By Lori Bosworth
Torontonicity was invited to a media tasting at Chef Chris Kalisperas’s new restaurant, The Forth, on Danforth Avenue in Toronto on June 9, 2014. Kalisperas, previous Executive Chef at Brassaii, was intent on opening a restaurant in this traditionally Greek neighbourhood that did not feature predominantly Greek cuisine.
We entered the luxurious surroundings and were quickly ushered up to The Forth’s third floor lounge to enjoy cocktails and appetizers before our dinner seating. Sitting on window-seat chairs, we were afforded a spectacular view of the Church of the Holy Name, a landmark on Danforth Avenue.
A pleasant server quickly dropped by to take our drink orders. I requested a virgin cocktail, preferably with fruit juices, while my dining partner asked for a daiquiri. The bartender made a wonderful concoction for me of mango juice, strawberry slices and other ingredients. My dining partner professed the daiquiri good, although it contained a bit too much grapefruit for her.
Another server appeared with lamb burgers with aioli, olive spread and cucumber. The lamb was so tasty and tender and was perfectly complemented by the garlic mayonnaise and olive dressings.
But the chicken with mint and cilantro, which arrived next, was melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
We were informed that our table was ready so we descended to the second floor and were overtaken by the formidable room. I love the birch bark tree installation that created separate dining sections and the huge screen projections featured historic images and buildings on the Danforth dating back about 100 years. Our server informed us that the screens will be showing the 2014 FIFA World Cup as of June 12, 2014.
After being seated, bread was immediately brought to our table. I don’t usually like to eat bread before a meal, but the focaccia was too tempting so I broke off a piece. Served hot with butter, the freshly-made focaccia was amazingly good and not too chewy at all. The spelt sprouts were also delicious, but a bit more substantial than the focaccia.
My dining partner chose a 20 27 Cellars Sparkling wine to begin ($15/glass) and said it was light and not too sweet. She began with an appetizer of White Asparagus with lemon and pistachios ($9). Featuring a delicate combination, the asparagus was cooked to perfection while the pistachio coating provided complementary texture. A very satisfying starter.
I chose the Octopus with popcorn, lime and cilantro ($12). Yes, popcorn! I think I understand the pairing. The popcorn provided a light, crunchy balance to the chewier octopus. Let me clarify, however, that the octopus was delicately steamed and not too chewy at all. I loved the sauce adorning this sea dish. My only worry was this appetizer was more substantial than I imagined and I was concerned I wouldn’t have room for the other dishes on the way. If you love octopus and squid, however, you’ll definitely enjoy this dish.
The next appetizer I chose (yes, there were two sets of appetizers!) was the Steak Tartare with potato crisps, devilled eggs, capers, chili mayonnaise and parmigiano ($16). The hand cut beef tenderloin was generally tender and worked well with the capers and chili mayo. I did encounter a few chewy bits, but other than that the dish was okay. To be honest, I haven’t ordered Steak Tartare very often in the past so I don’t have a lot of reference for this dish. I did enjoy the light, housemade potato crisps.
My dining partner chose the Quail with grilled cauliflower, apple, quail egg and endive ($16) for her second appetizer. While she found the quail quite tasty, she engaged in a battle to get it off the bone. The cauliflower, apple and endive were perfect accompaniments for this dish though.
We both debated about ordering seafood for the main course and as a result, my dining partner ordered the Scallops with artichoke, spinach, potato, lardo and almond ($27). What appeared was a dish of gigantic scallops, the size of which I have never seen before. I tasted one and they were incredible. Perfectly cooked, not too chewy and wonderful in the accompanying butter sauce. Do order this.
I lucked out with another winner when I ordered the Halibut with spring vegetable, potato, squid and lemon ($33). The fish was incredibly tender and sweet and lovingly adorned by asparagus, onions, beans, watercress and squash. Looks can be deceiving; there is a significant portion of fish here.
It was dessert time and my dining partner, who has an affinity for chocolate, ordered the Chocolate Hazelnut cake with Saskatoon berries, chili and crème fraîche ($9). She loved the layered cake dipped in the fresh cream: a moist, delicate creation, but would have preferred blueberries to the Saskatoon berries.
I was pretty full at this point, but I couldn’t resist trying dessert. I ordered the Maple, Almond, Brown Butter, Passion fruit and Buttermilk plate ($9) and experienced culinary bliss! The buttermilk ice cream, silky, light and sweet, was the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted. The Maple macaron with whisky filling was heavenly: light, fluffy and crispy. The almond butter cake was dense without being heavy and tasted fabulous dipped in the passion fruit sauce. A truly magnificent dessert!
Hats off to Mr. Kalisperas. The Forth is a complete culinary experience and not to be missed. With such fine dining on a Monday, the week can only go down from here.
The Forth, 629 Danforth Avenue, 416-465-2629. Open Wednesday to Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Complementary valet parking on Friday and Saturday evenings.