One of Toronto’s most beloved and acclaimed restaurants in the city is Alo, along with their Alo Bar, and more casual eatery Aloette. Alo has held the number 1 position two years running on Canada’s top 100 list. The great news is that Chef Patrick Kriss’s and his dedicated, hard-working team are now extending their Alo brand empire. And, much to my delight they are opening in my hood, of Yorkville. Besides Brothers, Buca and Charbroal, this area has lacked fine dining establishments. So you can imagine this newcomer will be a much-needed addition to the area. Situated at 162 Cumberland, tucked in a courtyard running between Cumberland and Yorkville. I dined there on the 5th day of their soft opening and I can tell you that the kitchen, as well as the staff, are working like a well-oiled machine. I wish other restaurants would have a training period, to work out any kinks, like they do. The only other place that comes to mind, that had a long soft opening, and was running smoothly from day one, was Buca Yorkville.
Our meal was not only well spaced and timed, it was also perfectly prepared.
The 50 seat restaurant is very attractive, with wood floors, walnut tables, burnt orange and turquoise leatherette banquets. The lighting fixtures are fabulous too. French doors open to a quiet, courtyard that will eventually have additional seating for 25. The decor is by Commute Home, which do all of their properties, but I particularly like the sexy, sophisticated and hip vibe of this one. Even the unisex bathrooms are cool. The kitchen is partially open to reveal the chefs hard at work. Alo Bar Yorkville stands out from a pack of other new places, pushing out exciting food that will likely keep the restaurant popular for a long time.
The menu had a beautiful selection of dishes, making it difficult to choose from. You can share or order your own dish, there is no pressure here. And, there is no BS about plates coming out as they are ready. They serve one or perhaps two dishes at a time, so you can savour the flavours. They change plates and cutlery after each course too, what a breath of fresh air.
The staff is on top of everything, with a devotion to hospitality, coming by often to see if everything is to your liking. I like their uniforms too. A crisp white shirt, a tailored navy blazer, with skinny short jeans and trendy sneakers. Very contemporary, and very current.
The menu delivers, and the cooking is a marvel of attentiveness and balance, with choices like hamachi with zucchini, chorizo and topped with Iberico ham. Or, Nova Scotia lobster in a ginger, orange and XO sauce, and foie gras with sour cherries, hazelnuts and some homemade brioche bread. Ora king salmon, sea urchin, king crab, and beef tartar are things I need to come back to try. The chef de cuisine is Mathew Bentsch, and I can tell you that you are in capable hands with him. The best strategy is to order as much as possible so you can explore just what the kitchen is capable of.
There were 7 choices for a main course, like rich agnolotti, Pacific cod, rack of pork, Muscovy duck in a plum and star anise sauce and a 24 ounce USDA ribeye. We went with the sea scallops accompanied with shishito peppers, harissa and corn, and a perfectly cooked rack of lamb in a mint, pistachio and gem lettuce sauce. The sides also were diverse and innovative. Zucchini blossoms, with dashi, and miso in a light tempura batter, freshly made to order, were wonderful. There is also creamed spinach, charred tomatoes, French fries and a different version of the chefs iconic iceberg wedge. We had the best version of cauliflower ever! Chopped with grapes, mint and almonds, it elevated this common vegetable to new heights. Like his other restaurants, there is a stellar bar program in place as well as a well-executed wine selection under the direction of head sommelier Christopher Sealy, who gave us some great suggestions.
Pastry Chef Kevin, offered 5 excellent choices, from a burrata cheese to a chocolate cake and banana split. But we went with the Instagramable Mille-feuille, and a dreamy rich, Basque cheesecake with a side of strawberries, reminiscent of our favourite cheesecake at La Viña, in San Sebastián, which was total bliss.
The restaurant staff is well trained under the guidance of GM Tracy Wilson and manager, Laura Collyer. I really enjoyed the culinary and hospitality philosophy there.
Patrick Kriss has the perfect formula, at his new ambitious restaurant, serving beautifully composed, and seasonal dishes, with attentive service in a cool and well-designed atmosphere. This is a restaurant you wish you had in your neighbourhood. Patrick Kriss and Chef de Cuisine Mathew Bentsch are delivering the quality food I was hoping for. A good restaurant anywhere in Yorkville is noteworthy, but a great one is newsworthy. I predict this will be one of the hottest tables in town.