Showing posts with label kobe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kobe. Show all posts

DaNico (Toronto)

Call me a purist, but I’m tired of eating Japanese dishes at European restaurants. It’s not about cultural misappropriation or being a snob against fusion food, rather I want to taste traditional things and don’t want menus turning into the food form of beige.

DaNico is a light hue of beige. While their signature tasting menu ($225) looks Italian on paper, what arrives turns more Asian as the courses progress.

Their bread service is completely European featuring crispy flatbread, fluffy focaccia, and brioche studded with blue cheese and salami. Paired with a dish of intensely flavoured olive oil and soft churned butter… there’s no mistaken the origins of these carbs.

Even the aperitivo bites still lean traditional:

  • A beautifully adorned oyster that’s covered in a slightly sweet foam that’s unexpected but good.
  • A caprese salad formed into a liquid gel that brought me back to the molecular eats of Colborne Lane (may it R.I.P.).
  • A cigar looking bite comprised of a crispy roll stuffed with monk fish liver, which DaNico calls “sea foie gras” that’s a balance of sweet and savoury.

While the granchio al gusto Mediterrandeo has a Thai or Indian aesthetic in its presentation, the wild red king crab salad is Mediterranean in flavour with the tiny chunks of olives. Pretty to look at but not the tastiest: the crab was tough, and the edible lace decal had a bitter undertone. At least the dish paired well with the wine ($120 for the classic pairing).

The anatra all’ arancia highlighted French influences. Even though the skin could be crispier, the slices of duck breast were so tender and cooked perfectly.  Using star anise and cinnamon may seem strange for duck, but the spices complimented the citrus taste of the pickled endive and held up against the stronger meat. My recommendation is to save a piece of focaccia to polish off the foie gras foam (served in the duck foot vessel) and the fennel purée, these great sauces should not be wasted.

Our table universally loved the spaghettoni ai funghi locali e tartufo nero and we were sad as three forkfuls was not enough. DaNico takes the high-end Pastificio dei Campi spaghetti, cooks it in mushroom broth, and finishes it with aged parmigiano Reggiano and black truffle shavings. For something cooked in broth I expected the pasta to be more flavourful. Perhaps, this would be even better made with a fresh pasta?

By the time we get to the merluzzo nero, vermouth caviale the menu starts leaning Japanese. The black cod would be fine served with a silky vermouth butter sauce and lovely chanterelle mushrooms. It really didn’t need miso, which barely registers on the tongue as it’s used to deglaze the pan rather than as a marinade.

I felt like we were eating in an izakaya once we reached the final dish – the il manzo. Individual charcoal grills were presented with one billowing so much smoke we eventually had to let it go. Its purpose: present the skewer of sweet potato slices and a grilled shishito pepper. I found it kitschy and out-of-place at a fine dining restaurant. Not to mention the sides were a bit of a bore.

There are better things to pair with kobe beef ($40 supplement; wagyu without substitution) – sautéed mushrooms, potato, or a stuffed zucchini blossom… what can be more Italian? At least the kobe was not overcooked (well done meat is sometimes a peril of Italian kitchens) and was tender and flavourful without feeling like you’re eating lard. Overall, the fat to meat ratio of the kobe was well balanced.

I love DaNico’s idea to let diners select a dessert from three options. While it would have made sense for us to order different items and share, the torta di mele sounded too delicious to split. What a great decision as the beautiful caramelized gala apple rose would be difficult to cut and best eaten by the “petal”. The fruit sat on a soften almond cookie topped with a cinnamon cream and a bourbon foam, which all worked well together. If the dessert was served warm, it’d be even more incredible.

It’s a tad disappointing that there weren’t enough petit fours to have one each… sadly, the hollowed cloche was only made with duos in mind, so an odd-person table is shafted.

  • The Ferrero Rocher tasting cream puff was fantastic, one that shouldn’t be split.
  • A log of white chocolate and pistachio cream was tame on its nuttiness, but the crunchy pretzel inside an interested contrast to the cream.
  • While I enjoyed the chewy freshness of the macaron, its flavour was indiscernible and a lost opportunity to wow us with one last flavour.

Three months after opening and the restaurant still has service kinks to work out. For me, it was all about the wine pairings. Generally, the preferred order is having the sommelier pour and explain the wine, a brief pause so the diner can try a sip solo, and finally the dish arrives so the wine is tried with food.

At DaNico, the pairings were all over the place. The first two courses followed the preferred procession, but as the restaurant became busy the wine was served simultaneously with the food (meaning diners need to listen to two long explanations before eating) and by the meat course we had to flag down a server to ask them for wine. Not having wine when you have a piece of kobe… oh boy.

Small complaints aside, I did enjoy dinner at DaNico. If anything, I encourage them to stop listening to the consultants that may be telling about food trends and what impresses Michelin inspectors. Instead, lean in on their strengths and give me well cooked European style dish any day.

In a nutshell... 
  • Must order: spaghetti and black cod
  • Just skip: wild king crab salad 
  • Note: DaNico offers a prix fixe menu for $150 that allows diners to choose their three courses

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 440 College 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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