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Canoe Restaurant

May 8, 2017

Over Canadian Thanksgiving 2016, my husband made plans for us to take a long weekend trip to Niagara Falls and Toronto, Canada.  Toronto is a city that my husband has wanted to visit for quite a while now but for some reason or another things just never worked out, not even mentioning the fact that for some reason airfare between Los Angeles to Toronto always seems to be so outrageously expensive.  But finally, the stars aligned and we planned ourselves a trip to Ontario’s capital city.  After flying a redeye from Los Angeles into Toronto and arriving in the wee hours of the morning, we had made plans to pick up a rental car and head out to Niagara Falls for a quick day trip.  Luckily, from the airport Niagara Falls was a quick hour-ish jaunt.  A beautiful early fall day, we picked the most wonderful day to travel out to the US-Canada border.  After returning back to the airport to drop off our rental car, we made our way into Toronto and arrived into this great metropolitan city late in the afternoon.  We had made plans later that evening to enjoy a meal with a view at a restaurant within walking distance to our hotel.

Canoe Restaurant, located on the 54th floor of the TD Bank Tower building in downtown Toronto is a wonderful celebration of the history and culture of Canada with cuisine that they call “Inspired by Canada’s Raw, Rich Land.”  Having been a mainstay of Toronto cuisine for over 20 years, Canoe seeks to inspire and connect people through cuisine by sourcing only the highest quality and finest ingredients from throughout Canada.  Canoe describes their menu as “inspired dishes reflective of our country’s diverse landscape, history and culture.”

With an expansive interior dining room that is decorated in a very minimalistic style and accentuated with earth tones and wooden accent pieces, the entire dining room is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the beautiful skyscape of downtown Toronto and Lake Ontario beyond that.  In one corner of the restaurant, nearest to where we were seated was a beautiful open kitchen with some bar-style seating for those who wanted a front row on the inner workings of a world class restaurant.  Canoe has often been listed as one of Canada’s top restaurants and dining here, it’s easy to see why.

Canoe Old Fashioned made with Crown Royal Northern harvest rye, Maker’s Mark bourbon, sugar, Angostura bitters, and orange peel was my husband’s drink of choice.  After a sip of his drink, his comment was “thumbs up!”  He thought that the Canoe Old Fashioned had the right mixture of rye and bitters without too much orange.  In other words, there was the essence of orange, but it wasn’t the primary ingredient in the drink, and the drink was nice and strong.

Prior to our meal arriving, we were served with Canoe’s own potato and bacon bread which was served with a white bean and sumac spread.  The bread was fantastic, but very dense and filling.  It must have been the potato which caused the bread to be so dense as it looked light with a bunch of air pockets, but picking up a piece and you could feel the density.  After a bite into the bread my husband’s comment was, “whoa!”  The bread was incredible with a light potato and bright bacon flavor.  You could clearly taste both ingredients in each bite.  The white bean and sumac spread was interesting, somewhat like hummus in texture and slightly in flavor.  However, I think my husband and I both liked the bread on its own without the spread so much.

Since we had been traveling, essentially since the previous evening when we flew our red-eye flight, and didn’t really stop to have a proper lunch at Niagara Falls, we were starving by the time dinner came around.  For his starter, my husband chose the s’mores foie gras.  Personally, I didn’t think that sounded appealing at all, but luckily, we weren’t sharing an appetizer, so my husband could order whatever he wanted.  The s’mores foie gras was served with graham cracker crumble, chocolate sauce and toasted marshmallow cream, everything you would have assumed would be a s’mores treat, well, except for the foie gras.  My husband really enjoyed the smoky caramelized marshmallow foam, it added that depth and layer of flavor.  The combination of the foie gras and the chocolate sauce was a winning one in my husband’s estimation.  He thought that the foie gras was so rich and tender and the sweetness of the chocolate sauce just added to both the sweetness and richness.  The waffle it was served with added depth and a blank slate for flavor as well.  The dish was so rich and creative, it was hard to tell if this was more like a dessert or an appetizer.  My husband loved the creativity and he even said that if this wasn’t such a classy restaurant, he’d be tempted to lick the plate clean as the graham cracker crumble, rich foie gras, marshmallow cream and chocolate sauce were such a fantastic combination.

I went with a completely different type of appetizer.  My choice was the Ontario burrata served with unripe strawberries, arugula, K2 Milling crisp, and smoked canola oil.  Can you ever go wrong with burrata?  Add in the idea of unripe strawberries and it just sounded intriguing.  The plate, much like my husband’s s’mores foie gras was so beautifully and artistically plated.  The burrata itself was very fresh, and rich and creamy.  The creamy inside of the burrata was heavenly.  Combined with the unripe strawberries, which had a tang to them, and the peppery arugula, it was a combination of creamy, tangy, and peppery.  The K2 Milling crisp added crunch and texture and yet another different flavor component.  Even though each ingredient had a different flavor profile, they all seemed to compliment each other quite well.  My favorite flavor on the profile was the arugula pesto that really just brought all of the ingredients together into one cohesive dish.

