COUNTER CUL­TURE

We re­port on 10 of the hottest restau­rants in town, in­clud­ing Nodo, a posh new Ital­ian bistro

Richmond Hill Post - - Contents -

A SIDE­WAYS SHUF­FLE

Judg­ing by the gi­ant crus­tacean that de­notes the en­trance, it’s not hard to con­clude what ex­actly is served at Crab Har­bour. This rel­a­tively new Ja­panese restau­rant in Rich­mond Hill keeps the fo­cus trained squarely on the lively sea crit­ter.

The ex­pan­sive eatery boasts a view of High­way 7 and is out­fit­ted with glass-topped ta­bles show­cas­ing sandy sea scenes be­neath the place set­tings. Colour­ful Ja­panese mu­rals star­ring ki­mono-wear­ing char­ac­ters liven up ac­cent walls, and quirky lights hang from above.

Pa­trons can choose to in­dulge in the prix fixe menu or opt for items à la carte. The for­mer is a nine course ode to all things crab ($58.89 per per­son). Fol­low­ing an ap­pe­tizer — such as the Ja­panese-style pick­les — the din­ner moves onto a whole snow crab. Lightly bat­tered crab tem­pura is fol­lowed by the steamed crab egg cus­tard soup. Up next is the grilled crab paste, crab leg sashimi and fi­nally the crab shabu shabu, which in­volves the crus­tacean, along with a med­ley of vegetables, tofu and noo­dles, to be cooked at the ta­ble cour­tesy of the diner’s hand.

The crabs all come pre-cracked, so din­ers need not ex­haust them­selves at­tempt­ing to do all the dirty work. Although the sub­stan­tial meal def­i­nitely gives you bang for your buck, a trio could eas­ily share what is meant to be for two.

Crab Har­bour, 280 W. Beaver Creek Rd., Unit 38, Rich­mond Hill, 905-731-5570

OLD SCHOOL COOL

“I have that old school rev­er­ence,” says Kevin Kowal­czyk, to de­scribe the choices he’s made for his new fish and chips restau­rant, Sea Witch.

Kowal­czyk fin­ished an 11-year run as the man­ager at Pen­rose Fish and Chips last Jan­uary. Given his ex­pe­ri­ence, it’s no sur­prise how tra­di­tional Sea Witch feels.

The menu is based around five species of fish: Pa­cific hal­ibut (Ocean Wise ap­proved), pick­erel, At­lantic had­dock, Pa­cific cod and Arc­tic char. Each can be con­fig­ured with chips ($10–$14), dou­ble fish ($6 ex­tra), as a sand­wich ($9–$13) or with­out chips ($2 off). There is also a kids’ hal­ibut and chips ($6).

He uses a min­i­mum amount of filler and bin­der for the hal­ibut fish cakes ($12 with chips).

“We make ev­ery­thing here,” Kowal­czyk notes, “our tar­tar, coleslaw, chow­der.”

The onion rings are dou­ble fried at two dif­fer­ent tem­per­a­tures, but Kowal­czyk won’t give up the se­cret to the coleslaw recipe his wife, Jacki Strahl, de­vel­oped. She’s also re­spon­si­ble for the tar­tar sauce.

Kowal­czyk is ob­vi­ously proud of his wall-mounted chip cut­ter in Sea Witch’s open prep kitchen. “Once in a while,” he says, “a mother will go over with a tod­dler and point it out. That’s ex­actly what I wanted.”

So far, Sea Witch is av­er­ag­ing just un­der 2,000 pounds of pota­toes per week turned into half-inch, tra­di­tional Bri­tish chips. Of the equally clas­sic choice to use beef drip­ping in the deep fryer, he says, “It’s tasty, but I re­gard it as a pretty clean prod­uct.”

Sea Witch Fish and Chips, 636 St. Clair Ave. W., 647-349-4824

JUST LIKE NONNA

In the heart of the Junc­tion, a for­mi­da­ble new Ital­ian eatery has ar­rived. The resto love-child of high school chums Vito To­ma­s­ic­chio, Gian­marco DeZorzi and Charlie Gior­dano, Nodo is a man­i­fes­ta­tion

of their com­bined years in the restau­rant in­dus­try, a shared pas­sion for the im­mer­sive Ital­ian din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and the stars align­ing just long enough to snag their sweet store­front on the meaty Dundas West strip.

