SOME OF TORONTO’S MOST CELEBRATED CHEFS ARE OPENING NEW EATERIES DURING THE SUMMER MONTHS
Guess what’s new in the resto scene this summer? Plus superb summer beers.
Banh Mi Boys get lucky
Known as David, Phil and Peter Chau to their mom and dad, the Banh Mi Boys have come a long way in just two years.
Since first opening at Queen and Spadina, their two eponymous takeaways are regularly found amongst the more vaunted spots on Toronto best o’ resto lists. Queues have been the norm from the get- go.
The brothers are about to strike gold for a third time with the launch of the 36-seat Lucky Red in Chinatown. June 5 is the pencilled-in date. And instead of Asian fusion fare like the multiculti tacos and Saigon subs stuffed with duck confit that give BMB its considerable rep, bao will be the main attraction.
“They’re nothing like the ones we sell now,” says David Chau. “For starters, the tops and bottoms are separate and not hinged like traditional bao. We’ll still be steaming them, but we’ll be baking and deep-frying them, too.”
Their new fillings are familiar yet different as well.
“We’ll be doing smoked beef tongue, but with caramelized onion and hot mustard like a little hamburger. And there’ll be ramen, too, only our version comes topped with barbecued chicken wings.” Is Lucky Red the first of many? “Not necessarily,” says a cautious Chau. “Banh Mi Boys will always be our priority. We’ve checked out at least 10 other restaurants in the downtown core as possible locations, but none of them have worked out. I guess we’ll have to start looking uptown!” Lucky Red, 318 Spadina, at Dundas West, luckyredshop.com, @luckyredshop
Beach taco a no-go, but...
Despite earlier reports, Andrew Richmond will not be launching a second
La Carnita in the Beach this summer. His plan to open an east-side version of his insanely popular College Street taqueria is now on hold.
“We had problems with zoning and bylaws,” says Richmond of the storefront at 1953 Queen East. “It’s a great two-storey space, but it turned out there’s a limit to what we could do with it. The capacity would’ve been really, really small, to the point that it didn’t make sense to go ahead. So I had to let it go.”
Richmond is not giving up on the east side just yet. He’s already come close to signing a deal on a Leslieville property. Could Chinatown East or Little India be next? “We’ve got a couple of spots we’re considering, and we’re close to pulling the trigger on one. We’re hoping to be open by the end of August. We just need to find the right
The Bristol bites back
When Davy Love shuttered his NOW Reader’s Poll-winning Bristol Yard last month, he announced that the all- day brunch spot would soon resurface as the Bristol and Bombay, a UK- centric gastro-pub with an emphasis on curries. He didn’t exactly say where, though.
Since then, he’s finally found a home in the short-lived Samuel J. Moore bistro. Occupying the ground floor of Queen West’s Great Hall, the resto will run from lunch till late. He’s also shortened the name to the Bristol.
“When people saw Bombay, they thought we were turning into an Indian restaurant,” explains the parttime DJ.
Oh, there’ll still be Brit-style curries (onion bhaji Scotch eggs followed by a Bristol 2 Electric Vindaloo should do the trick), but they’ll share space with the Yard’s signature old-school meat pies. Love’s crowd-pleasing brunch will now be served weekends only. He’s even come up with an incendiary ghost-pepper sausage he’ll side with turmeric mash.
“If you can eat that, you can eat anything.”
The week after the Bristol’s scheduled June 7 launch, Love celebrates a certain upcoming soccer tournament with what he calls the World Cup of Pies. “Say Germany is playing Italy that day. We’ll have a schnitzel pie and a cacciatore pie, and whichever sells the most wins the Cup!”
Lobster attacks east side
Rock Lobster’s Matt Dean Pettit is one helluva busy guy.
Besides recently launching the Boots & Bourbon saloon in Riverside with partner Darryl “Bovine Sex
Club” Fine, he’s just created a line of lobster-to- go products for the Sobeys supermarket chain and written a lobster cookbook that comes out in October.
Hot on the heels of the original on Ossington and its sequel on Queen West, Petit looks to unveil a third Rock Lobster on Queen East any day now. Why Leslieville?
“Right from the beginning we’ve had a lot of customers say we’ve got to come to the east side,” explains Pettit. “It’s something we’ve always wanted to do, and the timing seems right.”
The new RL won’t be a mere carbon copy of its west-side siblings, though much of the lobster-mad carte remains. Think more familyfriendly.
“We’re going to have a kids’ menu for the first time, and we’re definitely doing brunch. I firmly believe that you can’t just put a restaurant into a neighbourhood and hope it works. You have to work the restaurant into the neighbourhood. If that means designated stroller parking on the patio, we’ll do it!” Rock Lobster, 1192 Queen East, at Curzon, rocklobsterfood.com, @RockLobsterFood
Buca takes Yorkville
Rob Gentile doesn’t like to move quickly.
It took the executive chef of King West’s Buca – arguably downtown’s top Italian trat – more than two years from the day it was first announced to launch the Bar Buca spinoff on Portland. The third projected Buca – Buca
Osteria Enoteca, to be precise – in Yorkville’s Four Seasons Hotel seems to be taking even longer. What gives?
“The space wasn’t originally designed to be a restaurant,” says Gentile. “We’ve had to make a lot of upgrades and retrofits, basic things like power and plumbing. We probably went through 10 different designs before we got it the way we wanted.”
