The Chase (Toronto)

Being a Toronto Life Insider has its perks. As a foodie, members can attend R&D dinners where restaurants offer a special menu, often showcasing new dishes to come. It was almost comical when dozens of us descended downtown, on a snowy Sunday evening, to visit The Chase to try their spring menu. With the blanket of snow pelting the city, it certainly didn’t feel like spring.

The 7-course menu ($155) included wine pairings from producers across Ontario, including a focus on Big Head, a little known winery from Niagara-on-the-Lake. I was excited for the evening… we were surely in for a treat given the restaurant is known for its luxurious menus drawing corporate crowds flushed with spending accounts.

Indeed, our first bites fit the bill: a truffle beignet and raw oyster. The beignet is nothing like the puffy pastry from New Orleans, instead akin to a savoury crispy falafel. The truffle scent floods the mouth with a bit of creamy freshness from the crème fraiche and chervil.

This was followed with a single smoked oyster - Taylor notes spring is a great time to enjoy the seafood as the waters are still cold. The smoked oyster was in fact refreshing, especially after the heavier truffle falafel. It was simply flavoured with a wild onion mignonette that had just a hint of spiciness to tingle the tongue. Generally, mignonette can be heavy on the vinegar. At Chase, the condiment is balanced with Chardonnay so the tanginess is mellowed and melds better with the seafood’s natural briny juices.

The shrimp and grit’s aroma proceeds the actual dish… if only I could capture the smell to share with you. Taylor explains it’s a dish he’s been tinkering with for years to really highlight his commitment in using ingredients that can be sourced within 100km of the city. K2 Milling’s red crow grits sits in a sea buckthorn hot sauce, rosemary oil and pork stock; each grain filled with so many flavours, then taken to another level with chunks of melt-in-your-mouth smoked pork hock strewn throughout.

Crowning the dish was a single shrimp grown in Stratford, Ontario, the local farm raising Pacific white shrimp sustainably. The sustainability theme is in each element of the dish – even the garnish of deep fried wild onion roots, which adds a delicious sweetness instead of getting wasted.

A dish that looks like spring is the bison. Indeed, you don’t normally think of this wooly game meat during a flowery season, but all the beautiful garnishes makes the plate seem like a flower box. The bison is quickly cured and served carpaccio style with dollops of smoked buttermilk, pickled ramp, wild watercress, and toasted hemp hearts. Each bite is interesting thanks to the varying flavours and textures.

The raviolo arrives like a bright sun, plump from being stuffed with an egg yolk and thin layer of truffle. In lieu of a cream sauce, it’s topped with truffle gastrique sweetened with maple syrup and chervil water.

Of the meal, it’s perhaps the most educating dish as Taylor explains how the herbs are cultivated using hydroponics (a new technology that raises herbs using water and fish in a closed loop system) and even provides diners with tips on how to ensure the pasta is cooked while the yolk remains molten: insulate the egg, regulate the pasta’s thickness, and never let the water temperature drop.

While the raviolo looks impressive, as soon as you cut through the pasta, the yolk is so runny it simply gushes out and mixes into the other liquids. Which could be okay, but there’s perhaps too many elements and flavours that it just didn’t tie together. Sadly, the mild truffle really didn’t stand out. If anything, aside from the egg, a sweet herby flavour was most pronounced.

I enjoyed the boozy palette cleanser, a tonic and cucumber granita with unfiltered Dillion’s gin poured table side. It’s definitely not your typical sweet granita and definitely more fun.

You can’t create a Canadian seafood dinner without cod – in fact, Taylor tells us in Newfoundland fishing means catching cod – everything else is known by name (such as going trouting). In line with his sustainable beliefs, the meal featured the limited line-caught Fogo Island cod.

The fish is sous vide with morel butter, sautéed morels, sprouted legume, and a maple vinaigrette. A lovely aromatic dashi (a concoction of bull kelp, morels, and wild onion tips) is then poured on top. While it looks like there’s a lot happening on the dish, the elements are rather mellow so the cod remains the predominant flavour with a hint of earthiness. Overall, the fish was cooked beautifully, and was a tasty dish, but a touch more seasoning will help.

Dinner ends with a lovely Ontario lamb wellington wrapped in the traditional crepe, chicken liver duxelle (heavy on the liver and light on mushrooms), and a thin layer of Swiss chard. The lamb saddle is a flavourful but tougher cut, so the Chef ensures it’s tender by sous viding it first. It was absolutely delicious and even more commendable by featuring pasture raised lamb.

Child-like gasps and giddy laughter erupts as a behemoth plate of buttermilk panna cotta is set down - we’re all astounded by the sheer size of the dessert, yet plates are cleaned amongst our table. The panna cotta is creamy and rich, but lightened with compressed candied rhubarb and dollops of rhubarb gelatin. It certainly provided the relaxing and soothing exit Chef Taylor intended.

When I first heard about the Chase’s R&D dinner, I was excited to visit the restaurant to experience the luxurious seafood creations. Yet, what surprised me the most (and has me returning) is learning the Chase cares about using ethical and sustainable ingredients. In fact, dishes aren’t about fancy exotic inputs, but rather supporting local whenever possible. It’s a restaurant that’s proud to feature garnishes from ingredients that may otherwise be thrown away… take that corporate accounts.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10
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How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 10 Temperance Street (penthouse)

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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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