Hoof Raw Bar
Opened tonight, all seafood on the menu, all well executed, will have more in depth report later.
Ok, there are 16 items on the menu, including oysters. Oyster selection is so far East and West coast, three of each, served with mignonette and lemon (no cocktail sauce and I'm not sure if they have it.) I didn't order oysters, as I wanted to try other items on the menu.
The space is the same size as Black Hoof, with a brighter color scheme. Kitchen still very small and limited, with only an electric stove and a mini deep fryer to work on. There were four chefs on the line, at some point three of them were on oyster duty. Now, reality of oyster shucking is, no matter how good you are, there is a limit to how many oysters you can shuck at a time. There may be a bit of a wait for food in the busy times, but it's by no means an issue. Food won't come chain restaurant fast (as no one should expect), but I did feel it was an average of 15 minutes wait per course. Four different tomato cocktails, I had the Asian, it was quite amazing.
I had the chance to taste everything except for the oysters and kingfish dish on the menu. Again, 16 items, the menu pretty much divided into three sections: raw, cooked "snacks", and more substantial dishes.
RAW: The cured fish board featured olive-brined branzino, miso cod, albacore gravlax, mackarel, and chorizo scallops, garnished with pickled cippolini onions. The raw scallop dish had diced apples, fried diced potatoes, ponzu (I think) sauce around the plate. The bream sashimi had a soy butter emulsion, wasabi and cucumber "noodles". The showcase of these dishes were definitely the seafood themselves, the curing and the sides were subtle compliments, and by subtle I mean even less noticable than the wasabi and shari from a nigiri. Very fresh, and great entry to a meal.
Smoked shrimp cocktail had 6 small BC spot prawns with cocktail sauce on a martini class, at this point I believe it is the nature of BC spot prawns to have a more "mushy' texture to it. My neighbour prefered this texture, but overall not a very exciting dish. Squid salad had squid cooked sous-vide, julienned thinly, tossed with lettuce, red onions, sesame, and chili sauce (forgot which kind). The squid was amazingly tender, and all the flavors came together very well. The chawanmushi is my favorite dish, I interpret it as the Raw Bar's version of the blood pudding creme brulee, it's already described on the BlogTO site, but unlike traditional chawanmushi, it is served cold.
SNACKS: Bread and butter is sold for $2, featuring a minature loaf from OMG bakery. Fish snacks had 3 fried shrimp heads, 3 fried smelts and fried whitebait. Brandade was served warmed, in a pool of olive oil, with several pieces of toast. Baked oysters was $14 for 6 oysters, kudos for not fully cooking the oysters. Shrimp and toast had croutons, egg yolk emulsion (it was a line of sauce), black sesame, and cilantro leaves as garnish, a sort of deconstructed version of what you would think of as "shrimp and toast". Shrimps were cooked perfectly, and the emulsion added the needed richness to the dish.
SUBSTANTIALS. Or not really, clam chowder was made with "charcuterie" stock, with clams, and potato gnocchi. Whiting and ponzu had two whiting, both butterflied and deboned, pan-seared, drizzled in ponzu and topped with watercress and celeriac slaw. This dish is like Cantonese home-cooking at its finest, and reminded me of home. Baby octopus (again, described on BlogTO) was another favorite, the combination of hazelnuts, mushrooms (I thought they were oyster mushrooms, but BlogTO says shiitake), octopus and pequin sauce felt to me more Spanish and Provencal or Asian, but that's only me.
Dessert was rhubarb shortcake, rhubarb compote, freeze-dried caramel, and shaved rhubarb, very impressed with the dessert.
Now, even after all this food (I was more or less by myself), was I entirely satisfied with the meal? I was full, definitely, even being a great lover of seafood I still felt I wanted a slab of foie or meat after the meal! If Raw Bar were a stand alone restaurant, no affiliated or attached to Black Hoof, I would almost feel this menu is "incomplete". It felt as if this will be a spot for people to go to before heading next door to the Black Hoof. Certainly what I will be doing.
Or maybe I'm just a glutton.
"Mushy Spot prawns" From the BC Spot Prawns website:http://www.wildbcspotprawns.com/handling
Wild BC Spot Prawns harvested “live” should be cooked immediately or have their heads removed as soon as possible. After the heads are removed the tails should be thoroughly rinsed. Spot prawns have an enzyme that begins to permeate through the tail and turns the meat mushy. Removing the head and rinsing the tail keeps the flesh firm. The head of the prawn can be removed from the tail by swiftly turning it and pulling it away from the tail.
Visited tonight for an early dinner at 6pm. We ordered a broad selection from the menu. The sea bream sashimi was excellent and the sous vide squid had a great texture, but some of the dishes (e.g. shrimp toast) had too much going on. While most of the dishes are not at the level of the original hoof (or cafe), the vibe and service is much more mellow (and appreciative) than back in the day when getting a table was a feat. It is nice for Toronto to have a new raw bar, but the meal would just be more satisfying with simpler preparations.
New menu is up, The talents of the chef are really starting to show. Smoked mussels and "canned salmon" with chips and pickles. 2 ceviche dishes, albacore and hamachi. The Jerk kingfish which was replaced with halibut was delicate, with powerful flavours, hit all the points, sweet, salty, spicy, sour.