Copetin (Toronto)


Dining at Claudio Aprile's Colborne Lane was one of my first forays into fine dining and tasting menus – a magically delicious experience where ice cream is made with nitrogen and puffs of foam cover meats. Hence, when it was announced that Origin King would be re-opened as Copetín and Aprile would be serving “inventive and elevated” cuisine, I was smitten.

Waiting about a month after the opening date - to give the restaurant the opportunity to work out any kinks – the dinner finally arrived. My first taste of Copetín’s creations wasn’t innovative at all, rather a complimentary Parker House roll that was nonetheless delicious: warm, fluffy, and as buttery as any brioche.


Told that the restaurant’s la plancha octopus ($17) was a popular dish, we had to try it. The grilled octopus wasn’t exactly soft and tender, but I don’t mind a bit of chewiness if it means fuller flavour seafood. All the accompanying items were light and summery including a crunchy jicama salsa, grapefruit segments, orbs of compressed cucumber, mint (this was a little heavy), and rich thick crème fraiche. Even the green curry paste was rather refreshing on account of it being served “raw”, where the spices weren’t cooked.


Be sure to get enough of the shaved dried cured egg yolk that tops the beef tartare ($17) – it’s delicious having a light smoky flavour and a Parmesan cheese texture except creamier. You’ll need it as the fried pasta chips are rather bland, which is understandable if the tartare is flavourful, but even the beef is mildly spiced with beef fat vinaigrette (likely not to cover the delicate pickled chanterelles). All in all, both starters weren’t out-of-this-world, but still good interpretations of the classic dishes.


As for the mains, there were hit and misses. The worst dish had to be the ricotta gnudi ($26), even though it looked and smelt amazing (compliments of the regianno broth). As it’s presented, I expected the gnudi to be soft, but the texture was almost sticky and felt like we were eating semi-cooked raw dough. There’s many ways it could be improved: made smaller so it cooks through or even if it were just hotter, who knows. Once I added the little bits of asparagus from the sea bream into the pasta, it tasted better.   


Curious how the dish should taste, a quick research brings up a popular rendition from The Spotted Pig in New York. As Serious Eats describes, “It felt almost like an under-inflated water balloon, a thin, thin skin that seemed impossibly delicate with a liquid center. I bit into it and felt the rush of warm savory sheep’s milk ricotta burst into my mouth.” At Copetín there’s no liquid centre and it’s more savoury dough than ricotta.

One staff member raved about the ricotta gnudi being her favourite dish while serving. Afterwards, she came back to inquire how we liked it. I had to be honest … the raw dough texture was just off putting. Perplexed, she noted it didn’t sound right as the texture’s not normally so mushy. Alas, she also didn’t do anything to correct for it either – no replacement dish that’s prepared correctly or offer to take it off our bill.

While the triple seared Australian wagyu striploin ($59) was decent for a steak, for wagyu it was disappointing. The Australian version pales in comparison to their Japanese counterpart, with no indication of marbling – the steak was so lean it’s no different from an aged Black Angus. Moreover, blue cheese is an ingredient that needs to be called out on the menu. With a love/hate relationship for many, it’s still rare that I actually like the sharp tangy cheese. Accordingly, it would be nice to know it’d be mixed into the smoked parsnip puree as it probably would have changed my decision on ordering the dish.


Luckily, the seafood mains were much better. The sea bream ($35) had a wonderful crispy skin; the fish’s meat was flaky and flavourful. On the bottom, the diced potato, clams, and asparagus medley was nice … all ingredients that go well with sea bream. While the corn veloute was a good choice as a sauce, it really needed more saffron as it left no taste or aroma. Despite the menu describing the dish as also incorporating chorizo and olive, it was surprisingly light tasting and overall needed more seasoning.


Of all the mains, the most impressive were the sea scallops ($39) – seared beautifully and under cooked so it remained sweet and soft. The Thai curry sauce was flavourful and fragrant, the spiciness balanced against the seafood’s sweetness. Moreover, there was contrast in textures with the kale chip and crisp taro root rosti on the bottom. Forget about everything else, I could have just eaten the scallops with coconut rice and been happy.


In time, Copetín will offer a tasting menu at the kitchen counter – you simply call in to discuss budget and menu preferences and the chef will create something special. Sadly, after our mediocre meal, even the promise of a customized menu isn’t something I’m dying to return for. Maybe it’s because I was too excited for the experience to begin with, hoping to re-live the Colborne Lane days. Or perhaps it’s due to staff members hyping up the experience too much - from the moment we walked in every dish was amazing or the best thing ever… the enthusiasm is great when the food can meet expectations, but makes things worse when it can’t.

In fact, it’s partly why we chose the caramelized tres leche cake ($13) for dessert. After a staff member implored us to save room to try the rosehip bavoir, the same person who loved the ricotta gnudi, I knew we didn’t have the same taste so went with the safer option instead. The tres leche was a decent ending: there was a nice char on the cake, the mole gelato an interesting sweet & savoury combination, and the caramelized bananas & smoked peanuts adding some crunch.  

Note to self: visit new restaurants with low expectations - don’t get too excited and definitely don’t let past experiences create anticipations. In my defence, Copetín’s website is also misleading, describing the cuisine as “inventive”. Having tried seven of the fifteen dishes, nothing stuck out as unique – octopus, beef tartare, and steak are all popular dishes on many menus.

Instead, the website is better off explaining that Copetín means community; as Chef Aprile explained in various interviews, it’s a drop-in casual environment he hopes to create in the new restaurant. I can see Copetín meeting this mandate, its King East location is central and staff members are welcoming and friendly. So maybe you’re not going for inventive or elevated food, but you’ll find a few good dishes and certainly a beautiful comfortable environment to enjoy them in.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 107 King Street East
 Website: http://copetin.ca/

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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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