Chef concierge • May 2017
After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the acclaimed ‘Chef Rouge’ opened Loka, a Canadian ingredients-driven restaurant with a zero waste philosophy, in Toronto in 2015. Here, Dave shares his top tips for eating out in his hometown
Weekend brunch worth battling the queues for
Our neighbour on Queen Street West, Lisa Marie, has a very popular brunch at the weekend with some pretty outlandish options, such as s’more pancakes and ‘bacon explosion Benedict’. For something a little more refined, Spanish-influenced Edulis has an epic Sunday lunch with tortilla de bacalao (salt-cod omelette) and homemade chorizo cooked in cider.
Breakfast spot worth getting up early for
I’m rarely awake early enough for breakfast, but if I am I’ll head to Bar Buca (above). It serves Italian-inspired breakfast from 7am onwards. The uova strapazzate (scrambled eggs) are made from really fresh farm eggs and incredibly creamy burrata. You can’t go wrong with burrata at any time of the day.
Best lunch spot for taking care of business
Centrally located in the financial district, Richmond Station is a good choice – Carl Heinrich won Top Chef Canada a few years back and is one of the most respected chefs in the city. The food is fantastic and the restaurant is run like a tight ship, letting you focus on your meeting. They make all their own charcuterie, and the station burger is delicious – it’s served in a milk bun with beetroot chutney and garlic aioli.
Where to savour local produce
At Loka, our menu changes daily because what’s available differs all the time. Instead of writing a menu and sending an order to our farmer, we simply take what he doesn’t sell at the farmers’ market.
Best ‘grab-and-go’ eaterie
There are so many great places in Toronto: Porchetta and Co (above) on Dundas Street West has amazing porchetta sandwiches with truffle mustard. In downtown Chinatown (there are several Chinatowns in the Greater Toronto area), one of the most famous bakers is Banh Mi Nguyen Huong. It was the first shop I tried a banh mi in so I’m fond of that memory. For a more modern take, head around the corner to Banh Mi Boys, with offerings like duck confit banh mi and kimchi fries.
Hip hangout where children are welcome
Lamesa is a fantastic modern Filipino restaurant. On Sundays they have a traditional kamayan (hand-to-mouth) lunch where they spread a banana leaf on the table and cover it with delicious sauces, meats, vegetables and rice. There are no plates or utensils – you simply eat with your hands.
Local independent that deserves to stay in business
As a local and independent business owner myself, the list is far too long. However, one of the most interesting businesses in Toronto is Le Depanneur by Len Senater. It’s a dedicated space aimed at helping small independents – when Loka was a pop-up, we held charcuterie classes there. Len also recently organised Newcomer Kitchen, a non-profit initiative where newly arrived Syrian refugee women were invited to cook a weekly meal to help them earn money.
Foodie souvenir to take home
You can’t leave without a bottle of local maple syrup.
Where to impress on a date
Dailo, run by Nick Liu, is an Asian brasserie with a modern twist on traditional food. The truffle-fried brown rice is amazing. The venue’s interior is intimate and exotic and, just like the food, there’s a nod to tradition with antique photos and a vintage Chinese mural. Danny Hassell’s Parcae (above) is also a cosy place for a date – the Italian menu changes often, but look out for the must-try deep-fried lamb brains with mushrooms.
Reliable place for a pre-dinner drink
We love BarChef for its interesting molecular cocktails, which have become known around the world. Just as we look to local ingredients to inspire our Canadian cuisine at Loka, so do our cocktails. Our Winter Storm uses ice wine, frozen rosemary and balsam fir, while our floral Old Fashioned uses fresh wild ginger we forage ourselves.
Dining experience worth leaving town for
Eigensinn Farm, two hours away in Grey County, is an amazing place. German chef Michael Stadtländer was one of Toronto’s top chefs but decided to leave the city for country life. He’s created a sustainable organic farm where he grows vegetables, raises animals and keeps bees. He hosts legendary fine-dining events where you can wander the grounds then dine at the farmhouse on food dictated by the season. Spaces are limited so you need to make a reservation well in advance.
Interview by Rachel Truman
Dave Mottershall is chef and co-owner of Loka with his partner Ayngelina. They also run BaconIsMagic.ca, a website dedicated to food around the world.
British Airways flies direct to Toronto. Discover more at ba.com