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Yours Truly maturing beautifully

  • k

On two visits, two weeks apart this month, we were AWED by most of the dishes coming out of Yours Truly's kitchen. Exquisite presentations, brilliantly balanced, complex, and surprising flavours, quality ingredients. A few of the dishes were merely very good, and yes, the desserts are still the weakest component, but I've found that to be the case in many small restaurants that cannot justify a fulltime dessert chef/patissier on staff.

And yes, a few of the attempts, some of the risks, fail. A man's reach should exceed his grasp, n'est-ce pas?

There is more imagination, more creative genius, on display here than in all of TOronto's other kitchens put together. Sure, some diners may not enjoy the "display" of genius, and may prefer less ambitious, solid , honest-to-goodness food, of which Toronto has plenty.

I re-read the original thread and clearly this is a better-run restaurant than the one that opened.
Service from our two designated waiters on the two visits, with assistance from the rest of the floor staff and from an occasional cook/runner from the kitchen, was consistently smooth, knowledgeable, patient and friendly.

I've read several complaints about the portions, but I thought they were fair for the price, with the hours of artistry and prep thrown in for free, making the value sensational. If you want more food, or don't enjoy small plates, do what some others here do.....order an extra set. Yes, order THREE $ 45 dinners per couple. Double up on the same item to get a more substantial amount of what you love, or diversify your risk by ordering a greater variety.

Among us we ate 28 different dishes (not counting amuses) and do not understand why there are not crowds lined up. If you enjoyed Lotus when you and Susur Lee were both yet young, get over here before the chef moves on. To Barcelona or New York.

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  1. Ate there last week, was very impressed as well [perhaps not as hyperbolically as the OP], and great service and great value as well. They have lots of the tricks of molecular gastronomy down pat, but crucially they're bang on with the flavour - that's something that often gets lost. Very very delicious dishes. Standouts were the Arzak egg, the spruce-tip LN2 ice cream, the lox with horseradish-cream snow. We'll be back for sure.

    6 Replies
    1. re: burningrome

      We agree on the value. Did you go away hungry or were you satisfied with the overall calories in the meal? My husband and I are 6'3" and 5'7" respectively, weight proportional, and we are happier ordering extra. Ok, ok, we're just PIGS.

      The table next to us the other night was a lovely couple, a very slender actress/model from LA here for a week to film a Reitman's commercial, and her one-foot shorter professional chef husband, who is about to open a new place on Hollywood Blvd., who were eager to discuss other exceptional Toronto restaurants they might visit during her shoot. Between them they weighed about 250 pounds. Even though they are used to AMERICAN portions, of course they thought the size of the meal was perfection!

      1. re: KAYLO

        i am under 5'2" and weigh between 100-105 lbs.. and i was still a bit hungry after my 4 course meal. i think next time, i will not come hungry the way i had. the food was still delicious though. go to sample and enjoy the flavours/textures/presentation/etc.. not to fill up

        p.s. admittedly, i do have a big appetite and a fast metabolism! i think i would be happy ordering 2 full meals for myself if i did want to fill up. :) may try the big carte blanche tasting menu next time..

        1. re: helenhelen

          I am the same way helen. I also have a good metabolism, and am tiny, but I could easily have eaten more. But like you, I tend to come to dinner hungry, especially as I knew it was a tasting menu.

          1. re: hungryabbey

            the funny thing is though, when you go for one of your main meals of the day, you usually think that going while hungry is a good idea. its sort of counter intuitive to not go for dinner while hungry.

            1. re: hungryabbey

              I like small portions for prix-fixe and tasting menus because I'm not used to eating multiple courses. Plus, I can't eat very much at once and I'd rather not have food go to waste. But I understand why others might not feel the same way.

              1. re: piccola

                it's fine small if there are enough courses that you feel like you had a decent meal by the end of it. when i was in NYC recently, i went to kajitsu (amazing place.. check it out: http://www.kajitsunyc.com/) and i tried the 8 course tasting menu. the portion sizes were small but after that many courses, i felt satisfied. they also have a smaller tasting menu of 4 courses (not sure if i would feel full on that).

                i just noticed on the yours truly website that it's now 3 courses rather than 4, and the same price as before. i hope that mean the portion sizes are bigger...??

      2. Yours Truly is closing for a few weeks. A Yours Truly BBQ will be held this Sunday at 1pm:

        "On the afternoon of Sunday August 19th we're closing our front doors for a few weeks of holiday.

        But before that we're going to have a little BBQ soiree in the parking lot behind our home at 229 Ossington Ave (entrance into the alley is just east of Ossington)

        Music will be provided by our good friends:

        Babe Rainbow (Warp Records)
        Scott Seewhale (Pacific High, Nacho Lovers)
        ++ Special Guests

        Drinks by: Six Pints & Jameson Irish Whiskey

        Food by: Yours Truly

        We'll be there Rain or Shine (with tents of course).

