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!
The Guild, 1442 Dundas st West. (647) 343-7288
Has anyone else noticed the resurgence of hot spot restaurants and dinning experiences being had in Little Portugal? I have, because Julio & I are being pulled more and more in the direction of the west end, and rightfully so with restaurants like The Guild to visit and enjoy. The unique play on Canadiana cuisine and decor immediately greets you with a sense of warmth as you walk through the doors.
Co-owner and head Chef Mani Binelli (formally part of places such as Canoe, Centro and Auberge du Pommier) has created an approachable menu of rustic charm, which is well-balanced and meticulously executed. Albeit that I only had the chance to taste the newest items on the menu (my favourite below) in a tasting format, I have no doubt that we will be joining the friendly staff again for brunch, lunch and dinner in full dining size.
The Canadiana theme is not one to easily pull off as it can quickly move from themed to tacky. Most people associate the culinary term with maple bacon and poutine. Now, don’t get me wrong, those things are delicious and some of this Canadian boys favourites, but don’t expect some diluted version of that here. When I think of well prepared Canadian cuisine, I think of subtle fusion and balanced flavours. Not aggressive but not boring. And I was pleased with the selection before me upon my arrival in a space that paired romantic red walls, printed tin ceilings and birch covered bars alongside a menu of the same calibre. Every detail is thoroughly thought out, and I can appreciate that in a world when too much thought can ruin a great idea.
“Innovative cocktails by bar star Alex James mirror The Guild’s culinary ethos; house-made ingredients rule.”
The cocktail menu is one of a kind to say the least. Alex brings the energy and desire to create something new and push the limits of each and every ingredient. You can order anything your heart desires with their fully stocked bar, but I would recommend choosing something created and one of a kind. The Dun West Trading Co. is a el jimador reposado tequilla based cocktail layered with mezcal, benedictine and spiced pineapple. It’s refreshing without being something you would expect at an all inclusive resort down south. And be careful with this one because it may taste like heaven but packs a punch! So much so that we may or not have forgotten to take a picture after a couple of them… oops!
I have a new-found appreciation for cooking duck as I recently did it myself for the first time (see the results here!) so when I noticed that there was Duck Confit on the appetizer menu, I knew which would be my choice for the night. To put this dish into perspective, Duck Confit takes hours upon hours to prepare and that isn’t the only ingredient in this beautiful dish! It immediately spoke to me about how much time and effort goes into each menu item.
Served upon a homemade saltine style cracker which is salty and tastes of rye, the sweet duck meat is shredded. Using the acidity of a endive slaw and the spice of a bourbon flavoured jam, this dish hits my four major culinary points: sweet, salty, savoury & spicy. It’s important to take on something so daunting and present it in an approachable fashion, and to be honest, this was my favourite dish of the night.
What could be more Canadian for dinner in the winter time than steak and potatoes? Let’s not kid ourselves, as chic as other options may be, this is a dish we can all say warms the heart and satisfies our inner beasts. The Wellington County Skirt Steak is a take on this classic dish which delivers in aesthetic beauty and flavour. Skirt Steak traditionally can be quite tough and needs time to marinate and be cooked properly, otherwise you end up with a piece of shoe leather.
Its caramelized and salty flavours from a well marinated cut of meat, help deliver for that inner beast in you which is now dreaming of a delicious steak & potato dish. Purple potato and celeriac mash is a great combination of colour and creaminess against the heartiness of the steak. And last but not least, beautifully buttered green beans which snap with sweetness. I am still dreaming of this dish and think it will please any discerning diner in the city of Toronto.
Home-made Double Chocolate Toasted Almond Biscotti. Enough said, right? Paired with a dark espresso or Americano made with tender loving care. I am not always the biggest fan of a biscotti because in most cases they are over cooked and dry. The Guild made a believer out of me with their decadent dessert to end a night full of flavour and fun. It is by no means a traditional dessert, but this space is by no means a traditional restaurant. Next time you’re in and want just the right amount of sweet, let Julio & I know to come join since we live right around the corner!
Secret You Should Know:
In holding true to the home-made, up-cycled and truly Canadiana feel, the bar is one of a kind! The front of the bar is wallpapered in actual birch bark sheets taken from dead trees in Haliburton forest. It is my favourite decor choice by Photographer Robin Cimitruk & Chef Mani Binelli and you have to see it to believe it. Creating a depth and illusion of a walk in the forest in contrast to the printed tin ceiling, whimsical is the word that comes to mind.
But, one fun fact that is exclusively coming to you from #DanielsDish & #FASHIONIGHTS is that one of the chef’s is not only a cullinary master but a magician. Yes, a real life magician. Next time you go to visit, be so bold as to ask nicely (manners are important you know), and he might even perform a magic trick for your table! It’s dinner and a show at The Guild thanks to Daniel’s Dish & FASHIONIGHTS.
For more behind the scenes of this and other Daniel’s Dish visits, follow my Instagram!