Other Toronto Eats…

Aside from dinner at Momofuku Daisho, I also managed to get my teeth into a number of other restaurants during my stay in Toronto. I hereby present to you Canoe, Acadia and Pure Spirits Oyster House.

CANOE

Canoe Restaurant is part of the Oliver & Bonacini Restaurant Group, a partnership founded by Peter Oliver and Michael Bonacini in 1993, a pair of restaurateurs who have since created a string of 11 successful fine dining restaurants in Ontario, Canada. Their restaurant, Auberge du Pommier, ranks highly in the guidebooks as being one of the best fine dining venues in Toronto.

Canoe bar

Canoe bar

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Sake Restaurant Sydney, Australia

Sake Restaurant

Sake Restaurant

Sake Restaurant operates a chain of contemporary fusion Japanese restaurants in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, with the Sydney branch sitting in the historical and touristy Rocks area near Circular Quay. The décor is lavish, yet simple; sexy, yet understated. It’s really nicely done. Catering to an upmarket and fashionable crowd, its hit the mark as the kind of place one goes to see and be seen.

As befits the name, Sake Restaurant has an amazing sake collection. The sake sommelier suggested that we try the Kozaemon Junmai Daiginjo as our aperitif (a small carafe is $58 – about £38). At over 300 years old, Kozaemon is one of Japan’s most established sake houses and Junmai Daiginjo is its premium label. It brews its sake in the mountains of Japan’s Gifu prefecture. It was delicious, as smooth as silk and an excellent way to start our meal. We also tried a couple of cocktails ($18 to $20 – about £12 to £14) which were also very tasty.

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Pendolino – Sydney, Australia

Pendolino is a refined upmarket Italian situated in the heart of Sydney’s Central Business District. It’s an elegant looking restaurant – very dark, very intimate – the perfect type of restaurant for date night. Be that as it may, it has a welcoming attitude towards children as there were a few dining at the restaurant during our visit. This was nice to see as it’s so rare for such a swish looking venue to be so relaxed about child diners.

Pendolino holds a ‘One-Hat’ (out of a maximum three) from the influential Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide’s restaurant rating system. The menu makes for a wonderful read, the type that could easily tempt you to over order. There are a range of starters, pastas and risotto that come in both starter and main sizes, mains, and of course dessert. All the pastas are hand-made daily on the premises.

I went to Pendolino with FoodPornNation who has eaten there before and absolutely loves the food. She strongly advocated that we try a starter of Alba style free-range beef carpaccio with truffled white walnut puree, testun di barolo cheese, rocket cress, wild baby olives and handmade rosemary grissini
($24.90, about £16) which was a knockout. The way in which the paper-thin carpaccio melted on the tongue was sheer magic, and the aromatic hints of the truffle were a pure delight. This was a glorious dish that one could easily eat over and over again.

Alba style beef carpaccio

Alba style beef carpaccio

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Ms. G’s Sydney, Australia

Ms. G's

Ms. G’s

All funky Sydney foodistas seem to looove Ms. G’s, a quirky, offbeat ‘Westernised’ fusion Asian restaurant located in Sydney’s pulsating Potts Point/Kings Cross area. Its décor is unconventional to say the least – a neon door out front, buckets hung from ropes, a graffitied wall, communal tables – all laid out over an impressive four floors of eating space. Its approach to dining is that it should be fun – take the bubble-tea cocktails on the menu, a twist on the bubble-tea ‘teas’ made famous by the Taiwanese. And that’s before we even hit its famed signature dessert of ‘Stoner’s delight’, where the secret ingredient for the dish was ‘the mind of a stoner’.

If there were there two things that were also going to guarantee Ms. G’s success, one would be that the Merivale Group is its owner, the multi-million dollar Australian hospitality business with the Midas touch that seems to turn almost every one of its bar and restaurant openings into a major success story. The second is that David Chang’s Momofuku is the inspiration behind Ms. G’s. The story goes that chefs Dan Hong and Jowett Yu hosted David Chang at a dinner at their previous restaurant, Lotus, and from that gathering the idea for Ms. G’s was borne. And to further guarantee its success, the influential Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide has also awarded Ms. G’s a ‘One Hat’ out of a possible three from its restaurant rating system.