Now that construction’s under way, what should we expect when Buca 3.0 finally opens come late July?
“It’ll be the same menu as King Street, but we’ll be replacing the meat salumi elements with cured fish. The look will stay rustic industrial, but the front of the restaurant will be more like Bar Buca.”
Running a successful restaurant can be very stressful. Is he up to the challenge of three?
“That’s always the question, but I think I’m prepared for it,” laughs Gentile. “I’ve got a very good team. And wait till you see the kitchen – it’s a beauty!” Buca Osteria Enoteca, 60 Yorkville, at Bay, 416-962-2822, buca. ca, @BucaToronto
Cut to the chase
Now that New York City superstar chef Scott Conant’s Scarpetta has scarpered back to the Big Apple, the Thompson Hotel has brought in the team behind the wildly successful Chase to replace its firstfloor flagship resto. They’re calling it Col
“We wanted something that represented femininity,” says Chase Hospitality Group executive chef Michael Steh. “Something light and delicate like the food.” And so it’s goodbye to Scarpetta’s pricey spaghetti, and hello, accessible French cuisine. There’ll actually be two Colettes, one a more formal dining room, the other a casual bakery café, not to mention a drop- dead gorgeous outdoor terrace complete with reflecting pool and Space Needle view. What can we expect of the carte?
“If anything, I want Colette to be as far away from a typical French brasserie or bistro as it can be. I’d describe it as somewhere between Michel Bras and Alain Ducasse – modern French but with classic technique.”
Scheduled to launch in late June, Colette isn’t the only new restaurant in Steh’s immediate future. He’s about to convert the former Fiore on the first floor of the Chase’s Temperance Street home into the slightly downmarket Little Fin. Do we smell fish tacos?
“It’s one of the most exciting projects we’ve ever done. And we’ve already got another two Fins in the works. I really believe that down the road we’ll have five or six of the best restaurants in Toronto.”
Colette, 550 Wellington West, at Bathurst, 647-348-7000 , colettetoronto.com, @ColetteToronto
Drake Devonshire Inn
The Drake Hotel’s much-delayed expansion into Prince Edward County has been in the cards for quite some time, but it looks like it’s finally going to happen this summer.
To celebrate its imminent mid-July launch, the boutique hotel hosts a preview dinner at Drake One Fifty on Monday ( June 2). The 13-room Inn’s head chef, Matt DeMille, spills the beans.
“We’re doing shrimp cocktail but deconstructed,” says the one-time Le Select and Parts and Labour sous chef. “You grab some shrimp and some alfalfa sprouts and then you wrap it in lettuce like a taco or a Korean ssam. I like regionally sourced food with aggressive flavours that pop in your mouth.”
And it doesn’t get any more local than Bay of Quinte pickerel, especially when sided with a panzanella bread salad thick with roasted corn from the farm down the road. There’s even a lemon-tart milkshake for dessert. Say what?
“You put a lemon tart, some milk and some ice cream in a blender and that’s it. It’s awesome. I call it the fine line between cheesy and cheeky. I have no idea where the idea came from, but I swear I wasn’t high.”
Drake Devonshire Inn, 24 Wharf, at Main, Wellington, 613-399-1851, drakedevonshire.ca, @thedrakehotel
Not content with owning two of the busiest cantinas in town, Colin Tooke and Ian McGrenaghan of Grand Elec
tric and Electric Mud are bringing tacos to Port Carling. How come?
“It sounds like fun,” laughs McGrenaghan. “We open restaurants in areas we enjoy, and we really like the idea of doing something in cottage country. It’s beautiful up there. End of discussion!”
The two have secured the lease on an old marina right on the locks between Lakes Muskoka and Rosseau. Look for the 10-foot fibreglass shark with the gold tooth on the roof.
“On the top floor is a company that restores badass antique boats, and there’s a kayak club right beside us. It’s pretty cool. You can drive your boat right up to the restaurant.”
Scheduled to launch June 5, the 50-seat resto, with a 70-seat patio, is open Thursday to Saturday from noon to 10 pm through the Thanksgiving long weekend. Should we expect Grand Electric’s greatest hits?
“We’ll still have shrimp tacos, but there’ll also be a couple of ceviches and lots of oysters.”
Surrounded by all that water, will you be serving anything fished from the lake?
“Only if we’re drunk enough!” Grand Electric Muskoka, 2 James Bartleman Way, at Joseph, Port Carling, 705-765- 0381, grandelectricbar.com, @grandelectricTO
The smoked meat steamed bao and oyster baked bao with XO sauce are on the card at Banh Mi Boys’ new Lucky Red.
Andrew Richmond has his eye on a location in Leslieville for another incarnation of La Carnita.
Davy Love’s transforming the Bristol Yard into the Bristol and moving the operation to the Great Hall in time for summer.
A third location for Rock Lobster is coming to Queen East.
Chef Rob Gentile is launching his second Buca spinoff at the Four Seasons Hotel.
The soon-to- open Drake Devonshire Inn in Prince Edward County will feature locally sourced grilled pickerel with bread salad.
Colette is moving into the Thompson Hotel with a modern French menu.
Grand Electric is bringing its crudo tostada to Port Carling.