20 Victoria (Toronto)

If you love tasting menus like I do, Twenty Victoria likely offers one of the most affordable ones in Toronto. Through a prepayment on Tock, the non-refundable six-course meal is set at $175 per person and is inclusive of gratuities (but before taxes) meaning the only thing that needs to be settled at the restaurant are drinks (beverage menu prices also includes gratuities).

That evening’s menu was casually paperclipped onto the drink menu and was rather cryptic, each dish described using two ingredients such as trout & egg. A quick scan of the December offering left me surprised by how seafood forward Twenty Victoria’s winter meal would be, a welcomed change in my books.

But first, a plate of “snacks” arrives, two one bite wonders including a delicate crispy salt cod croquette and a dollop of sturgeon caviar placed on goat cheese and radish. Both worked to wake up the senses and the radish a refreshing and stronger substitute for the traditional blini.  

The first dish, kanpachi and oca root, combines slices of raw fish with a root vegetable that’s described as “a cousin of the potato” and tastes like a starchier jicama. While it looks like sashimi, when the kanpachi is mixed with the crunchy diced oca root, olive oil, citrus, and basil seedlings, the dish tastes more ceviche. It was a vibrant starter that happened to coincide with tropical music being played in the dining room (a mere coincidence), the happy music putting us at ease that it wouldn’t be a stuffy meal.

What seemed like A LOT of sauce arrived with the trout and egg. Yet, the whipped hollandaise-like sauce carried a lightness that didn’t overpower the rich fish and even worked solo with pieces of fallen fish roe. Ultimately, throughout the menu, we found the balance of richness and lightness was what made Twenty Victoria excel – serving a decadent ingredient with something refreshing or at least restrained so that you can continue through the menu without feeling gross.

Pairing chopped walnuts with scallops wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it wasn’t terrible either. The slightly cooked through nuts added a bit of texture against the soft scallops, which were perfectly seared and served with a lovely creamy sauce. In this dish, the raw celery (?) leaves provided a bright element to counteract the buttery condiment.

With the scallops comes their bread course, a magnificent loaf that needs to be sold to go. Hot and crispy, the dark brown crust breaks away to reveal a milky airy centre. It’s their version of Japanese milk bread, which makes complete sense after the explanation as my husband found it resembled a lighter brioche while it tasted like a richer pain au lait for me. Regardless, I only wish I didn’t devour it all as the bread would also go well with the next dish. My advice for you, save a quarter.

Admittedly, I was disappointed to see the ‘lobster’ in the turnip and lobster dish rendered into a sauce, albeit a deliciously rich and silky bisque. It’s that richness that elevates the sweet slender turnip, an ingredient that hardly gets diners excited. Twenty Victoria’s turnip was a great consistency, neither too mushy nor too raw, and when slathered with the lobster sauce and topped with a black truffle does make the root vegetable more palatable.

The lamb was cooked to perfection, and I love that there was a sliver of fat and/or skin on one side that formed a crackling to compliment the tender meat. I wouldn’t have thought to pair lamb with maitake mushrooms and kelp, but both crunchier vegetables went nicely with the delicate tenderloin adding interesting textures in lieu of the traditional mashed or roasted vegetable side dishes.

Prior to dessert, we were asked if we’d be interested in a cheese course, something not listed on the menu. Of course, we obliged, and it was a great way to finish off the wine before diving into a digestif. Large ribbons of Niagara Gold arrived with crisp lavish bread and a slightly sweet quince. Having had this prized local cheese on other occasions, served as a traditional wedge, the ribbons completely changed the cheese’s taste allowing it to cover the tongue and almost melt away. Indeed, cheese please!

The pastry of the carrot pie was a wonderful thickness and consistency, holding its shape but breaking apart easily to mix into the carrot filling. I would have liked the pie to be sweeter, especially since it was paired with tangy unsweetened whipped buffalo cheese and a sea buckthorn syrup. I guess its neutrality helps balance the much sweeter lemon and ricotta cake, a warm moist cake sitting in a light syrup, so the dessert almost feels like a sticky toffee pudding, except with a hint of citrus and not quite as sugary.

Some diners were surprised that Twenty Victoria didn’t make it onto Toronto’s Michelin guide. With their amazing food, it’s certainly a strong contender. I sense that with a couple of small tweaks they could get there … assuming the added stress is something their chefs want, of course.

For example, expanding their tableware selection would help. When someone splurges on champagne ($35) and not a mere sparkling wine, ideally, it’d be served in a flute as opposed to a regular wine goblet.

If I were to get really picky, offering a wider fish knife or a shallow spoon with a dish like the trout and egg, would make it easier for patrons to spoon the sauce and fish roe onto the trout for a more fulsome bite. Yet, it comes back to whether Twenty Victoria even cares. Right now, dining there just seems so carefree, especially when trying to obtain a reservation. Star or no star, it was a shining meal for me. 

Overall mark - 9 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 20 Victoria 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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