The premise of the column is simple; work with restaurants of all kinds 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 my choice for Daniel’s Dish and why you should try them right away!
LOT St., 685 Queen Street West (416) 367-8800
Up, down and all around the city core of Toronto, Daniel’s Dish is a column that I write for you and hope to expand cross country this year. Every now and again, I find a restaurant that steals my heart and truly becomes my favourite go-to when friends, family and fans ask me for recommendations. I love every single Daniel’s Dish, but sometimes some are better than others. I genuinely like to put myself in the first timer’s state of mind so that I can write an authentic experience that is both approachable and desirable. But there are shinning stars in my experiences, just like there are in yours, that will always come to mind first. The latest addition to my all star list for Toronto would have to be LOT St located west of the city core.
Nestled amongst the hustle of a busy neighbourhood, the space itself is perfect when you walk in. Exposed brick, chalk board art and beautiful lighting, the space is a symbiosis of modern and timeless romance. I quite literally had my breath taken away when I entered upon my visit and was escorted along the beautiful space to our table. An open concept kitchen which you quite literally are in if you sit at the kitchen bar allows you to feel the intimacy and chaos that a kitchen can offer. The bar is dimly lit and the staff are, I’ll be quite honest, easy on the eyes. Friendly, helpful and just the right amount of attentiveness. Little did I know I was already falling in love before I took my jacket off.
The menu is simple but beautifully crafted and we chose to enjoy the “Let The Chef Decide” option. I always trust in the restaurants I visit to show me what they can do. And I can tell you now, it was one of the best foodie choices I have made this year. LOT not only is the original name of Queen Street which was renamed in 1837 from Lot Street, but is also an acronym which stands for Locally Driven, Ontario Proud & Toronto Inspired. What a beautiful double entendre. So let me tell you all about why this is a must for each and every one of you.
With a simple clipboard menu placed in front of me, I made myself comfortable for what I could already tell was going to be a treat. A cocktail, in my mind, can truly set the standard for an entire dinning experience. If it is rushed or poorly made, chances are that same attitude will be taken when your meal is being prepared. But if you find a space that takes its time (within reason of course) to execute a cocktail that represents the soul of the restaurant, you’ve found a diamond in the rough. The Kensington Margherita is to me the epitome of LOT St.’s finesse and playfulness. Not for the light hearted, it combines Jalapeño infused tequila, cointreau, lime juice, simple syrup and a fluffy salted lime foam. When I say something is spicy, it means it has a kick. This cocktail is spicy and fun and truly is a cocktail like no other. Against the almost French inspiration of the dishes to follow, it is pure perfection. Sour, sweet and spicy combine into one beverage that will quite literally blow your mind.
With the spring / summer upon us (please make up your mind Mother Nature), my appetizer of choice would have to be The Seasonal Ontario Slaw. Not only is the colour absolutely stunning, but the flavours that combine in this dish are fresh and full bodied. Fresh picked daily herbs from Chef Peter Pietruniak‘s garden alongside honey mustard dressing are the greatest of flavours topping this crisp slaw. From a side dish most of us look over too quickly to a feature item on a menu, this dish is a must to start off your visit while the seasonal ingredients last. Go try it before its too late! Honourable mention has to go to The House Rillete which for you paté lovers out there is going to be life changing. It had no chance once Julio & I took our first bite. Or if like me, you’re known to be indecisive, why not get both?
One of the best parts about this menu that I came to realize after a few dishes from the “Let The Chef Decide” dinner made specifically for us, is how much it is driven by its fusion techniques. Be it the fusion of cultures, or the fusion of modern and classic culinary skills, there is an understated playfulness in it all that spoke to me. The dish that I was most excited to enjoy and you must try is The Braised Lamb Belly. Traditionally, food lovers are used to enjoying pork belly which has reigned in the food world in numerous cultures. This twist takes lamb, which some people dislike for its gaminess, and gives it a twist. Served with Tzatziki which is made with fresh herbs (a wonderful theme which carried through the menu), the meat is wrapped in leak leaves and slow braised. I’m not sure what other word could possibly describe this dish other then decadent. Not normally used to hearing that word about a meat main course? Me neither. But the intense flavours of the lamb belly against the buttery notes in the leaks and then the crisp tzatziki… I’m salivating just thinking about it. This dish takes a lot of knowledge and skill to execute and you could tell that the Chef was inspired to take you on a journey when he created it.
This may be my favourite dessert in Toronto. Yes, I am going to be so bold as to say that and you’re about to find out why. The Applewood Smoked ‘Smores might just be the most foodie dessert I have tried in a long time. Served in a miny mason jar, this dish is literally what it sounds like. Dark intense chocolate with graham cracker pieces and marshmallow that has applewood smoke trapped in the jar gives the authentic taste of a campfire to the dish. The eloquence of opening the jar and having the smoke hit your noise brings you to a camp site and floods the memories you may have by camp fire. The nostalgia factor alone is incredible, but the flavours of smokiness and sweet paired together are a fantastic way to end a fantastic night. I was quite literally speechless at the genius and creativity of this dessert. There are no words for how incredible this is. You simply have to experience it for yourself.
Secret You Should Know:
Alongside my love affair for LOT St., there are those Daniel’s Dish secrets that stick with me. This one I didn’t believe when I first heard it and something tells me you’ll feel the same upon your visit. Something you should know about Lot Street is that 2.5 years ago Chef Peter Pietruniak was in fact an accountant with no kitchen experience. He fell in love with food, quit his job and became one of the best Chef’s I have ever met. Hands down his natural skill in the kitchen and his beautiful menu are impressive and inspiring. There is nothing that I can say more thank you for taking the risk Chef. I truly believe you have found your calling and I am lucky to have had the pleasure of enjoying your creations.
Now it’s time for you to get out and try @LotStreet for yourself. Make sure to brag away like I have to Chef Peter Pietruniak and tag @DoTheDaniel in your posts. I can’t wait to hear what your thoughts are on this amazing addition to the Restaurant world in general.
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