Edulis (Toronto)

Edulis is quaint. Walk too quickly and you may miss their storefront; the neighbourhood doesn’t feel like where one of Toronto’s best restaurants would be found. Tables are closely situated throughout the dining room, the dim candlelight some respite for privacy between you and neighbours. 

Upon entering the homey looking bathroom, I felt like I met a kindred spirit: framed all along the walls were tasting menus from notable restaurants! There were so many to read through … the November 2014 menu from Alinea (close to the time I visited the restaurant) and an interesting peeky toe crab from Daniel’s menu that peaked my interest. I almost felt bad; with only one stall, I was surely taking too long in the bathroom.

My only complaint for the evening is the actual ordering process. Edulis’ menu is short and sweet, but somehow turns into a five minute affair for our waitress to explain all the changes we can make. Some are additions (where you get another dish) while others a supplement (that replaces an existing one). By the end, I was a bit confused and tired; certainly it could all be simplified? Worst of all, you almost feel pressured to add something on, so it seems like Edulis’ regular menu would be insufficient, when it can certainly stand on its own.

What turned out to be my least favourite dish of the meal was the hors of d'oeuvre of imperial osetra caviar ($50) we added onto the meal (although my husband loved it). To me, the caviar was really fishy until you ate it with enough of the cream sauce. Moreover, the so call “caviar” wooden spoons we were given (since metal alters the ingredient’s taste) were much too thick to actually scoop up the delicate caviar without the help of fingertips. Where was the thin oyster of pearl ones that makes it so much easier?

In terms of the standard menu, Edulis presents two options: a smaller 5-course for $65 or 7-courses for $85 (per person). Understandably, the whole table has to order the same number of courses, but our waitress explains the seven course version isn’t that much larger as the two additional dishes tend to be smaller in size. Unfortunately, they can’t provide any description of what the menu could be given what’s served can change throughout the night depending on availability … talk about just-in-time inventory management.

The 7-course menu ($85) began with a simple bite-sized pintxo combining a large green olive and toasted bread drizzled with olive oil. It set the tone and reminded diners that they were in a Spanish restaurant with bold tastes to come. A larger basket of country style bread also arrived and we were warned not to fill up on it – we heeded the warning and took only a couple of bites. Nonetheless, the bread basket depleted by the end - the sauces were so good that we had to mop up every drop.

Take the light onion sauce accompanying the Nova Scotia tuna, which was served raw with crunchy seaweed cucumber, the sauce helped give a lovely essence to the fish without relying on the typical citrus or soy. What a refreshing bite that lightly stings the tongue, every bit of sauce was devoured.

The following lobster was delicately poached so it was just cooked through; still holding a bit of its translucence. Nonetheless, it was cooked and the natural sweetness shone through. Incorporating fava beans and crushed almonds, there was plenty of differing textures to the plate. The ajo blanco sauce is garlicky with a hint of citrus and a creamy finish – great against the lobster and for dipping bread.

Normally, a dish that’s lukewarm would be a turnoff, but the room temperature rabbit terrine actually was quite nice against the cool foam. Since it wasn’t too hot, the meaty terrine wasn’t a shock against the cool silky foie gras. Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan chanterelles added a great light earthy essence and the white asparagus shavings and pine nuts a bit of crunch against everything. 

My first time having triglidae, or as Edulis described it as “sea robin”, I can see how this fish gets its moniker. Although it looks like a typical white fish, the meat was intensely dense so it seemed like flaky chicken - sounds weird but actually quite tasty. Along with sliced summer squash, a squash blossom, and diced squash mixed into the sauce, the dish was light and refreshing. The sauce was predominantly olive oil and tomato based augmented with a hint of citrus, while the fresh oregano went nicely with the acid in the dish … how I wanted more!

Wild Nunavut arctic char is supposedly a rare fish that can only be sourced twice in the year – a lucky coincidence we could sample it that evening. Compared to traditional Arctic char, this was leaner so a bit stronger in flavour without the hint of oil on the tongue. Of course, the beany sauce was fantastic and there was so much of it that I finished it off like soup.

The last savoury course is also the sole non-seafood dish, a dry-aged duck breast and braised duck leg that evening. Despite not having an ounce of crispy skin, the duck was nonetheless cooked wonderfully and had us savouring its simple flavours and natural juices. The roasted baby turnips were sweet against the savoury duck gravy and herby salsa verde. All in all, it was a rich and hearty ending compared to the other lighter dishes.  

After all these years, why is Edulis still one of the hardest restaurants to score a reservation to? Simply put, their food is fantastic! Their sauces can rival any French restaurant and for me tastes even better: despite having some butter and cream within the sauces, they’re well balanced so you get the silky rich mouth feel without the heaviness. Meanwhile, the proteins are kept simple and just cooked through (nothing was tough or dry), allowing it to compliment and not compete with the sauce. Moreover, the dishes generally have a number of textures so there’s often a pop of crunch, but done subtly so it doesn’t overpower the plate.

If you aren’t able to get a reservation, the restaurant does have a few tables on a covered patio, customers can’t order the tasting menu but are able to enjoy drinks and create their own cheeseboard from a large array Edulis carries.

The dessert was a raspberry mousse and sorbet with nuts. At first, I wasn’t overly excited – sorbet is so boring – but the flavours were, once again, well controlled so the sorbet wasn't too sweet or tart and the mousse not rendered into a sugary gelatin. I certainly could taste the fruit and the dessert had an almost Creamsicle finish.

Just when we resigned that it was all over, we’re brought over a rum baba with Chantilly cream. The server proceeds to drench the cake in a warm butter rum sauce and we're advised add some cream to each bite. Wow, what a great combination: first a hit of alcoholic rum, which is balanced out by the sweet cool cream and finishes with a slight saltiness from the sauce. What a lovely indulgent ending! I only wished they didn’t take away what little remained from the bread so we could soak up the rest of the rum butter sauce.

As I mentioned previously, Edulis is quaint. The small dining room can hold about thirty guests and the meal progresses slowly so you’ll be there for over three hours (although it doesn’t feel that long). Hence, I can see why it’s hard to get a reservation: they don’t try to churn multiple seating of guests through in an evening. With every course I wanted even more, anxiously waiting to see what the kitchen would come up with next. All the while, the wine continues to pour and the twinkling candles have a relaxing effect. All to enjoy one more bite of sauce-laden bread. 

Overall mark - 9.5 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 169 Niagara Street

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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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