, it’s clear that one has en­tered a cheese king­dom. An ex­ten­sive mu­ral is sprawled across a wall, star­ring a pa­rade of an­gry car­toon wedges of cheese who are be­ing chased by very chubby cheeked cheese-headed crea­tures. The art spills over the ta­ble tops, which hide whim­si­cal be­ings be­neath their glass tops. There’s some­thing to be said for go­ing all out with a theme.

But the decor is merely a means to whet the diner’s whis­tle. The menu is where things get su­per cheesy. Fon­due makes a huge dent on the menu, with op­tions reach­ing from a Swiss cheese pot to the Malaysian-in­spired laksa cheese pot. Each fon­due comes with a choice of carb (think mac­a­roni, rice and egg nod­dles) as well as plenty of add-ons. Go with more meat, like beef or lamb; seafood, such as squid balls; and of course, plenty of cheese: white Ched­dar, fontina, Mon­terey Jack...

Other cheesy bites in­clude the cheesy sweet corn, a cou­ple of pou­tines, four cheese gnoc­chi and the gi­ant grandma’s meat­ball spaghetti, loaded up with meat­balls, mozza and parm and served in a skil­let.

For dessert, var­i­ous cheese­cakes are on of­fer, such as an Oreo and green tea num­ber and a su­per creamy cheese­cake that’s baked for three hours and served with berry com­pote and yo­gurt sor­bet (Game of Cheese, 505 Hwy. 7, Thorn­hill, 905-597-1317). SPICE IS NICE — Karolyne El­la­cott Toronto’s sea­soned res­tau­rant duo of chef Doug Pen­fold and Niall McCot­ter (Cava, Chabrol) has a new ad­di­tion to the fam­ily. At­las is a French-Moroc­can res­tau­rant at the corner of Av­enue and Dupont. The pair’s suc­cess seems to stem from the fact that each of the restau­rants is an ex­plo­ration and jour­ney. “We don’t get bored, we’re hun­gry guys, and we’ll keep ex­plor­ing,” says Pen­fold.

In keep­ing with the duo’s ethos of small, char­ac­ter-driven spaces, the spot seats 24 and has tall ceil­ings and big win­dows that open up the room to pre­vent a feel­ing of claus­tro­pho­bia. The res­tau­rant con­cept grew from Pen­fold’s many jaunts to Morocco over the years. He hopes to lead Toronto din­ers “off the path” a bit. “The coun­try is re­ally de­li­cious,” he says, not­ing there is “a lot of vari­a­tion from town to town — ev­ery­one is fiercely ter­ri­to­rial and proud of their own recipes.”

The menu skips over dif­fer­ent re­gions of the coun­try. The sar­dine kefta is spiced with ras el hanout, the famed North African spice mix. Al­though tagine is of­ten as­so­ci­ated with lamb and chicken, Pen­fold of­fers a lesser­known style made with white­fish, potato, zuc­chini and pep­pers. A spiced leg of chicken ar­rives on a bed of apri­cots, pine nuts and creamed spinach. As for dessert, tuck into a laven­der and sesame roulade served on a bed of silky black­berry purée and poached pear (At­las Res­tau­rant, 18 Dupont St., 416-5469050). — Yvonne Tsui


Yorkville’s Nao Steak­house is no more. Step­ping into its shoes is Es­tia, the lat­est res­tau­rant in the Iconink col­lec­tion. With a moniker that ref­er­ences the Greek god­dess of the hearth, the res­tau­rant is dish­ing out food that looks to the Mediter­ranean for in­spi­ra­tion, with a no­tice­able fo­cus on Greece.

“Life­styles are chang­ing,” notes di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions Christina Kuypers. “Peo­ple are eat­ing out more fre­quently at places with more di­verse of­fer­ings.”

Ex­ec­u­tive chef Ben­jamin Heaton has cre­ated a menu that is more re­flec­tive of cur­rent eat­ing habits in Toronto. It’s also food that he’s “re­ally into — re­ally sim­ple but good in­gre­di­ents.”

The menu reaches from sal­ads to seafood to meat and back again, with ev­ery­thing, save for the olives, made in-house. Those look­ing for lighter bites can tuck into one of the six salad op­tions (it is Yorkville, af­ter all). Think fen­nel and radic­chio with green olives and pro­volone in a honey vinai­grette. Pasta op­tions in­clude seafood lin­guine stud­ded with clams, mus­sels, shrimp and squid. Mean­while, meatier op­tions in­clude the wild oregano–rubbed wood oven chicken or the 14-ounce bone-in steak, a nod to the days of Nao. For dessert, yo­gurt cake ar­rives with Meyer lemon mar­malade and a dol­lop of tangy yo­gurt.

Es­tia’s bev­er­age pro­gram is de­signed to com­ple­ment the food, with plenty of Mediter­ranean wines, in­clud­ing the Xi­no­mavro, which Kuypers calls a “Pinot Noir in black jeans.” Crush­able cock­tails, like the sig­na­ture rosé-based Es­tia Spritz, are des­tined for sip­ping on the 80-seat pa­tio (Es­tia, 90 Av­enue Rd., 416-367-4141). — Yvonne Tsui DRINKS O’CLOCK Queen East’s beloved neigh­bour­hood gas­tropub, Pro­hi­bi­tion Gastrohouse, has a brand new out­post at Yonge and Eglin­ton. Sit­ting pretty in a for­mer Bos­ton Pizza space, the wa­ter­ing hole took a cool eight months to build. Fans of the Riverdale eatery are likely fa­mil­iar with their so-called Hooch Hour, a twice daily oc­cur­rence marked by clocks hang­ing over the bar.

When asked what dif­fer­en­ti­ates Pro­hi­bi­tion from the many other gas­trop­ubs in the city, owner Michael Sum­mer­field says, “Our worst is every­body’s best,” re­fer­ring to their “ul­tra pre­mium bar rail.” It fea­tures brands such as Lot No. 40 rye, Los Azule­jos tequila, Tan­queray No. Ten gin and Grey Goose vodka. Both im­ported and lo­cal craft brews are found on tap.

But it’s not only about the hooch. Serv­ing brunch, lunch and din­ner, Pro­hi­bi­tion dishes out el­e­vated com­fort food. Items that don’t show up on your ev­ery­day pub menu in­clude a whole sec­tion of con­ser­vas — pro­vi­sions served in their cans in­spired by the pop­u­lar trend in Spain. Or­der these just to get the im­pres­sive ac­cou­trements that come on the side. Other of­fer­ings in­clude the flam­ing Greek burger, which ar­rives topped with a healthy slab of fried Ke­falo­tyri cheese, is doused with a shot of brandy and lit on fire ta­ble­side. The truf­fle mac ’n’ cheese is a star item, ooz­ing with a mix­ture of Gruyère, Em­men­thal and Bleu Er­mite and capped with a jalapenoChed­dar bis­cuit crust.

A back pa­tio is cur­rently in the works and will seat 80 once opened. Al­though some may think that open­ing a se­cond 100-seat res­tau­rant is a lofty goal, Sum­mer­field isn’t stop­ping there.

“Wher­ever there’s a Keg, we want to be right be­side them,” he says (Pro­hi­bi­tion Gastrohouse Mid­town, 40 Eglin­ton Ave. E., 416406-2669). — Yvonne Tsui

Clock­wise from left: the meat­ball spaghetti at Game of Cheese, a Moroc­can spread at Dupont new­bie At­las; one of Es­tia’s salad of­fer­ings;

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