The tiny 28 seat restaurant, Canis, opened at 746 Queen Street West in the Trinity Bellwoods area of Toronto last August 2016. In just a few months it made Canada’s Best 100 List coming in at #51. The restaurant is inspired by the bounty of Canada, serving fresh, local, organic and seasonal produce. They try and create a thoughtfully presented and well-conceived approach to food. They achieve this on some level and they fail in others. They offer a concise four-course tasting menu at the moderate price of $65 (especially given the quality and quantity of food). The chefs are Jeff Kang of Bosk at the Shangri-La and Tosh Agassiz. The restaurant is run by GM Adam Ashukian.
The space is bare bones – very minimalist. Concrete floors, wood plank walls, wooden tables and chairs and a white-tiled open kitchen. It had a cottage feel to it for me. The food is what you would call casual fine dining. You can come dressed down but have a culinary experience. One design flaw is I noticed every time the front door opened it sent a chill into the dining room. I can’t imagine how cold it must get in here during the winter months.
They are off to a good start by sending out a warm sliced sourdough bread with two separate toppings. A ramp and chimichurri ricotta spread and a herb butter. The menu headings are: starters, first course, second course, third-course mains and fourth-course desserts.
Actually, each course is on the petite side, so if you are worried that four courses will be too much food for you, don’t be. There are three choices in each category. There is also three choices in the snack section which they charge extra for. Service is friendly and efficient. Our server Sandra spaced each course perfectly, so nothing came out too quickly or slowly. There is quite a few people working in the open kitchen and you can see how well orchestrated they are, working in perfect harmony.
We started with the raw scallop in a quince vinegar and cattail hearts. I found the presentation to be lovely but I found the dressing a little too acidic. It wasn’t the right balance for me. The beet dish was a better bet, cut into pappardelle-like, thin slices, covering a goat cheese, almond and mint mixture. For our second course, we had the Humboldt squid, in a romesco and black rice mixture. The squid was nice and tender. Our server recommended a vegetarian dish, that I normally wouldn’t look at twice, and it happened to be delicious. It is the celeriac, with caramelized whey, and nasturtium. My choice of lamb loin with eggplant, pine nuts, ramps and bonito flakes was good but a little chewy. The disappointment of the evening was the arctic char, with sunchokes, nettle and green garlic. The fish was a little overcooked and had a medicinal taste to it. I was hoping to see this amazing duck dish I see on a lot of Instagram accounts, but unfortunately, it was not on the menu on the night we ate there. For dessert, we selected the buttermilk rhubarb and hazelnut dish, hidden beneath what gave the appearance of snowflakes. The other dish was a chocolate, buckwheat and honey compilation.
All the dishes have simple descriptions on the menu, but when you receive the food you see how complex each dish is, with many components to them. However, we felt some had intriguing flavours while others were overkill and over complicated for us. But there was much to admire and they put tremendous effort into trying to create a special experience for you.
Being a Canadian inspired menu there were a lot of wine choices from Canada as well as France, Italy, Spain, South Africa and Australia. There was also a couple of beer choices as well. There were no spirits or cocktails served here.
The evening was warm and genuine and was a refreshing take on a “Canadian” experience.