Alo Restaurant (Toronto)

Alo restaurant

A tiny doorway leading to an “exotic” piercing parlour is your first step to entering Alo. You’ll realize you’re in the right spot when the narrow hallway leads to a hostess that’s there to greet, check-in and call down the antiquated elevator. Alo’s third floor dining room is a complete difference: swathed in shades of grey with a polished charm (for anyone who’s visited Geranium, they feel similar).

Tilting at Windmills and Armagnac Old Fashioned (each $15)
French gougères charms the tongue, prepping it for the rich foods to come. The creamy cheese filling spiked with jalapeno that’s mellowed by a sweet brûlée crust on the pastry.

The five-course meal ($89; extra $65 for wine pairings) actually turns into ten dishes served at a reasonable pace (we had a two-hour meal). Diners are offered a choice of two dishes for each course – one rich and the other sounding a touch lighter.

Bowls of foam and cream start each segment: for the savoury courses, a smooth broccoli cream studded with crumbles from the vegetable’s florets. Yet it was the tart lemon foam that ends with a ginger sting that’s most unexpected and revitalizing. The dish would have worked so well after the second course, the snails, to cleanse the taste buds before the seafood dish.    

The aged ribeye carpaccio was beautiful and intricate. Rolls of seared tender beef tongue, crispy nuggets of bone marrow and finely chopped beef tartare sat atop the thinly slice raw ribeye, what a feast for meat lovers. Lightly pickled onions, grainy mustard, crispy rind and dots of aioli are also scatted throughout so each bite presented a different taste or texture. What a fantastic start!

In a heartbeat I’d trade my dessert for another pain au lait, the hot milk bread presented in buttery soft layers and capped with a shiny salty crust. Our server advised the bread was made with the leftover buttermilk from their house churned butter, the condiment having a slightly sour taste to balance the opulent bread. Alo, please open up a bakery and sell these… I NEED another one.

The emulsified parsley sauce gives the Burgundy snails a Ninja Turtle glow but the dish is good, the tender neutral snails flavoured with sweet black garlic and onions. With the cream sauce it’s a heavy dish, so unless you really want to indulge, I’d suggest ordering the alternative (pine nuts with celery root) and sharing.

One dish you’re not going to want to share is the Nova Scotia lobster, the de-shelled claw meat so sweet and succulent. A protein so often served with butter and cheese, at Alo it’s instead paired with butternut squash and earthy hazelnuts (as a sauce and pieces) that surprisingly works. It was delicious, but then again, it’s hard to go wrong with lobster.

It was the meat course where my husband and I finally deviated. Him enjoying the Provimi veal tenderloin that’s accompanied with tender braised cheek, chewy pan fried sweetbreads that were delicious, various cauliflower garnishes and a great swiss chard relish.

The Muscovy duck didn’t disappoint, the skin crisp and relatively rendered. The meat was kept rare and since the winter fowl was capped with a good layer of fat, remained juicy and moist. On the side, a piece of the duck leg made confit style and rutabaga served as leaves and in a sauce combined with white chocolate.

To start desserts, the second cream and foam bowl. In this case, vanilla ice cream with a sweet foam and a crisp salty sunchoke chip to transition the taste buds from salty to sweet.

The second dessert was my favourite of the three: cool ice cream combined with coffee, crunchy walnuts and discs of Dulcey chocolate, which has a great buttery undertone.

Ending with the actual dessert course (carrot cake or parfait as our choices). We both opted for the interesting sounding sea buckthorn and Earl Grey tea parfait. It’s an underwhelming ending, the aromatic tea non-existent, so it’s closer to ice cream rolled in cookie crumbs.

The service at Alo is an interesting mix of French elegance and Canadian charm. The crisp cotton shirts, suspenders and sockless oxfords the servers were dressed in so effortlessly chic. If only I could pull off the ensemble!

Moreover, with the open kitchen, what a treat to see Chef Patrick Kriss front and centre at the pass, ensuring no dish was presented without his approval. He’s serious but calm, so don’t expect a Hell’s Kitchen freak out to occur at Alo. Call me old fashioned, but it’s refreshing to know an Executive 
Chef is actually overseeing the kitchen’s operations.

With my love for tasting menus, a return visit will inevitably occur. I wonder what the warm weather will bring. Hopefully, another set of tasty, beautiful but not overly fussy dishes.  

Overall mark - 9 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 163 Spadina Avenue

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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