CANOE

Canoe

Sitting high atop the iconic TD tower in the heart of Toronto, Canoe remains the crown jewel of Oliver & Bonacini’s restaurant empire. My first experience with Canoe was a disappointing meal during Winterlicious back in 2010 and I vowed only to return during regular service. Initially, I had booked a table on Valentine’s day, but decided to postpone for a week to avoid another hectic and crowded occasion that could potentially cloud my dining experience again. Perhaps as a result, my latest meal at Canoe met every expectation and proved their reputation to be well deserved.

Atmosphere: One of the draws of Canoe is their 54th floor location, with spectacular views of the city and Lake Ontario. At a window table, the sunset turns into twinkling lights providing a romantic backdrop to dinner. For me, I was happy when the hostess led us to a well-lit table in the centre of the restaurant. Dress code didn’t include t-shirts but I didn’t spot many jackets either. The restaurant was warm, lively and hummed with conversation.

Service: I really liked our server, who was friendly and charming. He introduced the daily specials and shared his personal recommendations. We ordered the special appetizer, which had Chef Armstrong coming tableside to shave black truffle fresh onto the plate. Our server checked in on our table regularly and each course arrived promptly. Empty plates did not sit long before being taken away. I felt our table was well taken care of without any hovering.

Food: For dinner, the daily appetizer centered around truffles. The kitchen had two kinds, one from France and another from BC. Chef Armstrong came table-side to shave each truffle onto a pile of tagliatelle in butter sauce and invited us to taste and compare. We didn’t know which was which and honestly, I couldn’t really tell the difference. The Hubby thought one had a deeper earthy flavour but both were delicious, not overpowering and just subtle hits of umami.

The other appetizer we chose was the venison tartare with crispy bacon, pink peppercorn, wild mustard and foraged pickles. I really enjoyed the crispy, sweet and sour pickles, and the mustard had a hint of heat. The venison itself was lean and savoury.

For mains, I ordered the Halibut that was flakey, tender and served with a creamy citrus sauce. The Hubby had the Ontario Lamb Saddle, which was served on a bed of hearty greens with a side of beautifully stacked root vegetables. Carrots were sliced thin, perfectly cooked, sweet with a smokey flavour. I found the lamb a bit gamey but The Hubby loved it. We added a side order of beets that was slices of cooked beets, layered, topped with chunks and decorated with slices showing off the beet’s rings. The dish was sweet and truly showed off the often overlooked vegetable..

Canoe’s menu changes often, always highlighting local Canadian ingredients like BC salmon and Ontario pork. My second experience at the restaurant far eclipsed the first. I found the dishes I liked best to be the simple ones, when the ingredients weren’t overcomplicated. Overall, my meal wasn’t the best I’ve had in Toronto, but combined with the romantic atmosphere and delightful service, dinner was lovely.

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