163 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5V 2L6
(Above: Yorkshire rack of pork, mustard greens, grapes, walnuts)
The Alo experience begins with a discreet doorway on a gritty stretch of downtown Toronto. Then, a slow and suspenseful elevator ride. The doors then open on the upper-floor oasis of a chic bar and lounge—home to a commendable selection of tiptop cutting edge cocktails. After that, make your way over to the small adjoining dining room, a setup that communicates exclusivity of the best possible sort. There, settle in for a five-course menu dégustation.
And also a strong sense of déjà-vu. For if you have dined around some in Toronto’s best restaurants over the years, there is no way that this nifty new dining room tucked away on the third floor of an old warehouse building in Chinatown will not remind you of The Fifth—the once great French restaurant tucked away on you-can-guess-which floor of an old warehouse building on nearby Richmond Street.
The exciting part of all this is that the imitation – or coincidence – is especially convincing where it counts most. For just like the Fifth in its heyday over a decade ago, Alo is serving haute cuisine of impressive inventiveness and finesse.
Alo chef Patrick Kriss is on his game and then some. A recent tasting menu began with tiny, crisp, airy and delicate pommes souflées. Then, a perfectly judged, multi-textured study in asparagus (raw slivers with velvety purée, accompanied by a dollop of bracing buttermilk sorbet). Next, sea bream sashimi decorated with sea asparagus, kombu, and a dab of yuzukoshō (chilli-spiked yuzu purée). Then, an exquisitely rich (and artfully plated) ragout of veal trotter, oyster mushroom and cockscomb blanketed in shavings of cured foie gras. Through the hamachi with Kohlrabi and sherry vinegar, pork with charred mustard greens, and lamb with Treviso and yoghurt each dish in the succession was imaginative, well-judged, artfully presented and beautifully executed. This is cooking of a very high order. Much higher than the $89 price for which the menu is currently on offer—so get over there and enjoy it while you can.