CLOSED: Origin North (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 2901 Bayview Avenue (at Bayview Village in the parking lot)

Colborne Lane used to be my favourite Toronto restaurant so I know Chef Aprile’s creations are delicious. However, after a mediocre experience at Origin King during its opening, that belief wavered – where were the different textures, array of sauces and attention to detail with each plate? So, when Origin North opened last summer there was no urgency to visit; after all, it seemed like it’d be more of the same thing albeit on a much larger scale – 12,000 square feet to be exact.

Nonetheless, when Origin North offered a Winterlicious menu for $25, it seemed like too good of a deal to pass on. Here was my opportunity to try it again and see if the first visit was just a fluke. Plus, with over 300 seats up for grabs, snagging a reservation was also a breeze.

To start, I selected the pastrami spring rolls, arriving two to an order all crispy and hot. The filling consisting of slivers of pastrami and pickled vegetables was interesting, a balanced spice taste with the tender meat. However, the rolls needed to be drained longer as by the time I got around to the second roll the middle of its wrapper stuck to the napkin and had become soggy. Additionally, the chili lime dressing was an odd combination with the pastrami and actually detracted from the dish. In my view, a wasabi hoisin glaze may work better, with the wasabi adding a nice heat and playing on the traditional pastrami & mustard pairing.

My friend’s lentil soup was surprisingly flavourful with a fragrant curry and tart yoghurt mixed into it. Bits of pulled pork topped it, although I didn’t manage to taste how good this was. All in all, it was decent but not one I’d like a whole bowl of.  For me, it wasn’t hot enough on account of the yoghurt; generally soup is best when it’s piping hot.

When the main of crispy beef arrived on a hot sizzling plate those who ordered it thought we made the best decision. Regrettably, upon tasting it the beef’s coating was too floury as granules sort of came off into your mouth as eating. The sauce, having a vinegar base resembling the Shanghainese version you find paired with spare ribs, threw me off as I was expecting a sweet and savoury combination. At the bottom were vermicelli noodles with bean sprouts and small pieces of bok choy, soaking up much of the sauce. Normally, I really enjoy vermicelli but personally felt this needed a thicker hearty noodle that would allow the sauce to merely coat it rather than being saturated. Perhaps it’s me, but a mouthful of vinaigrette noodles isn’t really tasty.

My friend who ordered the chicken supreme actually ended up making the better choice. Sure the dish wasn’t exciting, but the chicken and accompanying brussel sprouts were cooked well and overall it appeared to be a better constructed as a main.

The description “frozen hazelnut chocolate rocks” sounded intriguing and tempted me to order the soft serve cone for dessert. In the end, the “rocks” were really just bits of crunchy cookies and when eaten with the ice cream was reminiscent of a fancy McFlurry. Still it was enjoyable and with the crispy waffle cone was a whimsical dessert. The ice cream itself was fairly neutral and not overly sweet, but was flavoured with something that didn’t seem to be vanilla… perhaps almond?

Although I didn’t taste it, my friend’s pavlova with citrus salad was quite impressive arriving with wisps of smoke coming from the dried ice. It’s certainly the dessert to get if you want a wow factor.

Origin also offered a wine pairing for $15 with the meal consisting of a pinot grigio, Chianti and Riesling with the starter, main and dessert, respectively. For the price point, it was a good pairing and just large enough to be satisfying with each course.

In a nutshell, Origin North’s food really isn’t an improvement from the flagship store and a far cry from the impressive Colborne Lane creations. Nevertheless, I love the large open concept design where there is a comfortable amount of space between tables. The overall atmosphere was great - the lights just dim enough and the music at a volume where conversations can still be heard. Our waiter, if I recall correctly named Josh, was amazing and really everyone we encountered was friendly, attentive and professional. In the end, I wouldn’t particularly want to return for dinner but it’s a great location for drinks and light eats and will likely return in the summer to check out their patio.   

Is Winterlicious worth it?

As a special feature to the Winterlicious blogs, I will attempt to calculate the savings being offered (based on my meal selection).

Winterlicious - $25

Regular menu - $35 - spring rolls* ($9), shanghai beef* ($15) and soft serve cone* ($10)

Savings - $10 or 29%

* All the items weren't on their regular menu; prices based on the BBQ chicken spring rolls, Bangkok beef salad and other desserts.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

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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!