It’s all about this icy Korean dessert
Plus a charming new bistro, a resto for comic book nerds and a big craft brewery
Since popping up on the dessert scene, the Cups has been carving out quite the name for itself. With the original location in Thornhill, a sibling dessert café has been seducing the good people of North York as of late. Now that the weather has warmed up, it’s the perfect time to dive into a bowl of bingsu — Korea’s summery shaved ice treat.
Anyone unfamiliar with bingsu should note that it’s really a dessert to share. The term “bingsu” is a shortened form of “patbingsu,” which means “red beans and ice” in Korean. In South Korea the dessert is incredibly popular once the weather hots up, and if you’ve ever lived in or visited the ROK, chances are you found its allure inescapable.
At the Cups, the bingsu is naturally a major draw. It’s available in flavours like red bean, matcha and injeolmi — a popular Korean rice cake topped with powdered dried beans. The bowl starts with a pile of fluffy milk shaved ice and is subsequently loaded up with toppings. The red bean version comes with sweet red bean, soybean powder, chewy mochi, almond slivers, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and condensed milk. For a proper bite, scoop up all the elements in one fell swoop. For less traditional flavours, go for the extravagant tiramisù bingsu, which comes topped with a slice of cake and whipped cream. The eatery also does individually sized bingsus, which arrive in a cup. Other eats include Hawaiian Spam musubi and spicy pork cup bap, but let’s be real — you came here for the dessert (The Cups, 5418 Yonge St., 416-546-3257). — Karolyne Ellacott
FUN AND GAMES
If you’re a food lover and a comic book nerd who enjoys the finer things in life, listen up. Figures is here to inject a little fun into Yorkville. The 2,000-square-foot, 80-seat space is the doing of brothers Nader and Patrick Marzouk.
The meticulously designed space is the work of Prototype Design Lab who worked with the owners and local artists to create a unique art-filled space. Surprisingly, social media use is discouraged at Figures.
This is not the brothers’ first rodeo: their first restaurant is &Company, the largest independently owned restaurant in Mississauga. But for their new digs, the duo opted to branch out to Toronto.
“Yorkville is having a resurgence,” says Nader. “It has great food, great service, fantastic venues but is lacking a bit of fun.” The eatery has already been visited by Kim K’s best pal Jonathan Cheban and a few Raptors.
Some of the rare finds that you’ll discover in the Figures store include original Archie comic drawings, the first-ever Superman statue and a collection of the original Mickey Mouse books from 1921. There’s also a first rendering model of Darth Vader, of which only 100 were made. It’ll cost you a cool $5,000.
Executive chef Ron Stratton has worked with master chefs, including Daniel Boulud and Marc Thuet. His small plate menu is built around fresh ingredients, meaning that it changes frequently. Pasta might be oversized ravioli filled with butternut squash and finished with a hand-poured squash purée ($22). Lobster may arrive served two ways: a tempura lobster claw with caviar and a lobster salad topped with a fried egg ($38). As for dessert, they do a Mexican chocolate number that hides a rich chocolate square topped with 22 karat gold flakes and chocolate robots ($18) (Figures, 137 Avenue Rd., 416-900-1022). — Amanda Nunes
MAKING BISTRO HISTORY
Midtown has always been home to great neighbourhood bistros. Although the likes of Célestin and Mogette Bistro are no more, not all is lost. Laurie Hillesheim, long-time industry veteran and first-time restaurateur has opened up Birch Bistro in the old Célestin spot on Mount Pleasant. Hillesheim has enlisted chef Philippe Coeurdassier, formerly of Mogette Bistro, to run the kitchen. Just like that, we’ve come full circle.
“French cuisine is my favourite, and this was my dream location,” Hillesheim says. The recent general manager of Nota Bene decided to name the restaurant after her favourite tree that is beautiful but also nourishes forests. “I just want to create a beautiful space, with beautiful food with thoughtful and kind service; a great neighbourhood spot,” she says.
The 70-seat bistro has elegant yet simple designs with a 1901 Heintzman piano as an accent, burgundy banquettes and a bank vault, remnants of its former occupant. On the menu you’ll find classic bistro fare such as duck confit, steak frites and moules marinières. With chef Coeurdassier having grown up near Alsace, he says, “cooking is in my blood.” The salmon “cannelloni” is a source of pride for chef, who uses slices of salmon as the pasta to encase a creamy leek fondue served with a side of frisée.
On the dessert menu you’ll find French classics such as crème brûlée and île flottante (a meringue bathed in a pool of crème anglaise) (Birch Bistro, 623A Mt. Pleasant Rd.). — Yvonne Tsui
Liberty Village has itself a grand new brewery. Big Rock, Canada’s largest independent craft brewery, has teamed up with Oliver & Bonacini to open up Liberty Commons. The Liberty Village brewery is Big Rock’s second in Ontario after their productionscale facility in Etobicoke.
The Big Rock Beer Shop upstairs will pour samples from their eight taps (plus eight more growler fill stations) into 12 oz. glasses. For retail options, they have tall cans, bottles in sixes and 12s, plus 32 oz. and 64 oz. growlers.
Downstairs, full pints and tasting flights are available. The menu features plenty of recognizable favourites like fish and chips, Scotch eggs and a beefy cottage pie. There are also sharing dishes like Moby Dick fish and chips ($75) (Liberty Commons at Big Rock Brewery, 42 Liberty St., 416-304-9403 ). — David Ort
Clockwise from left: Figures’ beet carpaccio and tartare, the burger at Liberty Commons, Birch Bistro’s duck confit with asparagus
The Cups sure knows its bingsu desserts