Thursday, 25 July 2013

Canoe - Celebrating our 15th Anniversary!

66 Wellington Street West
Toronto, ON


In her opinion:
Summerlicious and our wedding anniversary are a perfect pairing, like a delicious meal and a fine wine. It's a great opportunity to celebrate being able to stay together through thick and thin, while enjoying some excellent cuisine at very descent prices! This year we did Bent (Susur Lee's restaurant with his sons, Levi and Kai) and of course, Canoe.

Canoe is easily one of my favourite restaurants in Toronto. It's not the type of place that I would go to every single day of my life if I had the chance but rather a great place to celebrate. Yup, that's it...Canoe is easily one of my favourite celebration restaurants in Toronto. During Summerlicious it's not always easy to get a reservation but my darling husband was able to slip in there and actually get one for the date of our anniversary.

We arrived safe and sound after the sonic ride up to the 54th floor (thank goodness we were alone in the anxiety shouldn't be shared with strangers) and were shown to "our usual table" - 2nd table from the kitchen were we dined last year as well! We were then greeted by two of the managers at Canoe and each given a glass of Angel's Gate Archangel Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine to help celebrate our anniversary.

Our lovely waitress for the evening was Sarah M. who was both personable and attentive adding to the overall success of the evening. I ordered a glass of Q water to enjoy with my meal and the sparkling wine. One of the server then brought over two types of bread for us to share - potato pancetta and a spelt and pumpkin bread with a chickpea maple spread. 

After answering some questions regarding the menu, Sarah took down my choices:

For my appetizer, I picked the "Whipped Sheep's Milk Mousse with Tender Shoots, Cardamon Crisp and Radish Vinaigrette". Chef Horne sent us out the Chilled New Farms Cucumber Soup with "Yarmouth Lobster, Dill and Hewitt's Buttermilk" to actually start things out.

I was eyeing this soup before it was even sent out to us due to the word lobster. But the cucumber aspect had caused me to say no...Chef Horne thought differently. I'm glad he did...this was excellent. The cucumber soup itself was creamy and ethereal due to the buttermilk component. The lobster was beautiful (like lobster can be anything else) and the pickled cucumbers on top acidic and lovely (they're Chef Horne's mom's recipe and the inspiration for this soup). I really enjoyed the soup. It was a lovely gift from the kitchen. The funny thing that I shared with Chef later is that there are two things in this world that I don't like to eat...watermelon and cucumbers. I've eaten them both in cold soup presentations at Canoe, thanks to Chef Horne! 

The whipped sheep's milk mousse was an adventurous choice for me. I wasn't quite sure what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised. It was a beautiful "salad" of crispy vegetables, radishes and tender shoots in a radish vinaigrette with the most delight sheep's milk mousse or "cream cheese" I've ever enjoyed in my life. It was bursting with flavour but still completely delicate and beautiful.

For my main, I picked the "Rock Cornish Hen with Zucchini, Three Grain Salad and Green Tomato Chutney".

This is perfection. The skin on the cornish hen was crispy and golden. It was full of flavour. The cornish hen itself was succulent and moist. It was perfectly cooked. It was placed on top of a gorgeous bean puree and served with a three grain salad and the most amazing green tomato chutney which added a note of sweetness to the plate. This was absolutely delicious.

For dessert, I picked the "Torched Bread Pudding with Niagara Plums and Osprey Bluffs Honey Sabayon." 

It had been a toss up between this dessert and the chocolate hazelnut mousse dessert. When I asked Sarah which she preferred, she had said the bread pudding as it reminded her of toast with jam and honey. Well, she was right. I'm glad I went with this dessert. It was gorgeous. The bread pudding had been torched. The plums beautiful dealt with and the best thing on the plate in my opinion, the Osprey Bluffs honey sabayon. Together these flavours worked beautifully.

Overall, this was the best way to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary! This was also the best meal that I have had in 2013. Just excellent. Chef Horne and Canoe did a fabulous job of helping us celebrating 15 years together in perfect culinary style! 

In his opinion:
Telling our friends that we are going to Canoe Restaurant for our anniversary usually evokes two very distinct sentiments. From the uninformed (God save their soul), we get "what's Canoe?", and from the informed (thankfully the majority), we get "WOW Canoe, very nice". 

That latter reaction doesn't come randomly. It is the mark of excellence that Canoe Restaurant has consistently delivered for many years; thus, making it arguably the best and most sought after restaurant in Toronto. We all know that reaching the top is always easier then staying there! So how does Canoe continue to surpass expectations year after year? The answer I'm afraid is not an easy one but can be summarized by explaining how they maintain excellence and never rest on their laurels.