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la vie, Osnabrück, Germany – Visit #2

la vie

la vie

Last year, I was lucky enough to be invited by Executive Chef Thomas Bühner to his restaurant la vie in Osnabrück, Germany where I had a sublime dining experience. You can read about that meal here. At that point la vie held only two Michelin stars, but last November it went on to win its third Michelin star to become one of the elite few to ever reach this special level of achievement. la vie was also a new entrant in the 2012 San Pellegrino Best Restaurant Awards and is currently ranked number 72.

la vie dining room

la vie dining room

To sample its new three-star Michelin menu, I was again invited to la vie recently where we had a 3-course lunch (four-courses is priced at €89) followed by the gastronomic 7-course Le Grand Chef tasting menu for dinner (€198) with matching wines (€285).

la vie

la vie

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Vineyard at the Stockcross

The Vineyard at Stockcross

The Vineyard at Stockcross

My first visit to The Vineyard at Stockcross in Newbury was a few years ago when I stumbled across a last minute special offer of a weekend night’s stay in one of their delightful Atrium suites for £120, a room that normally costs several hundred pounds. I was well happy, not just because of this bargain rate, but also because this 5-star hotel was truly a delight. It has a luxury Californian vineyard feel to it, boosted by the spa facilities that make this a great weekend escape. We also had an amazing meal, cooked by John Campbell who was the Head Chef at the time and helped The Vineyard to two Michelin-stars. As part of his tasting menu I had this salad which long lives in my memory as one of ‘the’ best salads I have ever tasted.

John left in 2010, and chef Daniel Galmiche, who was previously at the famous Cliveden and Michelin-starred L’Ortolan in Berkshire, has since replaced him. Daniel continues to hold a one Michelin-star at The Vineyard and occasionally features on Saturday Morning Kitchen.

Other changes since my last visit include the installation of a spectacular glass-panelled cellar in the lobby that showcases some of the 30,000 wines housed at The Vineyard, some of which are Californian award winners. Custodian of the cellar is the charming Head Sommelier Yohann Jousselin who was The Academy of Food and Wine Service’s (AFWS) 2011 UK Sommelier of the Year.

The cellar at the Vineyard at Stockcross

The cellar at the Vineyard at Stockcross

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La Pergola – Three-Star Michelin in Rome, Italy

La Pergola is the only restaurant in Rome to hold three Michelin stars and is probably the most famous restaurant in the eternal city. The restaurant is located on the top floor of the Cavalieri Hotel, which is part of the Waldorf Astoria Group. Perched on a hilltop in the Montemario area, the restaurant affords gorgeous views of Rome and the Vatican.

Executive Chef is German-born Heinz Beck who has been at the helm of La Pergola for the last 18 years. One of the most respected chefs in the world, there have often been attempts to persuade Chef Beck to export his La Pergola brand to cities such as New York and Tokyo in the same way that other famous chefs such as Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon have done. Thus far, Chef Beck has resisted all calls with the exception of London. Apsley’s at The Lanesborough Hotel is his only subsidiary restaurant.

La Pergola is a magnet for the rich and famous. It famously hosted Michele Obama and Sarah Brown during the G8 summit in 2009, and it was reported that the First Lady claimed that her meal at La Pergola was the best of her life.

Prices are not cheap however, with a six-course and nine-course tasting menu priced at €190 and €210, respectively. Where relevant, the a ala carte prices have been listed in brackets below. Going for the nine-course menu, we started with an amuse bouche of beef carpaccio which was tender and tasty. It came with a hint of coffee powder and a deliciously light cappuccino cream.

Beef carpaccio

Beef carpaccio

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Il Pagliaccio – Two-Star Michelin in Rome, Italy

Anthony Genovese is Chef and part owner of Il Pagliaccio, a two-star Michelin restaurant considered to be one of the best in Rome. Born to Italian parents in France, Genovese began his career on the Cote D’Azur, after which came travels in Asia where he honed his skills before returning to Italy to deliver an eclectic menu at Il Pagliaccio.

Situated in the historical centre of Rome, the restaurant is elegant but feels quite stiff and formal. The doors to the restaurant are kept locked throughout the service, and one must be let out when leaving. There are only about 25 covers and the dining area is quite small.

Il Pagliaccio

Il Pagliaccio

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