Canoe: Freshest ingredients, fullest flavours
66 Wellington Street West, Toronto, 54th floor
Up high on the top floor of the TD Bank building in downtown Toronto is Canoe. Where I soon found out is also home to one of the best butter tarts around, more on that later. Another cool bonus at Canoe is free parking after 5:30 pm! We all know how few and far between free parking is in Toronto. You just pull into the TD tower’s underground parking lot from Wellington Street and make sure you grab a complimentary parking slip when you get up to the restaurant.
Taste of Ontario is going on now at Canoe but as tempting as the set menu looked, we opted to order from the a la carte menu since there were a few items there that I was dying to try. However, all the items on the Taste of Ontario set menu were also available as a la carte items. Well, all the items except for the doughnuts that were listed for dessert. That was disappointing. I love doughnuts.
We couldn’t start our meal without a half dozen east coast oysters. I’ve always loved briny and meaty east coast oysters over their tiny west coast counterparts. Our small platter of oysters came with Canoe’s 54 smoker sauce. I usually never dress my oysters but I tried a little bit of the 54 smoker sauce this time. It was smoky and spicy as promised but I have to say that I still prefer my oysters au naturale. Our server told us that these particular oysters hailed from New Brunswick. They definitely had a steely metallic finish to them. I enjoyed the aftertaste from the oysters but not for long because swiftly after our empty oyster platter was cleared from the table, two spoonfuls of palate cleansers were placed before us. Each spoon contained some clear, jiggly jelly and a bright red berry compote. It tasted like strawberry jam. I smooshed it around my mouth for a while because the seeds of the chewy berry compote kept getting stuck in my teeth. My husband commented that for a palate cleanser, the little spoonful was very aggressive in taste and texture. I suppose that’s what it takes to thoroughly cleanse a palate.
For a main, I ordered the tea smoked duck and it was everything I expected: gamey and robust but also tender and juicy. The thinly sliced duck breast was succulent throughout and each slice was topped with the crispiest, tastiest skin that crackled with each bite.
The accompaniments on the dish were also equally as delicious, a testament to the quality of ingredients at Canoe. Everything tasted so fresh and scrumptious, even in what feels like the dead of winter. I particularly loved the three grain porridge in my dish. It doesn’t sound like much but the creamy and rustic side added a wonderful texture to the dish, some of the grains were crunchy in a pleasant and comfort-food kind of way and gave the dish a very homey feel. The earthy mushrooms were also delicious and soaked in delectable sauce. They even did rapini right, there was barely any bitterness to the veggie and each bite was better than the next. My husband absolutely hates rapini so I didn’t have to worry about him stealing things from my plate, his loss though! The rapini was tasty!
My husband ordered the Alberta lamb for his main. When it came to the table, I remember thinking that it looked way better than my dish. You always wish you ordered what the other person did! I stole a bite from his plate before I even dug into my own, the lamb looked and smelled so phenomenal. The lamb was as juicy as it looked, rich and robust, I’ll admit I stole more than one bite. I still preferred my duck dish but I also loved the lamb. My husband plucked all the squash from his dish onto my plate since he hates that vegetable. But the way it was prepared at Canoe was so delicious, creamy and rich, perfect for a cold winter night.
Like every upscale restaurant, the portions at Canoe were modest but just like every upscale restaurant we visited, I found myself inexplicably full at the end. The combination of the rich sauces and full flavours must have been filling enough.
Thankfully, we still had room for dessert. We chose the chocolate torte and the butter tart. And just to keep us on our toes, when the plates came to our table, neither dessert resembled a traditional torte or butter tart. I guess I was expecting individual servings of each dessert but each wedge of dessert looked like it was cut from a much larger tart and torte. Again, I wished I ordered what my hubby ordered. He got the butter tart which looked more like a slab of buttery cake and it tasted like it too. It was somehow fluffy and light but also offered a rich, nutty buttery flavour. There was a small sheet of sponge cake on the dessert and the ‘butter tart filling’ portion of the dessert was so sweet and scrumptious, I fear I am getting a cavity right now just by thinking about it.
The chocolate torte that I ordered was the opposite of fluffy and light. I had expected a dense and rich piece of chocolate dessert but found that the torte was not only extremely dense but also constructed of a very dark chocolate offering the perfect bitter kick to my very rich meal. The only fluffy thing on the plate were these beige clouds of what I can only guess were pulled out pieces of sponge cake. In order to cut the super dense torte, I smeared each bite of chocolate torte onto the lighter cake cloud puffs to achieve some sort of dessert balance. The Ovaltine ice cream offered the perfect malty lightness to an otherwise very rich dish. The hazelnuts scattered around the plate added a great crunchy texture to contrast with the smooth chocolate and silky ice cream. As did those incredible dark chocolate wafer chips poking out of the chocolate torte. I also smeared some chocolate torte on each chip for a double indulgence of chocolate in each bite. Another little surprise that wasn’t listed on the menu along with the chocolate torte was this little button that I can only refer to as a richer more dense version of a creme caramel, heavy on the caramel and so much heavier and smoother in texture than a flan, I only wish there was more of it.
We had a wonderful time at Canoe. Our server was informative and fun and made some great menu suggestions to help us pick what to order. We can’t wait to revisit!