Mmmm… Fall & Food! Is there a more perfect pairing?
I’m sure the timeless partnership of harvest plays a heavy role in when the annual ranking of Canada’s Best New Restaurants are announced, but if it doesn’t, it’s the perfect coincidence. The first sign of chill makes many of us want to hunker down with a satisfying stew, some fresh crusty bread and a robust red. By all accounts, it is the perfect time to get us salivating over hearty fare.
Published by enRoute Magazine (available on board all Air Canada flights), the release of the yearly tasty list has become a highly-anticipated event and a dream job for any aspiring food critic. To qualify this year, a restaurant must have opened between late spring 2016 and June 2017. After some expert tips on popular openings, a little social media stalking and an anonymous dining marathon to dwindle down a lengthy list, the top 10 were finally chosen.
While sweater weather is generally a festive time held for family fun and a seemingly infinite amount of food, fall is also a great time to get on a plane to sample the wealth of dynamic restaurants found throughout our beautiful country – especially these ten new gems.
The fact that fall coincides with low-season airfares within Canada is an added-bonus, making for weekends away locally that much more affordable. This year, new restaurants in Quebec City, Toronto and Calgary topped the list, with delicious upstart establishments in Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa and Montreal rounding out the top 10. If you find yourself in any of the aforementioned cities looking for a spectacular culinary experience, according to Air Canada, here is where you should be.
Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2017
- Battuto, Quebec City, QC
- Canis, Toronto, ON
- Bar Von der Fels, Calgary, AB
- Mak n Ming, Vancouver, BC
- Clementine, Edmonton, AB
- Café Linnea, Edmonton, AB
- Riviera, Ottawa, ON
- Brothers Food & Wine, Toronto, ON
- Marconi, Montreal, QC
- Alder Room, Edmonton, AB
Here is a closer look at the top three.
The folks at Battuto must be raking it in. Not because they’ve topped this year’s list as Canada’s best, but because their overhead must be that of an upscale food truck. With a tiny team of four (including Chef, sous chef, sommelier and a wait staff of one) and just 400-square feet to work in, the restaurant’s high-grade ingredients might just be its biggest expense.
There’s room for no more than two dozen patrons, meaning your reservation will seat you about a month after it’s made. Once there, it is instantly evident that the homely Italian trattoria aims to create a highly-intimate experience, from the setting to the service, and of course, the food itself.
Battuto’s classic Quebecois warmth doesn’t hide in a dimly-lit, dark-wood furniture cellar somewhere. It is pearly-bright with clean white tiles and a welcoming open kitchen, where Chef Guillaume St-Pierre captures the flavours of fall flawlessly. Formerly of rustic La Planque and recent winner of Les Chefs!, St-Pierre’s creations include a cremini mushroom-stuffed quail, floating happily in a rich lobster bisque.
Simplicity reigns supreme at Canis. The dusky interior, clean lines and soft wood tones all lend to a pleasant dining atmosphere, and reflect in the dishes often dubbed ‘too pretty to eat’. The restaurant’s minimalist design has a purpose – to not distract from the real reason you are here, and that is to eat. In letting ingredients speak for themselves, Queen Street West’s crisp new bistro prefers to highlight fresh, seasonal produce, adding only what’s necessary to take it to the next level.
Make no mistake, as polished and cosmopolitan as the offerings appear, Chef Jeff Kang describes them as ‘quintessentially Canadian’. Foie gras, apple, walnut. Lobster, quail egg, mushroom. Lamb loin, eggplant, pine nut. Menu items are listed as humble, three ingredient concoctions but of coarse, play much more intricately on the palate.
Choose the 7-course Tasting Menu, pair it all with carefully chosen wines or opt for the lighter Prix Fixe version. Canis seats only 30 so make your reservations now.
Bar Von der Fels
If Bar Von der Fels is anything, it’s refreshing. Refreshing in its attention to detail, in its buy-in from its owners (who hold down all the service by their twosome) and refreshing for Calgary. Not a knock on the city but more of a toast to an operation that would look and feel more at home in Montreal or even NYC. Of course, it has a lot more going for it than that. The cozy, nondescript wine-bar is also one of the more affordable options on this year’s list.
Skimming through various reviews, one constant jumps out from each and every glowing critique – the meaty, grilled, maple-glazed maitake mushrooms. From his shoe box-sized kitchen, Chef Eric Hendry dishes out one happy plate after another; massive, yuzu kosho-spiced baked Beach Angel oyster and the comte and ham stuffed chicken wings, to name a couple. The portions are small enough to qualify as tapas but the flavours are big and bold.
For a wine-bar, forget the wine list. Instead, opt for a selection from one of the metal bins of bottles in front of the bar. Glass prices are hand-written directly on the bottle in silver marker and poured by one of the owners. The selection spans all the hottest wine regions, including the South Okanagan. Space is at a premium with just a handful of tables, bar seating and even standing room, all maxing out at around 30 capacity, also refreshing.
The above was enRoute’s 16th annual Best New Restaurants list. Writer Andrew Brathwaite ate a total of 198 dishes at 30 different restaurants to narrow his list down to the top ten. Surprisingly, Canada’s East Coast didn’t place in the top 10 but its restaurant scene fared fairly-well overall, with numerous eateries making the top 30.
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