Joanne Kates dishes on Frank Parhiz­gar’s new St. Clair spot, FK Restau­rant

Village Post - - Contents - JOANNE KATES Joanne Kates trained at the Ecole Cor­don Bleu de Cui­sine in Paris. She has writ­ten ar­ti­cles for nu­mer­ous pub­li­ca­tions, in­clud­ing the New York Times, Ma­clean’s and Chate­laine.

My beloved part­ner and I have an on­go­ing fight about restau­rants. Now that I re­view less fre­quently than in yes­ter­year, we go out just for fun more often. I al­ways want to go to the places I know and love. Places with re­li­ably good food, comfy am­bi­ence and quiet enough that one can ac­tu­ally hold a con­ver­sa­tion. He is as old as me, but he’s into hip­ster havens. Oss­ing­ton, he says, with a gleam in his eye. Dun­das West!! Not for him the tried and true. And def­i­nitely not up­town.

Same deal with my friend Bar­bara. Last week we were in New York, in the East Vil­lage. Be­fore theatre we went to a de­li­cious oys­ter bar. Too loud to talk, tiny ta­ble, crazy crowded. Af­ter theatre din­ner was a French restau­rant where they in­sisted we had no reso and fi­nally/grumpily seated us in the area of high­est pos­si­ble traf­fic. We ap­peared to be the only women there in less than three-inch heels and with more than three decades un­der our belts. Food was meh. Bar­bara loved the evening be­cause she doesn’t like to dine with peo­ple her age. Af­ter din­ner I got scolded on Open Ta­ble for fail­ing to show up for my reso, and heart­burn from all the but­ter. But we did think we were cool.

Frank Parhiz­gar has not, to my knowl­edge, ever been cool. When he and wife Shawn Cooper presided over Frank’s Kitchen on Col­lege Street (2010-17), they had

a loyal clien­tele of se­ri­ous food­ies. And now Frank is back, bells, whis­tles and brass band in full form. There re­ally is no other chef in Toronto whose cook­ing is as de­tailed and com­plex as Frank’s.

The new place, FK, is on St. Clair West, smack dab in the mid­dle of the new uber-pop­u­lar Hume­wood fam­ily neighbourhood.

It is not hip. It is comfy and pretty and not noisy. Ms. Cooper de­signed the place to be a sym­phony in blue and white, with nice big tables and a quite grand ter­race out­side.

She man­ages the wait­staff su­perbly; their smooth­ness matches the cui­sine.

The menu changes con­stantly, but cer­tain eter­nal ver­i­ties stand: There is al­ways Frank’s home­made bread, three kinds. My faves are the crusty coun­try loaf and toasted onion fo­cac­cia. With dif­fer­ent spreads daily. Pray for the roasted red pep­per and chick­pea spread.

Din­ner al­ways starts with a com­plex amuse. One night a tiny goat cheese sphere topped with mi­cro greens, on which the waiter cer­e­mo­ni­ally pours a su­perbly creamy puréed beet borscht. Another night a tiny cube of liver pate sit­ting on a flower-shaped rice cracker, topped with pick­led radish and greens. All on Frank’s home­made pot­tery!

One din­ner we start with fat white as­para­gus sit­ting pretty atop a light sweet/tart hazel­nut emul­sion. And the first re­ally fine Oys­ters Rock­e­feller I’ve ever had, in many years of oys­ter-lov­ing. This dish is usu­ally leaden, over­cooked oys­ters un­der a thick gluey blan­ket of stodge. Not Frank’s! His oys­ters are per­fectly cooked, their hol­landaise roof a lemony cloud to in­hale. Lick­ing the shells is manda­tory.

That night he does su­perb lob­ster risotto, the rice al dente, the sauce a rich tomato lob­ster hy­brid, the lob­ster flesh ten­der as can be.

He also does a big fat veni­son chop strewn with seven ac­com­pa­ni­ments: Curvy smears of blood or­ange gas­trique and shep­herd pep­per purée, fric­as­seed crosnes and pears, tiny white onion flow­ers on the veni­son and a mix­ture of spinach and mush­room dux­elles un­der it. It hangs to­gether, although is per­haps a tad … busy.

If one had any crit­i­cism of Frank’s cook­ing, that would be it. Putting eight el­e­ments on one plate is too many. So much heart, such ob­ses­sional ef­fort and such a fine cook. Per­haps sim­plify a tad? And you know what, it might help draw the hip­sters.

Coun­ter­clock­wise from top: FK’s cosy din­ing room, goat’s milk cheese­cake with brown but­ter crum­ble, chilled pea soup with snow crab and rata­touille

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