alo 16th Visit — Toronto (8/2019)

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I haven’t written up every visit that I’ve made to alo only because having been so many times, I don’t want to keep listing the same restaurants over and over.  However, whenever I visit Toronto,  a dinner here is a requirement for me.  I will always want to sit at the Chef’s Counter, if only because it allows me to sample more of the seasonal creations that appear on the menu ( and are generally not served at a table.

The small bites start to appear as soon as you make your opening drink selection.  I chose to start with one of their non-alcoholic cocktails (they do not have a non-alcoholic pairing option).  It was a blend of passion fruit and green tea – perfect for a mid-summer evening.

The first snack presentation was:  a pomme soufflé puff filled with yuzu crème fraiche with chives and topped with ossestra sturgeon caviar; and a pastry roll filled with a foie gras parfait and a maple bourbon gel, with ends dipped in a peanut crumble that was slightly sweet with a touch of Anaheim chilis.

The next quick bite was a Prince Edward Island oyster served raw with their own mignonette of fresh cucumbers, sea buckthorn vinegar, tarragon oil and a bit of wild peppercorns for some spiciness.

This was soon followed by Hokkaido baby white shrimp with a dashi gel and some celery.  On top were dashi-poached potatoes with kombu, Sancho pepper leaves and, and pickled myoga (Japanese ginger).

Fresh Hokkaido sea scallops were featured in the next presentation.  These were served with lemon verbena and corn.  The wafer provided a nice crunchy texture for contrast, and the salt and sweet flavor blend was a nice touch.

The next dish was lightly grilled kanpachi (amberjack) with black truffle dashi with butter.  The warm dish was garnished with some samphire (salt-tolerant plant) and watercress. The crunchy skin was a nice texture to have.

I opted at this point to go with a Pinot Noir from the Loire Valley (kind of an unusual find on a by-the-glass list).

The next course was Alaskan King crab with crab and butter emulsion, courgettes, chanterelles, horseradish whipped cream and nasturtium leaves.  This was served very warm, with nice flavors from the courgettes and the crab.

The pasta dish was tortellini with Idiazabal cheese (a smoky cheese from the Basque region of Spain, crispy and poached artichokes, and a Marcona almond/red pepper purée. This was very tasty.

The next course was lightly crisped Quebec pork belly, served with black bean sauce, pork fat emulsion, tempura of gai lan (Chinese broccoli), and a Chinese chive purée.

For the full write-up, click here.

Alo 5th Visit — Toronto (9/2016)

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I did not get the chance to dine here when in Toronto a month prior because they decided to take a vacation.  So, I was very much looking forward to returning to see what kind of fall menu experience I would have.  I was again at the chef’s counter, dining a little later than usual because it was my flight arrival day.  They were already booked up for the next evening, so I had to pick this evening for my visit.

For wine, I had already tried the Niagara Chardonnay, which I liked.  So to be different, they offered a wine that was not on the list.  It was a Piemonte blend of Chardonnay and Arneis 2008 which went well with the food. It was from the pairings and was matched with the mushroom course.

The first bite looked the same as before.  There was a radish drizzled with emulsified brown butter, a gougère filled with Fontina cheese and topped with fermented chili, and caramelized onion and foie gras torchon with coconut and passion fruit meringue.

The next course was firm raw Hokkaido scallops in a sauce made with uni, caviar and crème fraiche.  Surprisingly, this came across with a mild flavor.

The next presentation featured Matsutake mushrooms with a foie gras terrine and toro (the fatty part of the tuna).  The sauce was made from grilled Matsutake mushroom.  This was a creamy and mellow dish.

The next dish featured Japanese A5 wagyu beef tartare with crunchy flatbread (made with a little wagyu fat) and mustard seeds for some nice texture.  On the left was a quail egg yolk served on emulsified fat and mayonnaise.

For the full write-up, click here.

 

 

 

Alo 4th Visit — Toronto (7/2016)

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With this 4th visit, I think I covered all the seasons with this restaurant, and I expected the summer menu to be as good as or even better than the prior visits.  I was not disappointed. I had secured a seat at the Chef’s counter again, so I was getting the full tasting menu.

For starting beverages, I ordered the orange and almond soda and the 2012 Niagara Chardonnay.

