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!
As 2014 draws to an end, I am left thinking about the direction I want to take Daniel’s Dish and the restaurants that we feature in 2015. We have had so much fun with our foodie adventures over the year and now I am looking forward to expanding our reach into new cities across the country. One of the exciting things that I am so excited to announce is that #DanielsDish will now begin to host special guests to get the chance to talk with someone new over a beautiful meal about life and their love of food.
This time around I had the great pleasure of hosting Michelle Beilhartz of Openhartz.com. Make sure to check out Michelle’s website, YouTube channel and social media feeds for some inspiration in your daily life. This beautiful woman truly helped to make dinner at Ovest one I won’t soon forget.
For those of you who remember, I have spoken time and time again about the expansion of King Street West as a foodie destination in the heart of downtown Toronto. Since my last visit it seems as though several big named restaurants and small independents have popped up. The area is truly undergoing a rejuvenation which is really nice to see and much needed after years of stagnant options. Located further west from the “main strip” of King Street West, Ovest has planted its roots in between the city core and the bustling Liberty Village.
Located in the quasi-basement of the building you are immediately seduced by the wall of windows which show you the romantic space as you walk up to the front door. The ambiance is one that is best defined as elegant contrast. A feeling of a wine cellar against an expansive open concept stainless steal kitchen, industrial lighting against dark wood furnishing… Sometimes trying to be two things at once can get confusing to the guest but this space works in beautiful dichotomous harmony. I immediately felt at home and relaxed which is what you would want to feel before a traditional rustic Italian meal.
“Reclaimed wood, vintage wine barrels and wine-making equipment, along with custom display units that uniquely showcase the restaurant’s wine offerings, add to Ovest’s updated take on traditional cantina furnishings.”
The service from start to finish was elegant and appreciated considering how busy the space was and is on a daily basis. Sometimes you might find that fine dinning suffers during a busy night but I didn’t feel any hiccups at all as I watched the well executed staff work meticulously to make their guests happy. Seeing a well oiled machine like Ovest in full swing during a busy night truly made me miss the service industry and the passion for what they do. From start to finish the experience at Ovest Cucina e Vineria is culture & class in all the right ways. So let’s get to the food and what I think you absolutely MUST try upon your next visit.
Though you might expect me to jump right into the Wine Menu for an Italian Restaurant, I actually wanted to focus on the beautifully simple Cocktail Menu. To start the night off I chose The Vanigliato which is a combination of Crown Royal infused with Vanilla and aromatic bitters. The reason I went for a classic cocktail was because the space is so classic and elegant. Served in a rocks glass I felt like it was the perfect way to start the night because of its smooth flavours combining strength and sweet. I sipped on the cocktail and just sat back to people watch. Have you ever found yourself doing this in a restaurant? I do it all the time and enjoy seeing people enjoying themselves. If you ever catch me sitting back and watching the space over a well executed cocktail it means that I am comfortable enough to relax and just be myself. That speaks volumes to the atmosphere of Ovest and its ability to immediately make you feel at home.
For the wine lovers of the world who come to visit Ovest you are in for a treat. Each & every wine is hand selected from the Sommelier and comes from varying regions of Italy. There are actually only Italian options available to order and if you are like me and get lost in the hundreds of wine regions and varietals of Italy, than I would recommend you also ask for guidance. With an in house Sommelier on staff, you simply have to describe what you are in the mood for, what type of food you are enjoying and trust the rest to them. It’s the most romantic of surprises to sip on a glass of wine that you have never tried before and enjoy it along with good company.
For those of you like Michelle & I who are adventurers of food this is definitely the dish for you to try. (you will have to be seafood lovers to truly appreciate it) The Carpaccio De Polipo is a twist of the classic carpaccio concept which is made with tenderlon steak. Paper thin slices of octopus are adorned with Sea Urchin, Pomegranate and Lemon Juice on a slate of stone. This is not only a piece of art but also a sea of flavours (pardon the pun). I have never had the opportunity to enjoy Sea Urchin before and I can now say that I have. With a strong taste of the sea which plays beautifully with the sweet pop of pomegranate and delicate octopus, this was a playful way to start the night. The perfect portion to share over a cocktail, it helped to show the passion for beauty and balance that the Chef and his team have when they curated the menu.
I’m not sure where this love of pasta is coming from when I go out to eat as of late. For the majority of my life I have never been a fan and have stayed away from pasta entrées in light of other options. How could I possibly not enjoy a homemade pasta dish at an Italian restaurant though? It would be like going to a steak house and ordering a salad! The culinary return of black squid ink appeared yet again in our main course of choice which quite literally seduced my taste buds. The Gnocchi Con Astice combines homemade black squid ink gnocchi and fresh lobster. This is hands down the best gnocchi I have had in Toronto and it’s buttery texture is the perfect base for the sweetness of fresh lobster. This decadent dish once again shows the elegant contrast of Ovest. Modern black squid ink pasta against a rustic concept of homemade seafood pasta.
Alright. Chocolate lovers you’re going to want to sit down for this one. Michelle & I, although full from a night of beautiful food and drinks, both agree that this was one of the best desserts we have had in a very long time. The Chocolate Crema combines a dark chocolate base topped with a biscotti-prailine & coffee mouse. Surrounded by dark chocolate strings and garnished with pistachios for salt and berries for sweet. This is literally what I imagine pleasure to be if you could capture it in a dessert. Mouth watering and elegant with just enough decadence to light a romantic fire or satisfy your sweet tooth.
Secret You Should Know:
When I stop to think about Rustic Italian cuisine, the concept of European hospitality is something that immediately comes to mind. One fun fact about Ovest that no one knows is the fact that when you grab a seat at the bar and order a glass of wine, the staff will in fact provide you with complimentary charcuterie & cheese to enjoy. Though it may not be a secret about a piece of decor or staff member, this might be one of the most beneficial secrets I can offer you for your next visit. If you’re feeling REALLY adventurous, I would even let the bartender decide what wine to enjoy since they are the experts. All that to say next time you’re in the mood for a beautiful glass of wine, you know where to go!
To get inspired make sure to follow @Ovest_TO on Twitter & Instagram. Use the #CiaoOvest hashtag to join in on the social media conversation and to show us your favourite dish & drink upon your next visit.
For more behind the scenes of this and other Daniel’s Dish visits, follow my #DoTheDaniel Instagram account.
Please remember to enjoy responsibly and never drink and drive.