With that thought, can we expect to go to Canoe and consistently expect amazing service and outstanding food wrapped in a true Canadian fine dining experience? That question is much easier to respond to and it is, yes. Oliver and Bonacini and their amazing staff at the restaurant do everything in their power to ensure that they stay at the top.

As I'm being shown to my table, I look around mesmerized on the simplicity of the decoration of the room We have been there many times but it is still surprising. Clean lines, wood and steel that somehow translates in a warm and welcoming space. The staff complete the warm and welcoming feeling with service that is second to none in the city. Every table is VIP and everyone is treated like they were the most acclaimed food critic. That is how Canoe stands above everyone else in this competitive dining world.

A glass of sparkling wine was served to us courtesy of one of the managers. All to ensure that we start our anniversary dinner the right way. 
Having studied the menu before I got there, the decisions were easy to make. Upon making our food decisions, Chef Horne treated us to a lovely addition to the meal and started us off with the Chilled New Farms Cucumber Soup with Yarmouth Lobster, dill and Hewitt's buttermilk.

The soup was creamy, perfectly chilled Gazpacho style and surprisingly light on the cucumber taste. The buttermilk offset the slightly bitter, watery taste of the cucumber very well, and the fresh lobster was the proverbial "cherry on the cake", giving the dish the twist of texture required. I must add that the presentation for this soup was extremely effective in both simplicity and character.

For my appetizer I picked the "Slow Cooked Heritage Salmon with Watercress, Puffed Wild Rice and Kabosu Mayonnaise". Again the presentation elevated the dish's appeal with a symphony of hues, textures and shapes. The salmon was cooked perfectly with a moist and soft texture that retained all of its flavour. The addition of small mounts of wild puffed rice in each of the 3 separate portions of the dish provide perfect texture balance to the soft fish. Lastly, the citrus infusion of the green Kabosu Mayonayse completed the visual and palate appeal.

For my main, I decided to go the perceived simple route of beef with my choice of "Wellington County Beef". It was served with "Roasted Carrots, Steel Cut Oats and Portobello Bacon Jus". This was probably one of the best and most unexpected meat dishes that I have ever had. The beef came in 2 separate portions, perfectly cooked on the inside and with a harder texture on the outside. Every bite seemed better than the last as I barely used my knife to separate these wonderful pieces of beef from one another. The steel cut oats that are often used for porridge, were soft, with a sweet, nutty flavour and balanced well with the Portobello Bacon Jus that covered the dish.

At this point of the meal, everything was going perfectly well foodwise. The mixture of good service by our waitress, amazing view from the restaurant and the great company were raising this experience to a level not too short of spectacular. I then received my dessert choice consisting of "Frozen Yogurt with Raspberry Soda, Milk Crumble and Vanilla Oil". The words "Happy 15th Anniversary" were featured on each one of our dessert plates as a very nice gesture from the kitchen. The dessert itself transported me mentally to my childhood years with the "ice pops" like frozen yogurt and raspberry soda taste.

I also ordered an espresso to go with my dessert and I'm happy to report that this was the best espresso that I have ever had in all my times at Canoe, even though it still falls slightly short off the mark. Kudos for the improvement.

Chef Horne took a few minutes off from his very busy kitchen to come talk to us and that completed our wonderful experience. It is always a pleasure to talk food with someone that redefines Canadian cuisine even though this time we focused our conversations more on the peculiar eating habits of our own small children.

The Good: A perfectly executed meal, explosive dish presentations and flavours that grip you and excite your palate is the way to describe this meal. The service was nothing short of impeccable, with what resembled as a seamlessly choreographed performance of servers, managers and staff.
The Bad: When the bar is this high it should be easy to find flaws or shortcomings but Canoe lives up to its flagship status, unblemished.
The Verdict: I keep coming back to Canoe expecting that one day things won't go as perfectly as they usually do but it never happens. I find myself recalling Chef Michael Smith's TV episode in which he visits Canoe and basks in the perfection of execution and the precision of the cutlery placement. Canoe is the benchmark for a dining experience in Canada's largest city and even my undeniable love for its sister restaurant Auberge Du Pommiers can't waver its status. Under the creative lead of Chef Anthony Walsh and the passionate brilliance of Chef John Horne, Canoe is always at the cusp of receiving high new accolades. Whether it's a place in San Pelegrinos Best Restaurants in the World List or a compelling case to finally bring Michelin ratings to Canada, it is time to put this marvel specimen of Canadian cuisine in the place where it belongs in the culinary world.

I give it 4 1/2 out of 5 Olives as rating

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