As it approaches its second anniversary, Alo already feels like a long-established and influential part of Toronto’s dining scene…
The restaurant came out of the gate strong, earning the title of Canada’s Best New Restaurant in our 2016 survey, and has only improved since. Much of the original team is still in place, with Patrick Kriss heading up the kitchen. Sous-chefs Matthew Betsch and Nick Bentley, and pastry chef Kevin Jeung, have all been in the restaurant since the beginning. Amanda Bradley continues to oversee the front of the house with confidence and grace, while John Bunner’s work behind the bar is as creative and assured as ever. While never being complacent, the restaurant has settled into something of a groove, allowing chef Kriss to increase the complexity and variety of what’s available, expand the bar menu and focus on keeping the tasting menu fresh with new ingredients and techniques. Dishes cycle in and out every couple of months with only the bread and butter (that’s pain au lait with house churned butter and fleur de sel, thank you) remaining a staple, so anyone who hasn’t eaten in the restaurant in six months would find a completely new menu.
A meal right now might begin with a bavarois of cauliflower, a quenelle of caviar and a purée of Meyer lemon. There will probably be some preparation of Hokkaido sea scallop, sourced from True World, maybe with Meyer lemon. A ballotine of quail with chestnuts and quince or a St. Canut pork rack with walnuts and five spice might make an appearance and, to finish, sweet squash paired with the bitter kiss of sudachi in a complex dessert. Tomorrow that could all change. Alo makes a strong case for the high-end, refined restaurant in a time of increasing fragmentation and fast casualization of so much dining. Chefs and restaurateurs who can operate at this level take on a lot of responsibility but are given a lot of freedom. “There’s no limits in this restaurants,” is how Kriss puts it. “We can play around with everything.” In uncertain times, a restaurant like Alo feels like a much-needed bastion of civility in an increasingly barbaric world.
We’re always looking to push and grow and refine things. We’re always looking for new, different and better ingredients. We’ve added a course to the menu, but we’re putting fewer touches on the plate now and I think our food is more focused.
PHOTO BY GEORGE PIMENTEL