No. 18: Dandylion
1198 QUEEN STREET WEST, TORONTO, ONTARIO
This small, 30-odd-seat room has much charm in its spare but warm design. The wait staff are unusually knowledgeable and welcoming, and never fuss.
Still, the reason this restaurant is full night after night has mostly to do with the man who can be observed at work in the back, toiling away in the open, white-walled kitchen, head down, eyes focused on his food and little else.Chef and co-owner Jason Carter is a chef’s chef, and refreshingly operates simultaneously as one of the most skilled—and modest—chefs in the city. He describes his food as “simple,” but the truth is that it only looks that way. Sure, you sit down to nothing more elaborate than warm bread, with only fromage blanc and minced shallot to dress it with. But it is fresh from Carter’s oven, built from his six-year-old starter, crisp-crusted, with a dense, moist crumb. Whatever follows is always the best of the season.
In winter, when produce is scarce and options scant, Carter takes up the challenge with even more resourceful drive, and renewed aplomb. Picture, say, some lowly rutabaga, sliced paper thin, buttered, rolled, slow cooked, and then elevated with truffle. Or a Pacific scallop that looks raw but has been firmed up from hours of basting with warm butter, dressed simply with a little cream, a drizzle of fig leaf-infused oil and a scattering of slivered young sorrel (thank you, Colombia)—the right number of flavours, in perfect progression. Carter will not serve fish that has ever been frozen; like all the proteins here, it is always cooked precisely à point, the seasoning bang-on. The vegetables with which these proteins share the plate are just as luscious.
Photo by : Christophe Jivraj