Edulis. As in Boletus edulis — my favorite mushroom, the porcini. I love them fresh, I love them dried, I grind dried ones to a powder in my granite mortar and turn them into a special umami touch by sprinkling the powder on scallops, or pretty much anything else I take a shine to.
But this time? Edulis is Edulis Restaurant, on Niagara Street in Toronto. A chilly night to be walking from King & Spadina area: thankfully, we weren’t walking further than this. Last year we did some longer walks, but it was warmer, dammit.
From the outside, Edulis, like a lot of Toronto restaurants, really isn’t remarkable.
It’s not about the bricks and mortar (although it’s really neat to have a restaurant in an old house — The Beast is similar).
It’s about the food and the people and the ambience once you get indoors.
I arrived with Sandy, Betty, and Gail for dinner. Choices on the menu looked very tasty indeed — but it was pretty much a unanimous decision to go for their Carte Blanche — their tasting feast. Oh my, the large one.
They don’t offer flights of wine with the Carte Blanche, so Sandy, our resident wine expert, chose a white for the earlier courses and a red for the later ones.
Our first wine was an Alsatian Auxerrois. Light, a little acidic fruit which paired well with the foods.
And then, the foods started coming. I have to praise Tobey Nemeth for the way she and her staff paced the meal. We got there at 6, and were back on our way at 9:20: we were never rushed, never wondered when the heck the next course would be served.
We started with some beautiful homemade bread. I like the presentation:
One great thing about serving bread this way is that it doesn’t get all stale and dried out. We received a complementary amuse of gildas to munch as we broke bread (right amount of tangy sourdough taste and structure and crunchy crust). The gildas were little croutons of bread soaked in a rich, fruity, spicy Spanish olive oil. I should have asked if they import the olive oil directly or if it’s available off-the-shelf somewhere here in Toronto. Also on the picks were crispy green fruity olives stuffed with anchovy. I think it was paste, not fillets, based on the smooth creamy texture that exploded from the fruit. They really set the mood and taste for the night.
We discovered, while plotting the dinner requisites, that Gail hadn’t had truffles other than truffle oil and the like. Betty regaled her with the story of the shaved truffles I had at Ristorante los Nina on freshly made pasta. There was no choice — we had to order a truffle dish, in addition to the 8-course meal we’d just subscribed to. I thought — since it was Gail’s first encounter, and we were early in the evening, that the Crostini would make a good introduction.
A lovely set of four crostini arrived.
This is mine, all mine
This is Gail’s face after tasting shaved black truffle for the first time. Sorry, it was really dark, so it’s a slow shutter speed. But I think you can sense what’s going on.
Gail discovered that there is food more toe-curlingly seductive than chocolate. Where do you go from there? Upward, ever upward!
We hadn’t even got into the official dinner yet!
Next up were a couple of dishes that display Continental roots, but, I suspect, a thoroughly modern take. Well, the potato recipe could have started with a warm German potato salad, but was stripped to its essentials:
Rich slices of warm creamy potato in a Dijon mustard sauce with some perfectly snipped chives. I want to eat this. A lot. I’d read recipes of warm German potato salad with mustard in them, but they never turned my crank. I didn’t know what I was missing. These ingredients are so good together: richness, tangy mustard, comfort and formality. Wow. And that was only the side dish to accompany the herring “a l’huile”; these items were served family-style, so we unloaded from the pot to our plates:
Lightly smoked herring fillets, still a bit of crunch to them, confitted with some heirloom carrots (likewise, lightly done so there was still texture and beautiful translucent colour. Here’s my plate.
There was more food in this dish than we expected. We each started off with one fillet…. then took another… and I think we might have done a third round, too. This was seriously good herring. And hey, my Mom pickles her own, so I think I have a grasp on herring
Next up was a country-style rabbit terrine with black trumpet mushrooms. Coarsely ground, it was matched with a ribbon of smoky apple sauce and an exclamation point of grainy mustard. This dish, paired with the Auxerrois wine, had me dreaming of being out on the road, enjoying a European-style picnic.
Except I want these plates. They were decadent. We mused about being drunk or stoned and just staring at them, rotating them, being hypnotized by them.
From this dish, we went again to the sea — this time, it was meaty seared albacore tuna, with beets prepared 3 ways: thinly sliced and raw, roasted, and (alas, it doesn’t show in my photo) a rich gem-toned purée underlying the tuna. The tuna was spectacular: meaty, rich, and buttery. No knife required. Just a very thin edge of sear on the outside. The meatiness of it went well with the beets: roasted beets matched it most; raw beets provided a contrast, similar to how pickled ginger gives a contrast in sushi, but not quite as far in the range. The purée underneath was smooth and sweet: I never would have thought of raw tuna and beet puree together, but the combination worked. Candy cane, golden, and red beets. Pepitas for crunch. Salsa verde added some acid and grace notes. Same type of plate as the terrine, but this time, because the food had all the colour, the plate was more simply toned.
Our next dish married the sea to the land. Halibut cheeks, and pork belly (hmm, might have been jowl, but I don’t have notes). Matched with some celery leaves and shavings for contrast, and then an exquisite amber broth of candy cap mushroom and black garlic was poured over them table-side. The broth provided salt and umami. The fish was clean tasting, the pork provided richness, and the celery cleaned the palate between tastes.
Time to switch wines! We’ve traversed from the land of lighter dishes and seafood and we’re about to head into meaty goodness. Sandy chose Norman Hardie‘s County Cab Franc – syrupy, rich, we just all fell in love with it.
And it was the perfect wine for our next dish!
Our next dish was rabbit sausage served with slices of a torchon of foie gras, mache, sliced almonds, and black trumpet mushrooms. It was so tasty. The sausage was lean, and the foie gras added the fat to complement it. Mache is something I’ve only had cold as salad before, but it worked really well (and it hadn’t been cooked that much) Slightly bitter greens. The rest of the ingredients all added up to provide a memorable dish of rich flavours that were just inside the bounds — we weren’t overwhelmed, just very pleasantly whelmed by this family-style dish:
And here’s my plate of ingredients!
Next up was our final meat dish of the night: three kinds of beef. There were thin slices of slightly smoky veal – barely cooked at all. Tender and juicy. Augmented by roast beef, slow cooked over a barbecue, by the taste of it. Mellow, rich, strongly flavoured. And then — some sweetbreads. Crunchy on the outside, tender and creamy inside. Some celeriac purée, caramelized celeriac, white kidney beans, and fried sliced almonds provided us with more creamy sweetness to pair with the dish, which was also served family style.
And again, here’s my plate:
We finished the night with what looked like a creme brulée, but was much lighter — almost a foam under the crackle of caramelized sugar. Buried deep were some slices of blood orange and some blood orange gelée – little gifts in a light finish.
Chef Michael Caballo, Manager Tobey Nemeth: thank you so much for a fulfilling evening. You and your staff are truly excellent professionals.
A bazillion and one thanks to my awesome friends Sandy, Betty, and Gail for treating me to this feast for my birthday!