This is the first in a series of posts we will be publishing over the coming weeks about the meals we had during our recent trip to Toronto - so stay tuned! We had been planning to make it to Toronto for a while now, and recently we took a long weekend as an opportunity to do so. It came as no surprise to friends and family that when we were asked what our purpose for driving 5 hours west of Montreal to Toronto was, our answer was an emphatic "to eat". Really, a more specific answer would have been: to eat at The Black Hoof.
We first heard of "The Hoof" as Toronto locals like to call it, about 10 months ago through their twitter account. We took a look at their website and had a good laugh at the "People" section that offers a short autobiography of every member of their staff complete with funny anecdotes. Once we moved on to the menu, we were sold. We knew then that it was not a matter of "if", but rather "when" we would be headed to Toronto to eat there. So we made a trip of it, searched for a few more restaurants to fill-up our itinerary and hit the road with empty stomachs and big expectations.
We left Montreal at about 5:00PM on a Saturday afternoon and hit the 401 West, direction: Black Hoof. We arrived in Toronto sometime around 10:00PM, and rather than doing the normal thing and checking into our hotel first, we got off the highway and went directly to The Black Hoof. The restaurant has a no-reservation policy and some pretty unorthodox business hours (be sure to check their hours before planning your own trip) so we've heard that lineups out front are commonplace, but since we arrived as late as we did we were lucky enough to get a seat right away. We grabbed a spot at the bar and began to take the place in over a bottle of Norman Hardie Cabernet Franc from Prince Edward County - after all, when in Rome.. or Ontario. The bottle started out a little on the mediocre side but after it had a chance to breathe it really improved a lot.
Looking around, the first thing we noticed was how small the kitchen was, in our experience the smaller the kitchen we've worked in the more efficient it became as a result of necessity; we've worked in some pretty small kitchens before, and this one is certainly up there. Brawny, dark-stained wood floors and the gigantic mirror in a white, vintage frame behind the bar that doubles as a cocktail menu toned down the more streamline and modern feel of the long white bar-top with seafoam green bar chairs, glass tiled walls, and corrugated tin ceiling. Seated near the front door, we began to notice the staff running back and forth to a location across the street, eventually we asked our waiter about it who confirmed our growing suspicion that it was in fact an auxiliary prep-kitchen.
We hate to use this term, but for lack of a more accurate one the menu would be best described as a tapas style structure conducive to ordering a couple of dishes at a time and sharing until you've satisfied your appetite rather than the more common menu division of appetizers and mains. Our meal began with an order of mackerel and n'duja. Large slices of mackerel filet topped with a light, chopped egg salad were alternated in a long thin white dish that looked like a canoe with proportionally sized pieces of n'duja, a unique sort-of spreadable salami that's heavily seasoned with smoked paprika or other peppers. The potent, smokey flavor of the n'duja next to the delicately seasoned fish and egg salad were a well conceived balance, a great way to begin our meal.
Mackerel, N'duja, Egg Salad - 15$
Pork Belly, Nori, Honshimeji - 16$
Horse Tartare - 16$
Tongue on Brioche - 14$
Olive Oil Cake, Grapefruit, Pistachio, Meringue, Raspberry - 10$
Stay tuned for post 2 in our 3 part series spotlighting the restaurants we visited while in Toronto. Next up: Beast
The Black Hoof
928 Dundas Street West