Canada: The land that the restaurant awards list forgot
Sunday 13 May 2012
The judges of this year's San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants steered clear of the world's second-largest country: not one Canadian establishment even made the top 100. The absence is partly explained by the strange lumping together of Canada with the great restaurant city of Chicago and the rest of America's Midwest for the purposes of judging.
Yet Canada has cutting-edge chefs working with superb indigenous ingredients such as spot prawns and sablefish (black cod) from the Pacific waters, excellent beef from Alberta and the delicate summer flavours of the Maritimes. These ingredients are complemented by world-class wines from British Columbia's Okanagan Valley and the Niagara area of Ontario.
With such gastronomic promise, it is no surprise that Canada has hundreds of restaurants worthy of praise.
* David Hawksworth has long been one of Vancouver's culinary stars, but can now claim to be its brightest with the opening of Hawksworth, Vancouver (001 604 673 7000; hawksworthrestaurant.com). The modern urban glamour of the interior is matched by beautifully presented dishes such as roasted Canadian striploin smoked oxtail, potato rissole and chioggia beetroot.
* West-coast produce gets a makeover at L'Abattoir, in Vancouver's meat-packing district (001 604 568 1701; labattoir.ca). Fat Duck-trained Lee Cooper serves Albacore tuna crudo with pork jowl and fava beans, and Dungeness crab and chickpea toast with light garlic custard and carrot pickles. A notably original drinks list is headed up by the Slaughterhouse cocktail (cognac, Elixer Vegital, orange oils and green chartreuse mist).
* The Black Hoof in Toronto (001 416 551 8854; theblackhoof.com) may boast the world's most extreme gastropub menu. Brandon Olsen delivers a menu of meat and offal with a starter of blood custard that might be followed by beef tendon and grits or foie gras with Nutella. Daring drinks include "tea and sympathy", with Earl Grey-infused gin, sherry, honey, lemon and jasmine bitter.
* Modernism is on the menu at Les 400 Coups, Montreal (001 514 985 0400; les400coups.ca). Taking his cue from the likes of Eleven Madison Park in New York, chef Marc-André Jetté serves beef tartare with mustard ice cream, anchovy and croutons and wild spot prawns with cauliflower, sea asparagus, sorrel, squid ink and yogurt.
* Take a leap of faith at Atelier, Ottawa (001 613 321 3537; atelierrestaurant.ca) where the first time you get to see a menu is after you've had 12 courses of chef Marc Lepin's creations. Playfully titled dishes include "Modernist high tea" – salmon with lapsang souchong foam and Earl Grey jelly dabs.
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