Sash Simpson over­saw the kitchen at North 44 for two decades. Now he is mak­ing his first in­de­pen­dent foray.

Richmond Hill Post - - Contents - CARO­LINE AKSICH & KAROLYNE EL­LA­COTT Karolyne El­la­cott is the for­mer food ed­i­tor of Post CIty Mag­a­zines, and Caro­line Aksich has writ­ten for Toronto Life, Food­ism and other pub­li­ca­tions. Food critic Joanne Kates will re­turn in Septem­ber.

Our re­view of North 44 al­umn Sash Simpson’s new fine din­ing des­ti­na­tion

A whis­per af­ter 5 o’clock, Sum­mer­hill’s new Sash restau­rant is com­pletely empty. OpenTable is prob­a­bly to blame — the web­site was adamant that there was only one ta­ble left to snag be­fore 6:30. So, here we sit, just us and a small army of servers. We won’t see an­other pa­tron un­til 5:39 p.m.

This is the chef-owner Sash Simpson’s first foray into restau­rant own­er­ship. He over­saw the kitchen at Mark McEwan’s now-shut­tered North 44 for over two decades — hav­ing worked his way up from line cook to exec chef — so he’s well versed in the up­town crowd.

His menu angles to bait the Rosedale and For­est Hill set with up­scale clas­sics: fancy mush­rooms, caviar, foie, tartares (from land and sea), and game meats, all at prices that ri­val Scaramouch­e’s… with­out the view. On closer in­spec­tion, many dishes are in fact North 44 car­ry­overs that have been res­ur­rected at Sash. (Chef says although “it’s a very sim­i­lar style of food; there is no re­peated dish.”)

The in­te­ri­ors are awash in greys, with table­tops hugged by white linens, chairs of the high-backed va­ri­ety, and a gi­ant wall of win­dows let­ting in the af­ter­noon light. It’s (also) all very North 44. Even the wait­staff uni­forms (black aprons, grey vests with brass but­tons that match the light fix­tures) are a ves­tige of ’90s fine din­ing.

Wa­ter is prof­fered: still or sparkling. With many res­tau­rants of­fer­ing this free of charge now, we were sur­prised to see a $10 charge on the bill.

While we wait for the room to fill, baguette ar­rives along­side a quenelle of whipped truf­fle but­ter.

Simpson’s love of all things haute comes across in the menus. One is devoted to oys­ters (think Rasp­berry Point, Green Gable, Fanny Bay), an­other to caviar, with 10 grams of the Rus­sian Ose­tra at $140 be­ing the most ac­ces­si­ble. The rest of the ed­i­ble of­fer­ings take in­spi­ra­tion from across the globe, with a few nods to Simpson’s Indian upbringing.

To start, there’s the Sash Salad, a plate of a half-dozen different greens tossed with sweet peas, pear, and chanterell­es that could use a sear. A name­sake salad for $16 should wow, but this does not — it would make for an ex­cel­lent side salad, per­haps. De­spite the ra­tio of servers to pa­trons (we’re still out­num­bered), our waiter, when asked, is un­sure which leaves we’re consuming.

A starter-sized ravi­oli par­cel ar­rives next, a com­fort­ing pack­age filled to burst­ing with more of those sweet peas. The pasta it­self is per­fec­tion, yield­ing with just enough chew, and the beurre noisette sauce is deca­dent with­out be­ing heavy. The only is­sue: it could use more salt. Our re­quest for more sea­son­ing is not met with fleur de sel, but a Sifto-filled shaker.

Mains are priced from $36 for a clas­sic chicken supreme to $150 for a Cana­dian prime cow­boy steak. Af­ter in­quir­ing about menu stand­outs, our server sug­gests the Chilean sea bass — one of chef’s sig­na­tures — and the roasted lamb. The for­mer ar­rives atop a delicate pool of Madras curry, the fish per­fectly ten­der and the curry light enough to let the fish shine while still boast­ing a back­bone of flavour. A triplet of ob­long veg­etable pako­ras add sub­stance, while a few fin­gers of fried okra add crunch.

For the lamb rack, lol­lipops are splayed out nicely atop a mound of white bean ragout with fid­dle­heads. Minty chimichurr­i en­hances the medium-rare meat, which tears off the bone with ease. This dish — and all the rest — has very good mo­ments, but needs something more to truly sat­isfy.

Dur­ing our stay, chef Sash is nowhere to be seen, in ei­ther the open kitchen nor the din­ing area. As he leads a restau­rant that as­pires to heights it doesn’t quite reach, it may do him well to make an ap­pear­ance work­ing the pass or simply work­ing the room.

“A name­sake salad for $16 should wow, but this does not.”

Clock­wise from top: Sash’s brass ac­cents, the roasted rack of lamb, deca­dent slices of truf­fled foie gras tor­chon

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