Where to Eat Now Alo­bar Yorkville, the new­est ad­di­tion to Pa­trick Kriss’s glit­ter­ing em­pire

Alo­bar Yorkville is mid­town’s more ap­proach­able an­swer to Pa­trick Kriss’s high-stakes orig­i­nal

Toronto Life - - Contents - by mark pupo

The bar at Pa­trick Kriss’s Alo, tucked away three storeys above Queen and Spad­ina, has been my closely guarded se­cret. Not many peo­ple know that if you can’t score a reser­va­tion in the restau­rant— they are re­leased ev­ery two months and dis­ap­pear in­stantly—you can count on a mid­week walk-in ta­ble in the ad­join­ing room and feast from a short menu of sub­stan­tial bar snacks. Those snacks pro­vide a fair ap­prox­i­ma­tion of the magic in the main din­ing room. The bar­tenders also make one of the city’s best mar­ti­nis.

At the end of the sum­mer, Kriss opened Alo­bar, a stand-alone bar in a neigh­bour­hood with no short­age of op­tions for small plates and drinks: Yorkville. He eas­ily one-ups his com­peti­tors. The en­trance is reached through a dis­creet al­ley­way and shaded court­yard—there’s pa­tio seat­ing but not much of a view. As at the orig­i­nal Alo, and Kriss’s up­scale diner Aloette, all is metic­u­lously pol­ished to per­fec­tion: the staff (neat in blue jack­ets and crisp white shirts), the decor (plush scoop chairs, dark mir­rors mul­ti­ply­ing the room, sig­na­ture brass in­lays cut­ting across the wood floor) and a mu­sic mix that’s jazzy with­out be­ing ob­tru­sive. More im­por­tantly, the mar­ti­nis re­main ter­rific, and the next best drink is the Glass Onion, com­posed of crisp gin, for­ti­fied wine and küm­mel, a fen­nel and car­away liqueur. Christo­pher Sealy, the Alo group’s head som­me­lier, cir­cu­lates through the room to an­swer queries about a col­lec­tion that’s starry and Euro­cen­tric, some from cult Tus­can and Le­banese pro­duc­ers. One com­plaint: he

needs more than a dozen by-the-glass choices, since no sin­gle bot­tle ad­e­quately strad­dles a din­ner here. The menu, de­signed by Kriss and chef de cui­sine Matthew Betsch, di­vides into small and big shar­ing plates, plus sides (a jar of frites, a bowl of creamed, but­tery spinach, a wedge salad coated in toasted quinoa and curls of shaved blue cheese). It’s more like Aloette (à la carte and best shared) but dressed in a coat of only-in-Yorkville, over-the-top lux­ury. The kitchen wraps ha­machi in sheets of translu­cent Iberico ham, brushes hefty chunks of lob­ster with XO sauce, and floats sea scal­lops, as thick as hockey pucks, in a vi­brant pool of puréed sum­mer corn and jalapeño. Some­times they go too far, over­whelm­ing tuna belly tartare with a funky moun­tain of black truf­fle shav­ings or coat­ing blis­tered San Marzano toma­toes, ten­der and sweet, with a gra­nola-crunch blan­ket of pine nuts and bread­crumbs. Then they take us back to the sub­lime: a cock­tail glass of foie gras par­fait, creamy and stud­ded with pre­served cher­ries, plus frozen shav­ings of yet more foie gras. Desserts like mille feuille, a stack of al­ter­nat­ing puff pas­try and Chan­tilly cream, are equally won­der­ful.

Some mid­town­ers may have been dis­ap­pointed that Kriss opened a lounge in Yorkville in­stead of the full Alo ex­pe­ri­ence. But an ex­clu­sive restau­rant like Alo, with its high-stakes nightly chef’s menu, doesn’t lend it­self to em­pire build­ing—it can’t eas­ily be cloned. Alo­bar and Aloette are more loose­limbed, chill, ap­proach­able. They prove the strength of the orig­i­nal’s DNA.

The Glass Onion, a savoury cock­tail made with a fen­nel and car­away liqueur (above left); Nova Sco­tia lob­ster in house-made XO sauce with gin­ger, or­ange and co­rian­der (above right)

Chef de cui­sine Matthew Betsch fin­ishes sea scal­lops in a pool of puréed sum­mer corn and jalapeño (bot­tom left), while pas­try chef Re­bekah Bruce cre­ates stun­ning sweets like mille feuille, which lay­ers puff pas­try with Chan­tilly cream (top right)

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