When it came time for dinner, I decided to go for something filling and heavy.  My entrée choice was the Ontario beef rib eye.  Apparently, I was very interested in everything that was locally sourced from the local province.  The Ontario beef rib eye was served with braised short rib cannelloni, B.C. pine mushrooms, charred eggplant, Mill St. AP sauce, and Okangan hazelnuts.    I really loved the rib eye, it was so tender and juicy and flavorful.  It was cooked to a perfect medium rare, as requested.  However, I will say that the beef was a little bit fattier than I had expected it to be, so I could have done with a little bit less fat.  The short rib cannelloni was different and interesting.  The short rib was tender and delicious, the idea to put it into a cannelloni was creative, but somehow didn’t seem cohesive on this dish.  The charred eggplant and the hazelnuts actually worked as accompaniments for the dish and the Mill St. AP sauce is definitely a Canadian thing that requires a bit of an acquired taste that I just don’t have.  But the star of the dish was certainly the beef, and the beef is what’s for dinner.

My husband also decided to try out a meat dish in the form of venison.  Cerf de Boileau venison served with swiss chard, mulled lingonberries, preserved garlic scapes and wheat berries.  It was the addition of lingonberries that intrigued my husband about this dish, and being a lover of venison in general, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity.  While this dish had a lot of ingredients and a lot of strong individual ingredients, the combination of flavors was perfect.  Served on a maple leave embossed plate, the highlight was the venison, which was very well cooked.  The lingonberries provided the tartness and punch of flavor that the dish needed to counteract the gaminess of the venison.  The dish was filling, but my husband had no problems whatsoever in clearing off every last scrap of food off of his plate.

We may have eaten a lot of food by this point, but we still had room for dessert, and after looking over the dessert menu, we each decided to get our own dessert.  For my choice, I went with the milk chocolate + kernel peanut made with 46% milk chocolate, banana butter and caramel ice cream.  Alright, anything called banana butter is going to get my attention.  Again, like every other dish we’d been served at Canoe, I absolutely loved the creativity of how the ingredients on the dish were combined, put together and plated.  The banana butter was more like banana foam that provided the base for the other ingredients on the dish.  The banana butter had a nice subtle banana flavor that was terrific, but it wasn’t too sweet so that it overpowered the chocolate.  The chocolate cake was spongy and moist and was a perfect textural contrast to the banana butter.  The peanut brittle was fanatic and the chocolate had just the right touch of sweetness and cocoa flavor.  This was the perfect dessert for someone like me, with my tastes, to enjoy.

My husband ordered a dessert we had trouble pronouncing, the vinarterta.  Luckily, our waiter put on his best Italian accent and told us that the vinarterta was certainly the most fun dessert to try to pronounce along with being his personal favorite dessert.  The vinarterta consisted of wild blueberry compote, mustard ice cream, and rosemary birch syrup jelly.  I think it was the mustard ice cream that really intrigued my husband, combined with wild blueberry compote, he just had to have it.  With a description in the menu that starts off with mustard ice cream, it was the first ting on this beautifully plated dessert that my husband decided to try.  Personally, I expected that mustard ice cream would be tangy, much the way mustard powder is when you add it as a seasoning into your cooking, however, after one spoonful of the ice cream, my husband told me I had to try it because it was completely the opposite of what he expected it to be.  And sure enough, the mustard ice cream was sweet and delicious, and had you not told me it was mustard ice cream, I don’t think I’d ever guess what the main ice cream flavor was.  It was rich and smooth and creamy with a hint of sweetness that spoke to a unique ingredient, but one you would never expect from mustard.  The dessert was deemed to be “very good” by my husband who that the combination of the ice cream and the wild blueberry compote blended together very well.  The cake was light and fluffy and mild enough to soak up the flavors of the ice cream and the blueberry and the rosemary birch syrup which helped give the dish a very woodsy, fresh flavor.  My husband was more than satisfied with his dessert choice.

Canoe was a culinary delight.  With ingredients and dishes that highlighted the culinary style of Canadian cooking and flavors, we were taken on a food journey through this intriguing and diverse country.  The level of creativity served to us amongst dishes such as s’mores foie gras and mustard ice cream, it was lovely to see that these flavors actually did work and that the beauty of the plating actually translated to amazing food to fill our bellies.  With a beautiful setting right in the heart of downtown Toronto, it’s easy to see why Canoe is one of Ontario’s, and Canada’s, most distinguished and highly acclaimed restaurants.  If Canoe is a representation of Canadian cuisine, sign me up for both the creativity, beauty and flavors.  I’d definitely recommend Canoe to anyone looking for a nice meal when they come to Toronto.


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