Yes! Friday came (and went all too quickly), and that meant date night. We had a few exciting Abbey’s Kitchen updates to celebrate (and even if we didn’t, we would have celebrated anyways), so we made it out for a delicious meal at Toronto restaurant, Edulis. Owned by world-traveled foodies, Tobey Nemeth (front of the house) and Michael Caballo (Chef), Edulis has been on my hit-list ever since it hit the scene back in the Spring as a reincarnation of its former self, Niagara Street Cafe. I actually remember calling NSC back in the May or June to make a reservation only to be told (likely by co-owner Tobey Nemeth) that they were now a restaurant called Edulis and a bunch more unexpected details (like the fact that Edulis meant edible, and that it was serving European style fare). I was intrigued, but a bit caught off guard (especially because I hadn’t done any foodie research at that point), so I made a reservation elsewhere. Little did I know that this tiny little 33-seater would soon be awarded the title of Best New Restaurant of 2012 by enRoute Magazine. All these things considered, I made it my mission to get there before the year was up.
I called for a reservation a few weeks back to ensure I wouldn’t be disappointed. Good thing that I did, because despite the hostess’ best attempts to shuffle things around so that I might bump my reservation up even a half hour, the restaurant on Friday was completely booked.
The Edulis philosophy is one very much aligned with my own. Edulis is a celebration of the significance of sharing a meal with loved ones and focuses on the memories and narratives we craft through the act of eating. In it’s simplest form, Edulis is an ode to pleasure. Before even stepping into the restaurant, I felt that I was home.
And this held true upon arrival. The room itself feels like your grandmother’s old cottage, but with the lights dimmed down to a sexy date night glow. It’s cozy, warm and welcoming.
Service, for us, did not quite embody the philosophy with the same success. I saw Tobey interacting with diners, and I loved her social, yet gentle demeanor, but unfortunately we didn’t get the pleasure to chat with her. While knowledgeable and certainly friendly, our server(s) seemed too busy to provide much more than the bare minimum of interaction and conversation. Despite the lack of personable chit-chat, everything ran incredibly smoothly with regards to beverages refills and cutlery. I should certainly mentioned however, that Edulis is not the place if you have any plans to attend to post-meal. While I quite appreciate the long, luxurious European dining style (there is nothing worse then feeling rushed out of a restaurant when you’re paying $100 pp), I did feel we were waiting a little more than what would be ordinarily comfortable between receiving dishes. Case in point, our dinner from start to finish took 2 1/2 hours (the couple beside us had spent 4 1/2 hours there!). This is definitely something I would expect when indulging in a lengthy tasting menu (which we decided against last night because we did happen to have to be somewhere afterwards), but even my Momofuku 10-courser got us in and out faster. Again, I should reiterate, that it seems that a lazy lengthy meal is part of Edulis’ European style, but still something to be aware of when planning an Edulis dinner.
The cocktail menu at Edulis is classic, yet unique. My partner had a Manhattan (not on the menu), as well as a glass of Cab Franc, while I opted for a Lillet Cocktail (Lillet Blanc, Broker’s Gin, Elderflower and Basil), and later the Edulis Royale (Sparkling Cider, Coronation Grape, Cassis). The Lillet refreshing, floral and went down so effortlessly, you would have thought I was drinking water.
The food menu offered a sexy spin on classic European bistro fare. The flavours were discernible by the menu descriptions, and nothing came off as pretentious or over-reaching. Hearing that the Carte Blache (their 5 or 7 course tasting menus) was comprised primarily of menu items, we decided that we would prefer to choose our dishes to ensure that we got our must-have dishes (hello, foie gras, I’m talking about you). This is what we had:
Mixed Wild Mushrooms with Spanish Fried Egg and Brioche Toast
The flavours here were flawless. The mushrooms were cooked and seasoned perfectly, a celebration of earthy deep flavours. Cut by a bright parsley garlic olive oil, the egg and brioche brought a rich, decadent element that did not overpower the mushrooms. I had only wished that the egg had been cooked a little less (the yolk did not run as I’d hope), and the brioche had been toasted or seared well enough that it maintained some of its integrity rather than becoming an indiscernible disk of soggy carbs at the bottom of the bowl. My other criticism was that the dish was served luke warm. Unfortunately, this was actually true for every dish we had at Edulis.
Fresh Istrian White Truffle with Soft Eggs and Onion Puree
Probably the best truffle dish I have ever tasted. The onion puree had a sweet, slightly smokey flavour, with a pleasant mild acidic note. The eggs had a really comforting texture, gingerly speckled with fresh herbs to cut the richness. And thank you, Edulis, for doing truffle right. A delicate shaving of white truffles adorned the eggs so that the umami-rich flavour was distinguished, but not overwhelming.
Poached Foie Gras “Facon Michel Guerard” Du Puy Lentils, Smoked Apple Puree, Balconville, Crispy Chicken Skin Crumbs
For someone who ordinarily is not a huge fan of De Puy Lentils, this was a stellar dish, and worth holding out on the Carte Blanche for (or ordering it in addition to the tasting). The foie itself was generously portioned and incredibly buttery, contrasted with the supple pop of the lentils beneath. I appreciated the sweet and acidic note of the apple, and the salty crunch of the chicken skin. Way to make a girl love lentils.
Glazed Beef Cheek with Black Trumpets, Parsley Root Puree, Sunchokes, Herbs
The beef cheek was meltingly tender, and its deep rich flavour was complemented beautifully with the trumpet mushrooms. Both of these elements worked well with the nutty, sweet sunchokes and lustrously smooth puree.
Kale and Duck Leg Meat Ball with Stewed Potatoes and Hazelnuts
This was probably our least favourite dish, but by no means and failure. The meat ball lacked the moisture and the sumptuous mouthfeel I would expect from anything made of duck legs. The stewed potatoes and hazelnuts, however, were a dream. The potatoes were tender and beautifully seasoned, while the hazelnuts lent a contrasting crunch and nutty aroma. This would make for a beautiful holiday side.
Vin Santo Roasted Pear, Walnut Toffee Cream, Salted Caramel
Sitting before us looking like a Bon Appetit magazine cover, this was a light, yet indulgent and elegant dessert. The pear had slightly caramelized exterior, that when plunged into the caramel and cream below yielded a perfect bite of sweet, salty and richness. As someone who has poached many-a-pears, I found the roasting technique easier to eat (with a bit of care, you could cut it easily with a spoon), but a little bit more grainy in texture. Regardless, I literally ate everything in the bowl except the stem.
Spiced Apple Sorbet
Another light and refreshing end to a meat-heavy meal. The sorbet had all of those memory-evoking holiday spices, and without the weight an ice cream, I could actually appreciate the bright acidic apple flavour. A rendition of this may make an appearance in my freezer sometime soon.
So, for 5 savoury dishes, 2 sweet, 3 cocktails, 1 glass of wine, sparkling water and a cappuccino, the bill came to $250, a bit more than we normally spend, but the quality was testimony to its worth. I will definitely come for a return visit, and when I do, I’ll plan for an all-nighter, tuck into a 7-course Carte Blanch, and try to spend some time chatting it up with Tobey. Congratulations Edulis on your recent success and accolades. There is definitely good reason why you’ve been voted number one!
Abbey Sharp is a Registered Dietitian, an avid food writer and blogger, a cookbook author and the founder of Abbey’s Kitchen Inc.