The premise of the column is simple; work with restaurants of all kinds in this amazing city to explore what they have to offer and what makes them unique. In a city like Toronto, the choices are sometimes daunting and the food reviews and critics can be snotty and too complicated for their own good. So why not keep this easy?
Drinks. Appetizer. Main Course. Dessert. All along with a bit of information about what makes them our choice for Daniel’s Dish and why you should try them right away!
Ardor Bistro, 59 Ossington Avenue (647) 351-5100
The Ossington Village is one of my favourite spots because it offers some of the best restaurants in the city alongside a sense of comradery and community. One of the latest additions to the Ossington strip is the Peruvian-inspired Ardor Bistro. The sister restaurant to Celestin located in Davisville (which I hope to visit for a Daniel’s Dish soon!), Ardor Bistro fits in beautifully in this trendy neighbourhood. Nestled between a Pho Restaurant and the crazy construction of Toronto, the space is complemented by exposed red brick, hard wood floors and candle light during dinner service. Simplicity is key, and to be honest the space is still evolving as it grows into the newest trend-setter on the street.
With brothers Ivan & James driving this restaurant from construction to table service, you can rest assured that you’re in good hands when you walk through the front door. Handmade marble-topped tables are scarce but help maintain the feeling of “homeyness” that I fell in love with upon arrival. One-of-a-kind art hangs on the walls and the quaint feeling is a good balance to the big flavours you’ll encounter on the cocktail and dinner menus. Service was attentive but not disruptive and the product of this labor of love shines through.
“Introducing an all Latin American Cocktail List and Wine Program to complement the Latin flavoured dishes, created by James Bailey.”
As mentioned, simplicity is key when dealing with Peruvian cuisine as the food is meant to speak for itself. The cocktail list is straight forward but the variety is just right. You all know I like when things are kept concise and not overly complicated. By recommendation of cocktail creator James himself, I selected the Pisco Sour. A blend of traditional Peruvian Pisco brandy, egg whites, lime and bitters. At first glance, I expected the tartness of a lime margarita and was astounded to taste a delicate balance of flavours. In classic style, the cocktail is frothed with the egg white addition and is a beautiful pairing from appetizer straight through dessert. Everything a cocktail should be in its sophistication and balance.
As I’ve come to learn, Peruvian food is about clean flavours and not an abundance of heavy spice to over complicate their traditional dishes. The gastronomy is dominated by seafood and fish, which is fine by me; so for the seafood lover, prepare to realize one of the best ceviches I’ve had.
The Ceviche is a combination of three seasonal fish which help to layer both intensity of flavour and texture. The best part of the fish trio is found in the buttery sea bass which plays with the saltiness and acidity of this particular apertivo. Lime is the primary flavour, but don’t think of the aggressive North American version we have become accustomed to. Rather, the elegant sweetness and tart juices help to marinate the fish and essentially ‘cook’ it without loosing its essence. Hints of sweet potato and aji amarillo round out my personal favourite trio of sweet, salty with just a hint of spice.
If seafood isn’t your cup of tea, try their daily inspired dishes. We were treated to the most amazing version of Peruvian street meat named “Antichouchos”. A great fact was that we had no idea that we were dinning on beef heart. It was delicious and you must give it a try! Or if you’re like me and can’t seem to chose between the two, just get both and satisfy each and every taste bud.
Seco de Carne was recommended by the chef as the main course of the night. Composed of beef chuck braised in amber beer, roasted red peppers and a cilantro emulsion; this dish made me think of Sunday dinner with a twist. Hearty and reminiscent of a roast, the one thing I felt was lacking was the addition of some seasoning. However, being that Peruvian food is not overly spiced to begin with, this dish stayed true to its inspiration. Beautifully plated and paired with duck fat beans, red peppers and topped with a fried egg, it demonstrates that seafood isn’t the only type of food you’ll love when dining at Ardor Bistro.
The one thing that comes to mind when I think of Peru is cocoa and coffee beans. The dessert that completed the night was the Mousseline de Chocolate. A decadent duo of white and dark chocolate and the fun lies in the fact that it plays with your tongue AND your mind. The white chocolate meringue base is in fact the more decadent and creamier of the two mousses; layered beneath a light and airy dark Peruvian chocolate mousse. I loved the balance and playfulness of just enough sweet to satisfy my sweet tooth for the night.
Secret You Should Know:
Opening a restaurant is by no means an easy task, and to have one completed in a month is pretty much a miracle. The amount of equipment required to open a restaurant is daunting: fridges, freezers, dishwashers, ovens… I could go on and on. Using the right company to buy things like commercial dishwashers can help, but regardless this all takes time. So to complete it in one month is a feat worthy of high praise. Owner James told me of his exploits whilst opening Ardor Bistro with its “Peruvian style soul food in a bistro-style dinning experience.” An ongoing process to improve the bistro is ever present and James’ unbridled determination to get things completed is inspiring. At the forefront of his mind is having the aim to bring in more customers to his restaurant, as well as maintaining the ones he already has. In the vastly popular world of technology, thinking about incorporating something like this micros app may be in his best interest. With the help of its Customer Relationship Management tools, focus on the customer is always going to be at heart, and when it comes to running a successful business, this is really important. The term “Blood, Sweat and Tears” comes to mind. But James himself, in opening Ardor Bistro, has had two nails go through his foot on the same day he was electrocuted twice. Yes, twice. James jokes about it now – but it is that determination and dedication that shines through in all aspects of the restaurant and a true marvel in a restaurateur.
Get out to Ardor Bistro to try what I deem approachable chic dining in the Ossington area. Make sure to tweet @ArdorBistro & @DoTheDaniel to tell us what you thought about your experience using #DanielsDish & #FASHIONIGHTS!
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Photos: Julio Reyes