Canis: the restaurant I don’t really want to tell you about

Duck for two at Canis.

I don’t really want to tell you about my meal at Canis. Royce convinced me to do it, but that doesn’t mean that I want to.
But please, allow me to explain. It’s not that I’m hoarding, trying to keep a good restaurant all to myself. The logic isn’t lost on me that the better a restaurant does the longer it will be around. And furthermore, I’m a planner. If something is worth it, I have no qualms making the effort required to reserve a dinner advance.

My resistance to share is driven by a fear that is deeply rooted in a marriage between superstition and paranoia. It’s something that’s developed, nay festered, over the years.
Too often, Royce and I will have a great meal at a restaurant, rave about it to friends and family, only to visit again and be disappointed. Am I being a little dramatic here? Maybe!
To the point, there are many plausible explanations for this disappointment-syndrome. Things change, people change, restaurants change. And, unfortunately not everyone is capable (or willing) to put forth the kind of consistency that one might find desirable in a dining establishment. Common sense and logical explanations aside, I am nearly certain these disappointments are most likely explained by the fact that we jinxed it.
In life, there are just certain things that should not be said aloud: beetlejuice (beetlejuice, beetlejuice), bloody mary, … and over time I’ve come to feel that, for the most part, restaurant praise is right up there.
And yet here I am, tempting fate (thanks a lot, Royce), telling you about our meal at Canis. Fingers crossed, this one will be an exception to the rule. I’m sure we’ll be back, so I will have to let you know.

The basics: Canis is a new(ish) restaurant on Queen West, near Trinity Bellwoods. They offer a 4-course meal with a $60 price tag. This, ladies and gents, is a steal-of-a-deal for what you’re getting. Compared to the cost of a meal at many upscale/trendy/whatever restaurants in Toronto nowadays, the price was so reasonable.

  • They also have appetizers, which is a nice option if you’re extra hungry, or just like to have the possibility of being extra piggy (yes please)
  • We were a table of 4, and our combined choices (there is a choice for each course) ended up touching on most of the menu options. Unanimously, everything was great. No one was disappointed with their choices.
  • My favourites:
    • Duck for two. Yes, you need to convince another member of your party to order this with you. But convince them you must! This dish was outstanding. To be honest, I usually steer away from duck as a main protein. I’m not the biggest fan, but we had heard good things about it, and oh my god I’m so glad we listened! So good!
    • Quince & koji dessert. Usually I opt out of any restaurant dessert. I am really spoiled in this department, and more often than not I am unimpressed, bordering on offended, and wishing we’d just gotten a soft serve cone somewhere. But lo-and-behold, this dessert was good! Not overly complicated, nice balance of flavours and textures, no soft-serve, no regrets!

Really, this was the best meal I’ve had in the city in a very long time. I thought about it on multiple occasions the following day, just pausing to reminisce about the food. This is coming from a girl who habitually orders the least popular item on a menu, so kind of a big deal. In light of this, today I look danger in the face, throw caution to the wind, and so on. Today (tonight, rather), I share this post with you.

Some snacks to start. Not pictured: oysters, falafel.
Ricotta-stuffed pasta, kelp oil, mushroom broth.

Duck for two. (pre-plating pictured in lead image)

Quince, toasted koji & almond dessert.
food, Lunch

Noma: A Retrospective

 Reindeer moss and chocolate-covered, fermented cep mushroom at Noma.

Since making the trip to Noma last July, one of the questions we have been asked the most has been: Was it worth it?
The short answer: yes, it was amazing!
Here, I wanted to share a few of my notes on the long answer…

You can read about it, hear about it, watch the movies (and we’ve done all 3) — but none of these can really substitute for the experience itself. Our excitement and anticipation was already off the charts as we made our way to the restaurant. When the building came into view, we were met by the sight of René Redzipi, crouched in the foliage around the building, plucking what could only be ingredients for some upcoming dish or experiment. From then on the experience was surreal.
Beyond the insane amount of work that goes into each dish (this is evident through photos alone), the tastes and textures were something of a revelation. As Royce likes to put it: there is really no point of reference for the food. When have you ever had a dish of chocolate-covered reindeer moss to compare to? We were in completely uncharted territory and I loved it.

Would we go again? No, definitely not! But (big, bold but here) I need to follow this up with an explanation. I think a lot of what made Noma “worth it” for us was the thrill of this first exposure to Noma’s approach to food. It was truly mind-blowing. That being said, with limited funds and vacation time (commoners that we are), there are just too many other things I want to experience in life to consider going back. On the other hand, in a world without such limitations, and while I’m dreaming maybe a world where someone else makes the reservations (more on that here) — yes please! Sign me up! I’d love to go back! Hell, I’d love to go back to Copenhagen, period. What a great city! It would be incredible to have the chance to experience Noma during a different season, in a different country, or reborn in its new diggs after it closes this year.
…in the meantime, I suppose we’ll have to content ourselves by reliving the experience  through our photos — some of which I’ve included below.

