By Amy Sanderson
I cross busy King Street and enter the top floor: Fred’s Not Here, the sister restaurant to The Red Tomato. I wander down the spiral staircase to The Red Tomato for the Pie Tunes Menu pizza and drink tasting event on September 9, 2015 and was greeted warmly by the host, Helen. She invited me to have a seat and be sure to try the new Peach Sangria.
I’m told that Fred Luk, the name behind Fred’s Not Here will be…Here! And indeed he was. He came over to our table and gave us a detailed overview of his business and how he hopes it will evolve.
Luk and his wife are involved in all facets of the restaurant: Fred creates sauces and customizes the menu while his wife has been instrumental in the new design concept.
The Red Tomato has outlived many Toronto restaurants, having been around for about 25 years, and was remodeled in late 2014 with teak panels and black and white photographs of various spots in Toronto and abroad, all for sale by the artist, Heather MacCarthy-Bell. Exposed brick and even crumbling concrete lend an authentic feel to this Toronto landmark. A dark wine bar with small tables on both sides and a fabulous bar running the length of the restaurant create an intimate ambience.
Fred seems to have a penchant for tandem restaurants: he started his restaurant career opening both the The Whistling Oyster and the sister restaurant, Filet of Sole on Duncan Street. At one point, Fred owned all four restos, but now concentrates on running Fred’s Not Here and The Red Tomato. Byblos now occupies The Whistling Oyster/Filet of Sole spot.
Fred wanted to customize his menu with a simple item: Pizza. It’s great for urban professionals and tourists alike. It’s fast and easy if you are heading to a show, or if you just want to get out of your kitchen on a weeknight. Fred hopes to attract urbanities who live in the condos nearby as his new bread-and-butter customers.
Fred doesn’t forget his loyal customers though, two of which, Mark and Gabriel, producers at The Princess of Wales Theatre across the street, were lovely tasting companions to me and my guest. They told us all about the evolution of Fred’s restaurants and the history of the area.
For the tasting, we were entertained by the live band playing accordion, bass and fiddle. Their repertoire was eclectic, playing classics like Danny Boy, The Beatles and even a song created just for Fred. But alas, the trio played for this special event only since Fred needs to be cost conscious.
Drinks at The Red Tomato
I enjoyed the Peach Sangria first which is made with peach juice, lime, vodka, Ontario wine, a sprig of basil and a healthy slice of juicy peach. Very peachy taste, thick and pulpy.
Later I tried the French Martini was fruity and delicious with Chambord for a raspberry flavour, vodka and pineapple juice.
Pizza at The Red Tomato
Pizzas are 11” pies ranging from $15-$18.
The Hangover Cure is Fred’s play on last night’s pizza for breakfast. It impresses with a quail’s egg, mmmmm: tomato, olives, Soppressata, double smoked bacon, mozzarella, grana Padano, chilies, topped fried eggs
Mushroom was very mushroomy: king oyster, enoki, shitaki, crimini, caramelized onions, mozzarella and truffle oil. This is great if you LOVE mushrooms.
Peking Duck is heavy on the hoisin: roasted duck breast, enoki & shitaki mushrooms, mozzarella, hoisin sauce, green onion, crispy duck crackling
Garlic Shrimps was my absolute favourite…so buttery and a perfect juicy shrimp texture: mozzarella and walnut pesto.