Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Valentine's Day Dinner at Shōtō: The Food of Love

Acclaimed by many to be the best restaurant in Toronto, Shōtō is private culinary theatre at its best. Sharing the third floor with Daishō on the third floor of the lofty Momofuku complex, Shōtō's gleaming black granite bar with just 22 prized seats encircles an open central kitchen, where diners are treated to Toronto's ultimate tasting menu of artfully conceived dishes with elegant ingredients and sublime flavours. Enjoying a divinely decadent multi-course chef's tasting menu with wine pairings as a special Valentine's dinner from my sweetheart, centre-stage head chef de cuisine Jed Smith, who personally serves the special 9-course Valentine's dinner of individually plated dishes. Beverage Director Steve Sousa, who guided diners through the wine pairings and along with the chefs, explains each and every dish. Warm, relaxed and extraordinarily delicious, Shōtō is indeed the culinary jewel in Momofuku's gleaming crown. An absolutely superb evening, and unfortunately one of the last, the entire 3rd floor is being renovated in early 2018 in order to launch a new ding concept and layout for the space — my chopsticks are crossed that they know what they're doing and the new space will be equally outstanding. 

Dinner at Shōtō kicks off with small bites: the coronation chicken ball combines smoked chicken, raisins, cilantro, curry, and the sausage roll is filled with lamb sausage with a miso-mirin mustard

Lamb Sausage Roll with miso mirin mustard

Boulevardier Cocktail on the rocks with bourbon, sweet vermouth, Campari with orange peel

Coronation Chicken Ball combines smoked chicken, raisins, cilantro and curry

Spicy Pickled Mussels with greens

Domaine Baud Blanc de Blanc, Crémant de Jura Brut was the first of the wine pairings

Light and delicate with a forward nose of apply fruit with citrus, toasted brioche with a zesty, mineral, the crément was a bubbly start to the Valentine's evening

Sous chef slicing snapper for the next dish

Red Snapper Cracker with crème fraîche, red onion, caviar and chive batons

Raw Diver Scallops roasted maitake mushrooms and seaweed salad with maple syrup drizzle

Sous chef blow torching the mackerel aburi-style

Flame-Torched Spanish Mackerel with Meyer Lemon and green apple

2015 Domaine Marcel Deiss Pinot d'Alsace was the evenings 2nd wine pairing

Jed plating the noodle dish

Noodles with shrimp, 'nduja and baby kale

Homemade Sourdough Bread with sweet sorghum butter

2016 Gamay Marcel Lapierre 'Morgon' was the fifth wine pairing

Octopus with sun choke in a light yuzu kosho broth

Jed chatting with the Valentine's Night guests and giving me 'knowing' look as I snapped his photograph

2014 Viura Finca La Emperatriz, Vuira Cepas Viejas, the sixth wine pairing

A lovely white Rioja, this wine has a woody, this beautiful elegant wine paired
perfectly with the richness of the Crab with Rice

Crab with rice and chives in a savoury crab broth

Sous chef sautées bone-in rack of pork 

Pork Chop with tamarind and coconut

2014 Greco di Tufo by Fonzone from Campania, Italy was the seventh wine pairing of the evening

With a golden straw yellow colour, the bouquet is sweet and potent

Welsh Rarebit with 5-year old cheddar, comté and shaved truffle, and inspired by chef Jed's many visits to St. John's Restaurant in London

Sticky Toffee Pudding with hot rum-butterscotch sauce being poured overtop

Roasted Banana Iced Cream is then scooped on top

Chef Jed Smith uses his grandma's recipe made with dates and ovaltine, and tops it with hot rum-caramel sauce, banana meringue and roasted banana ice cream, then crowns it with shaved foie gras

Chef Smith personally makes this flan before each dinner and serves it as a tasty treat at the end of the meal

After slicing his flan, Jed adds sweet peanut and maple truffles rolled in crisp rice balls

Peanut and Maple Truffles with Jed's Leche Flan, rather like crème caramel, is a famous Filipino dessert

Angostura Clarified Milk Punch with sesame, tea and peppercorn, based on an old English preparation that dates back nearly three centuries

Scallops with Buttermilk, Soy & Poppy Seeds
Serves 8
Recipe courtesy of Chef David Chang

1 1/2 lb large sea scallops
2 tsp poppy seeds 
2 tbsp 1-inch-long chive batons 
Maldon salt

Buttermilk Dressing: 
1/3 cup buttermilk 
2 1/2 tbsp sour cream 
1/2 tsp Maldon salt, or more if needed 
1/4 tsp sriracha, or more if needed

Shiro Shoyu Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup shiro shoyu (white soy sauce) 
1/8 tsp bottled sudachi lime or yuzu juice 
1 1/2 tsp mirin 
A tiny dot of green yuzu kosho (jarred yuzu and chile paste)

Whisk together the buttermilk and sour cream in a small bowl. Whisk in the salt and sriracha, and taste: it should have some heat but it shouldn't be "spicy." Add more salt or sriracha to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use, or for up to a few days. Stir together the soy sauce, lime juice, mirin, and yuzu kosho in a small bowl. This can be stored for up to a month in the fridge.