Rhubarb rose.
Aaaaants (on a grilled baby cucumber).
Bread and goats milk butter. I could have eaten only this for lunch and still been happy.
Charred greens with scallop paste.
Turbot ribs.
Sheep’s milk and ant paste.
Photo credit: All photos were taken by Gigi Li (thank you!)

An edible birthday present for a friend

Recently, for a friend’s birthday, we opted to celebrate by staying in. I volunteered to provide dinner.
Camomile roasted heirloom carrots, whipped goat cheese ring, seed brittle and herb garnishes

Roasted brussel sprouts, pan-seared bacon, chicharron, buffalo and blue cheese sauce
Pasta with mushrooms, shaved parmesan and truffle oil. 

Pan-seared striploin, squash puree, jus
Chocolate cremeux, caramel whipped ganache, lime pate de fruit and chocolate garnishes
Dinner, food

Beet and Goat Cheese

This beet and goat cheese dish is inspired by some famous Spanish chefs (Roca and Adria) with some interesting techniques and surprises to entertain your diners. This dish has multiple components: Toasted walnut and cocoa soil, goat cheese sphere, goat cheese mousse, roasted beets and the sugar beet (a beet blown out of sugar). 

As Billy would put it – “Beets by Royce”. In terms of the beets, the roasted beets were placed in 350˚F oven for about an hour or until tender, it is then marinated in orange juice and hibiscus syrup. And as for the blown beets, sugar was cooked and then blown using a sugar pump.

Toasted Walnut and Cocoa Soil

This recipe is pretty much the same as the one from El Celler de Roca with the exception of the food colouring (they used squid ink) and the addition of toasted walnuts.

1/2 cup toasted walnuts
100g egg whites
10g cocoa powder
2g black food colouring

1. Whip egg whites until soft peaks
2. Fold in cocoa powder
3. Add food colouring
4. Dehydrate until crisp
5. Blend until it resembles soil
6. Mix with toasted walnuts

Goat Cheese Mousse

40g honey
100g goat cheese
300g heavy cream
t.t salt

1. Whip heavy cream until soft peaks, and set aside
2. Heat goat cheese and honey until melted
3. Once the honey and goat cheese mixture cools, fold in whipped cream

Goat Cheese Spheres

In a sauce pan, equal amounts of goat cheese and heavy cream were heated until liquid. The liquid was then poured into a half sphere silicon mould and frozen until further used. Once it is frozen, the half spheres are placed in a sodium alginate solution for 20-30 minutes. It is then rinsed out in water, and sprinkled with pink salt. I have included a YouTube link for the reverse spherification process.

Just like in nature, the sugar beets come in varying sizes

Dessert, food

Coffee Toffee Crunch

I was first introduced to the concept of a chocolate sharing bar by chef Migoya of Hudsons Chocolate. The fun of having a larger, more elaborate chocolate candy bar for entertaining really appeals to me.

The mould is first filled with a liquid caramel. 

Followed by a mixture of milk chocolate, feuillentine, roasted pecans, cacao nibs and chocolate covered popping candy. 
Topped with truffles filled with a coffee ganache. 
The bar is frozen for several hours, then sprayed with brown cocoa butter for a velvet finish.
The bar is then topped with caramel chantilly, sprinkled with toffee bits, pecans and cacao nibs. Garnished with gold leaves.

food, Modernist

Head to Tail on a Plate

As a homage to head to tail cuisine, we decided to celebrate this crustacean from head to tail. The lobsters were killed by plunging a chef knife through the head. The bodies were steeped in water with vinegar (6.6% concentration) for a couple minutes to release the meat from its shell. The claws were pulled from the bodies and returned into the water for an additional 5 minutes. The claws were then sous vide’d with butter at 60 degrees Celsius while the tails were sous vide’d at 54 degrees Celsius.

A stock from the bodies of the lobsters were simmered with onions, carrots, fennel, tomatoes and tarragon. From the stock, we managed to make a gelee, an emulsion and a creamy broth. The final dish was garnished with tarragon leaves and fennel flowers which added hints of anise and sweetness to the plate. 
Lobster Gelee Stones
250g lobster stock
28g sugar
2g gelatin sheets
1g agar agar
Mix sugar and agar agar together, then hydrate gelatin sheets in cold water.
Add sugar mixture into a pot with lobster stock.
Bring stock to a boil, simmer for 10 seconds. 
Remove pot from the stove, add gelatin sheets, then pour into moulds. 
Lobster Emulsion
1 egg yolk
40g lobster stock
2g salt 
2g glucose
150g lobster oil
Combine all ingredients except for the oil.
Using an immersion blender, blend all ingredients.
Slowly add the lobster oil a little at a time, until everything is combined.
Creamy Lobster Broth
250g lobster stock (reduced)
2 cups of heavy cream
Bring stock and heavy cream into a sauce like consistency.
Season to taste.