Chef Roberto Marotta was born and bred in Si­cily, mak­ing him well­versed in Ital­ian cui­sine. DeZorzi and To­ma­s­ic­chio ex­plain that Ital­ian cook­ing comes down to that in­ef­fa­ble touch their non­nas have. Upon sam­pling only Marotta’s mari­nara sauce and arancini, the coown­ers were sure they had found that same kitchen magic in the chef.

Pas­tas in­clude the Gen­ovese pesto num­ber with potato, green beans and a sprin­kling of toasted pine nuts and affien­ato cheese. The gnoc­chi come with a wild boar ragu and truf­fle oil and are flagged with Brussels sprouts leaves. Other dishes in­clude the spiducci d’agnello — lamb skew­ers — and stone-baked piz­zas in var­i­ous clas­sic per­mu­ta­tions.

DeZorzi high­lights Nodo’s em­pha­sis on qual­ity and simplicity, with an un­yield­ing hon­est ap­proach to the cus­tomer. For that rea­son, noth­ing on the menu is priced higher than $19.

As for dessert, the hand­made Si­cil­ian can­noli are quite pos­si­bly the best can­noli you will ever eat, inside or out­side of Si­cily.

Nodo, 2885 Dundas St. W., 416901-1559

FOLLOW THE THAI ROAD

Sukhothai is the epit­ome of a mo­mand-pop shop turned en­ter­prise. Vin­cente Reg­u­lar, with his sons Joel and Jeff and the culi­nary ex­per­tise of daugh­ter-in-law Nuit, have been of­fer­ing au­then­tic north­ern Thai cui­sine since 2008 to east en­ders.

With the fam­ily’s ac­qui­si­tion of a siz­able Dundas West store­front, the west has now been won. Ac­cord­ing to co-owner Joel, many Thai eater­ies pro­duce food that re­sem­bles “Bangkok Thai” food, cater­ing to tourist palates, rather than na­tives.

The Reg­u­lars have a com­pletely dif­fer­ent mis­sion state­ment. Ex­ec­u­tive chef Nuit was dis­cov­ered in Thai­land by Jeff. The pair fell in love and even­tu­ally mar­ried. Nuit’s unique pas­sion and nat­u­ral tal­ent for cook­ing would turn out to be the star in­gre­di­ent putting the Reg­u­lar fam­ily on the din­ing map.

Chef be­lieves that the key to good Thai food is in a bold­ness of flavour with a cer­tain je ne c’est quoi that can only be coaxed into a curry with time, pa­tience and the ab­so­lute high­est qual­ity of in­gre­di­ents. You cer­tainly won’t find ketchup in the recipe for their pad Thai ($13). Their house spe­cialty, khao soi, is a jux­ta­po­si­tion of crispy and soft noo­dles smoth­ered in a cur­ried gravy with ten­der chunks of chicken or beef ($13).

For those who wish not to dine out­side the com­fort of home, a de­liv­ery ser­vice is promised for the near fu­ture.

Sukhothai, 1442 Dundas St. W., 416-792-2432

SCUT­TLE­BUTT

Mario Batali, owner of Ital­ian foodie fave Eataly, has some­what cryp­ti­cally an­nounced, via Twit­ter, that T.O. will “maybe, most cer­tainly, most likely” play host to the Ital­ian food mar­ket chain in the near fu­ture. Stay tuned for up­dates. Buca spinoff, Buca Osteria & Bar, just opened at 53 Scol­lard St. in Yorkville. The space will func­tion as a café and lunch joint by day be­fore kick­ing into din­ner mode come sun­down. Pizza and pasta are still present, but ex­pect more seafood on the menu at this new lo­ca­tion.

The sec­ond lo­ca­tion of popular Les­lieville pas­try shop Bob­bette & Belle is now open at 3347 Yonge St. Pick up pas­tel-hued mac­arons, the ever-popular cup­cakes and full cakes in flavours like pump­kin spice and choco­late hazel­nut ganache.

States-side burger joint Carl’s Jr. will be set­ting up camp at 272 Queen St. W. for its premier Canuck lo­ca­tion.

Sched­uled to open on Dec. 1 on St. Clair Av­enue just west of Yonge is 180 Secondi. The con­cept is to be a self-serve ar­ti­sanal pizze­ria.

North Toronto’s But­ter Av­enue has traipsed down­town, open­ing its sec­ond shop at 477 Queen St. W. Mac­arons are the name of the game at this patis­serie, though pa­trons can also munch on cook­ies, cakes and bon­bons.

From top: stone-baked pizza at Nodo; Sukhothai’s fresh rolls with peanut sauce; the ubiq­ui­tous crus­tacean at Crab Har­bour

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