To serve, put a tablespoon or so of the buttermilk dressing in the bottom of each of eight chilled shallow bowls. Thinly slice the scallops a little less than 1/4 inch thick and fan the slices out over the buttermilk dressing. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the vinaigrette to each plate, around the rim of the buttermilk sauce. Scatter 1/4 teaspoon poppy seeds over each serving, and follow with some chive batons and a tiny pinch of Maldon salt. Serve at once.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Estiatorio Volos: Modern Greek Cuisine

Located across from the Canadian Opera Centre at Richmond and University, Estiatorio Volos is centered around the concept of Philoxenia, a Greek word meaning hospitality, a credo that is woven into the tapestry of the restaurant’s food, service, and ambiance. Born out of owner Andreas Antoniou's passion for the food of his family's native Greece, he is committed to using only the highest quality local produce, creating a unique contemporary culinary experience rooted in authentic Greek cuisine. The open kitchen is presided over by chef Reza Parsia in collaboration with New York-based author, critic and chef Diane Kochilas, to create a menu of authentic, modern Greek dishes, with delicious results. Andreas knew of Kochilas by dining at Pylos in NYC, another Greek-inspired restaurant that bears the hallmark of her touch. Andreas approached Diane to come and create a menu that would put Volos on equal footing with the top Greek restaurants of Montreal, New York and Chicago. Kochilas, a New Yorker who lives in Greece, has an eye for New York chic mixed with down-home Greek flavours.

The menu at Volos reflects this vision, featuring modern twists on traditional classics, such as Horiatiki Salad with its classic combination of cherry heirloom and cluster tomatoes, field cucumber, red onion, Kalamata olives and barrel feta, laced with a generous lashing of chef Reza Parsia’s top-notch Cretan organic olive oil, Dolmades with grape leaf wrapped Metaxa-soaked golden raisins, pine nuts, arborio rice and Tzatziki — beautifully textured and full of flavour, and Moussaka, a towering terrine of eggplant, zucchini and yukon gold potato sauced with a Greek-style Bolognese perfumed with cinnamon and allspice, all topped with a fluffy, cheesy snowcap of Kasseri and Kafaltyri cheese béchamel. Volos also features a small pre-theatre menu, with a choice of three appetizers, three entrées and a selection of traditional Greek desserts such as Baklava and also Pressed Greek Yogurt with Honey and Fresh Berries, which was deliciously rich and thick with a small puddle of honey, crowned with a selection of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries and a sprig of mint — polí nóstimos!

A whimsical chandelier made of green glass fishing buoys which hang over 
the impressive 12-seat celebration table

The open, friendly Mediterranean-inspired interior of Volos was designed using lots of 
warm wood, stone and natural light

Natural wood table settings with linen napkins and modern glassware

Volos pre-theatre menu

Fresh baked squishy baguette

2015 Vidiano, Klima, Crete

Soutzoukakia: Braised Meatballs with cinnamon, cumin and tomato sauce garnished with feta

Watermelon, feta and mint salad with extra virgin olive oil and lots of black pepper

Greek Lentil Soup

Black Sesame Wild Pacific Salmon with spanakorizo, shaved feta with a herb and lemon sauce 
and roasted asparagus

Moussaka with beef, eggplant, zucchini, Yukon gold potato, manouri, feta and Kefalotyri béchamel

Lamb Shank with feta mashed potatoes, spinach and crispy leeks

Horiatiki Salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, bell peppers, olive, feta and olive oil

Pressed Greek Yogurt with fresh Berries and honey

Ouzo Chocolate Mousse with semi-sweet dark chocolate mousse with Ouzo chantilly

Makes about 40
Recipe courtesy of chef Reza Parsia, Estiatorio Volos

3 tbsp olive oil
1 Spanish onion, finely diced
salt and pepper
juice of 1 lemon
1 cup rice
1/3 cup fresh dill
1/3 cup fresh parsley
1/3 cup fresh mint
2 cups water or stock
1/2 cup pine nuts, chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins, chopped
1 tbsp pomegranate syrup
1 jar brined grape leaves with at least 40 pieces

1/2 cucumber
1 cup pressed yogurt
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
salt and pepper to taste

Shred the cucumber on a box grater, squeezing out excess liquid with a clean dish cloth. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cucumber with yogurt, vinegar, olive oil and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then cover and chill until ready to use.

In a small saucepot with 2 tbsp of olive oil, sauté onions for 2 minutes. Add rice, a pinch of salt and pepper and stir. Add a splash of lemon juice and herbs, and stir. Add water or stock, a splash at a time, stirring, until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Rice should be undercooked. Stir in pine nuts, raisins and pomegranate syrup. Transfer to plate and spread flat to cool.

Strain grape leaves and rinse for 15 minutes. Use a paring knife to remove excess tip of stem. Lay grape leaves flat, shiny-side down. Place a small spoonful of filling in the centre. Fold in left side, right side, the side closest to you, and then roll tight. It’s the same method as a burrito or spring roll, but with the grape leave forming a thick wrap.

Place dolmades in a pot covered with water, remaining olive oil, lemon juice, and a plate to weigh them down. Cover and simmer for 35 minutes. Uncover, remove from heat and allow to cool before straining and transferring to plate. Once dry and cool, store in fridge for up to 4 days. Serve chilled, with tzatziki.