En route’s designation of best new Canadian restaurant and an impressive debut as number 11 on Joanne Kates’ top 100 of 2012 certainly raised my curiosity about Edulis, the small bistro which opened in 2012 along Niagara Street. The philosophy of Edulis can be summarized as a juxtaposition of the elements of fine dining and the hipster joints plastered up the road along Queen street . Upon entry, you are greeted with a hello, a coat check and waitstaff donning traditional black uniforms. You are seated at a table within the small dining space within an atmosphere which possesses a subtle yet enjoyable aura of chaos. The decor is highlighted by a variety of paintings and pictures, marble tables and dim candlelight while at the same time possessing a flare both rustic and rundown. A daily menu is printed featuring core offerings with additional fare based on ingredient availability with truffles as the specialty. A carte blanche menu is also available with 5 courses for $50 or 7 for $70. Although I didn’t order myself, some of the choices included veal three ways- tongue, belly and sweetbread and a pork belly and shoulder offering. There is a decent wine offering (8 glasses plus 50 or so bottles) as well as homemade non-alcoholic sodas with odd flavours which include burdock, hibiscus and ginger with szechwan pepper. The latter was divine.
The cele”rissoto” was a spin on traditional risotto, opting for the winter favorite celery root instead of the traditional arborio rice. The centrepiece was a square of toast topped with fois gras. It managed to create a mouth feel similar to the traditional dish while maintaining the subtle earthiness of the celeriac. I’m not sure if the draw for me was the unique nature of the dish itself or the surreal nature of taking bite after bite and trying to figure out how they did it. Either way, it was addictive. In fact, the fois gras became second nature.
In a world filled with different shaped pasta served in different sized bowls soaking in truffle oil, the thought of homemade potato ribbons swimming in a rich sauce and topped with fresh white truffles was a refreshing thought, even with a price tag of $36. Once again, the execution was flawless; the potatoes were perfectly cooked and a refreshing change from the ubiquity of standard gnocchi. From the first bite, I was filled with a comfort reminiscent of grandma’s perfect scalloped potatoes yet mixed with the exquisite nature of the precious white fungus…sort of like moving from the comfort of a cozy terrycloth robe to one made of fine silk.
I’m quite nostalgic when it comes to the preservation of elements of fine dining. The disappearance of the amuse bouche and fresh bread has plagued the dining scene so it is quite refreshing when a restaurant adheres to old school philosophies. An anchovy-stuffed manzanilla olive was proudly offered along side some of the best homemade bread I’ve had in a while. It was a rustic, dense loaf served in a nifty cotton bag; a refreshing change from the normal offering of semi-stale crusty loaf inside a frayed wicker basket. Normally, the bread is meant to hold one over until the real food arrives, but I found myself devouring slices well after the first course arrived.
Shrimp ceviche and ajo blanco (a cold, white garlic based soup) are quite different in everything except temperature so I was interested to experience the marriage of the two. The ajo blanco was fresh and although a little on the acidic side, it was generally well-balanced and contained a decent amount of roasted almonds. However, the ceviche concept was a bit lost in the dish. There was no distinct citrus flavor or heat and although the shaved onion worked, the cilantro clashed with the ajo blanco base. The saving grace of the dish was both the flawless execution of the shrimp and the brilliant balance of the soup. I’m just not sure they go well together.
Another childhood favorite of mine is tapioca pudding so I was pleased to see it offered as a dessert, especially when coupled with the vibrant flavour of meyer lemons. It was served with the texture of a thick soup more than pudding and the lemon flavour was quite predominant. The preserved apricot did little to enhance the dessert other than adding a bit of chewiness and not enough sweet. I will admit I ordered a lot of creamy dishes throughout the night so perhaps a dessert with the same colour and texture profiles was a bit much.
Edulis is a unique addition to Toronto’s fine dining scene. Perfect execution highlights the menu which merges old school fine dining with hip and trendy cuisine. Candlelight meets chaos. Suit wearing lawyers sit among thick-rimmed twenty somethings. Marble tables erected beside porcelain bathroom tiles. The choice of a $100 bottle of wine or a $3 glass of grape soda. You can gamble on a carte blanche menu or indulge on rich truffles. Even co-owner Tobey Nemeth personifies the juxtaposition, wearing a trendy tiger print dress while the remaining staff don the traditional black uniforms. You can even pick your price to a degree but temptation could lead to a bill well over a hundred bucks. Regardless of which side of the spectrum you fall on, in the end you’ll be treated to both great food and great service. There’s no dichotomy there.