There were a few small bites in this presentation:  fontina cheese gougère with fermented jalapeño and caramelized onion powder; radish glazed with brown butter and a little fleur de sel; and fois gras torchon layered with hearts of palm and passion fruit meringue on the inside and coconut cream on the outside. It was a nice variety of different types of bites to get started.

For the first course, I was presented with a Cornish hen terrine with fois gras and morels.  On the side were more morels and espresso orange cream and hazelnuts.

We now shifted away from more traditional French preparations to a sashimi selection:  Striped bass with pickled barley miso; horse mackerel with umeboshi; shia-aji with a vinaigrette of yuzu and sake; grilled Hamachi collar with ginger; and otoro with wasabi.  This was a nice selection of fish with flavor pairings. 

For the full write-up, click here.

Alo 3rd Visit — Toronto (4/2016)

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I was looking forward to my third visit to Alo since an early spring menu often has chef’s being innovative in what they can do with available ingredients.  I was also very interested in seeing how the menu would continue evolving.  On my first visit, most of the tasting menu consisted of dishes from the a la carte offerings.  This time, the chef told me that only one dish was being offered at both the chef’s counter and at the tables.

They continue to offer a choice of white or dark napkins to use when I sat down.

To start off the meal, I opted for a non-alcoholic beverage – the pear tea and lemon, which went very well with the opening snacks.  I did order wine later, and instead of me just picking the Chablis from the list, they offered to pick something that was open from the wine pairings.  They poured a Grüner Vetliner, which, when I finally got a menu at the end, was not on it.  But it was a good choice for menu.

The first snack was a couple of gougères – fontina cheese puffs with fermented jalapeños and charred onion powder.  This was warm and light.

This was followed by a Vancouver oyster with green apple gelée and a nasturtium.

For the full write-up, click here.

Alo 2nd Visit — Toronto (12/2015)

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After a few months, I thought it would be a good time for a second visit to Alo.  This time, I made a reservation for the Chef’s Counter, so I would be assured of getting the tasting menu.  Given the potential I saw on my first visit, I was very much looking forward to the pivotal second visit. The cocktail menu was the same.

I was given a nice seat at the corner closest to the main part of the dining room.  From that perch, the dining room seemed much smaller than it did on my prior visit.  I had a great view of the kitchen and could see a lot of the work going into preparing the dishes.

The photo on the right is of the chef, Patrick Kriss.

After looking at the wine list and talking with them a little about my likes and the upcoming meal, I decided on trying the Pinot Gris.  It was a good choice for the dinner.  While I was working on the wine, they brought the first snack, which was almost the same as before:  Potato soufflé (puffs) with a black cherry aioli this time (it was black pepper aioli on the prior visit).

Next up was a pair of oyster presentations:  buttermilk-battered fried beach angel oyster with fermented chili and cold New Brunswick Lamèque oyster with nasturtium.  The fried oyster had a stronger oyster flavor, but it also had the slight pepper kick at the end.

The next course paired up beef tendon in the form of a chip topped with foie gras and beef tartare.  This was a nice combination of saltiness and creaminess, as well as texture contrasts.

For the full write-up, click here.

Alo — Toronto (9/2015)

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Alo opened a couple of months prior to my visit.    The suggestion to visit came from the sommelier at Shōtō, who knows the chef.  He thought it would match up well with the type of food I like to go after.  It was very easy to make a reservation on OpenTable.com.  What I didn’t know was that they have a Chef’s counter where they serve an extended menu.  You have to reserve a seat there separately.  However, after I was seated, I did ask if I could have the extended menu even though I was seated at a table.  They asked the chef and there were enough portions available to let me have the extended menu if I didn’t have to make any adjustments due to allergies.

From the street, you enter a relatively unmarked door into a narrow hallway where you are greeted by the receptionist.  From there, they send you up an elevator to the third floor.  As you exit, you see that about a third of the seating area is allocated to a bar area, where they serve drinks and small plates.  The rest of the space is devoted to an open kitchen and seating for the restaurant.

The standard tasting menu consists of five courses.  You get to choose among pairs of items for the non-dessert courses. There are small bites offered in between as well sometimes. For the extended menu, there is no menu presented beforehand.  However, from what I could tell, several of the courses were smaller versions of the dishes offered on the standard menu.

They had a list of specialty cocktails, as well as a list of wines by the glass, mostly featuring Canadian winemakers.

After you are seated, they bring a tray of napkins, where you can choose to have either a white or a dark napkin.

For the full write-up, click here.