        See you this Sunday..."

        1. We went for our 11th anniversary dinner last night and had the carte blanch option - 22 courses spread over 3 hours (10 of which were canapé-size). Overall we were very pleased. Many dishes were fun and had great flavours. The menu was nicely balanced between rich dishes and light and refreshing ones. The setting is noisy and pretty casual. The service is friendly but inconsistently attentive. For a total cost of about $200 before tax and tip (with alcohol), we thought this was pretty good value.

          For drinks we shared one of the cocktails - a mixture of sugar cane liquor, elderflower syrup, lavender, lemon juice, and soda. It was a light, summery drink with a nice balance between floral and fruity tones. I also had a Granville Island beer on tap with the dinner. However, it took them a very long time to see if we wanted something else to drink (despite the drinks menu lying prominently on our table for many courses).

          The first ten courses were small bites, followed by slightly more substantial dishes:

          A zingy tomato spread on toast - lots of fresh flavour.
          Pickled daikon slices with honey - OK but forgettable.
          Zucchini soup - seemed to have creme fraiche in it and some other herb (no details provided). Delicious.
          Devilled egg - fun and yummy.
          Trout tartare topped with a creamy spread, served with nori slices. A nice blend of Asian and non-Asian flavours. We made tiny temaki with this dish.
          Mini-baguette sandwiches of more trout. The baguette was kind of limp - was more like choux texture. But the trout filling was tasty and the presentation was very cute.
          Inari (sweet tofu skin pockets) filled with brown rice and salt cod. This was particularly well executed and was a highlight.
          "Animal crackers" - deep fried pig skin and fish skin, with a sour, tangy chill dip. Crispy fatty goodness. But the cock's combs also described were MIA.
          Falafel balls served in a jar on a bed of salt - they said something about truffles, which we presumed was related to the presentation as there was no discernible truffle flavour. There was a nice tahini dip though.
          One fresh, perfectly cooked new potato, with nothing but a seaweed butter spread. Simple and wonderful.
          Cantaloupe - served impressively over dry ice - a sweet and simple palate cleanser.
          Deep fried pizza dough knots with garlic oil - I could have eaten a whole meal of these.
          Tomato salad - a mixture of sweet heirloom tomatoes, house made fresh cheese, and some pickled green tomatoes. Fresh and refreshing.
          Beef tartare chunks with radish slices, horseradish, and crunchy deep fried grains (again, no description provided) - another dish we could have kept eating and eating.
          A poached egg over salsa verde, then covered with potato chips and then a potato foam. This was the standout dish of the night - a clever and humorous mix of flavours and textures.
          A piece of smoked, cured and lightly cooked trout, garnished with toasted hazelnuts. Very yummy and a nice contrast of textures and flavours.
          A dark and deeply flavoured mushroom bouillon, accented with some black fungus and sesame oil.
          A concord grape freezee served as a palate cleanser.
          The last main dish featured a spicy chicken wing and a piece of chicken with crispy skin. This was accompanied by a grilled green onion and sweet pureed corn.
          Our dessert was a cardamon panna cotta with pearls of cooked peach and lemon balm leaves. I know that others haven't been impressed with the dessert course but we thought this one was awesome - light, not too sweet, with a mix of fruity, spicy, and herbal flavours.
          We finished with homemade pocky - fun and lighthearted.

          So overall, Yours Truly is kind of like a lo-fi NOMA. It is fun, inventive, and adventurous. We definitely want a repeat visit.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Dr. John

            I had (have?) Yours Truly in my top 10Toronto restaurants (in voting earler this year) but it's NOTHING like Noma (even lo-fi) IMO.
            Given that more people reading this Board have probably tried Yours Truly than Noma, does that mean you would describe Noma as a "hi-fi version of Yours Truly"?

            1. re: estufarian

              Put me on the list of people who haven't made it to Noma. But I have eaten at a few ... decent ... places in the past year in New York, Japan, Italy, France, with London next month. All for food or art (vissi d'arte), none for business as I am retired. I even popped over to LIcata JUST to eat at La Madia. ANd if you haven't been there, please, DO go. Perhaps I am not qualified in your eyes to say that it is LIKE any kind of Noma, but I CAN say that is very LIKE an upscale, regional, Yours Truly. Some of the food was so experimental as to be ...scary ....and much of it was brilliant, innovative, poignant and meaningful.

              LIke Dr. John, I think similes, though inexact, are useful when describing a meal. ANd much of what I have read about Noma, and oh god, how very much I have read since I first heard of it (was it 2 years ago, 3?) from A A Gill in the London Times, sounds very much LIKE Yours Truly. Yours truly, KAYLO

              1. re: KAYLO

                Similes are useful - if they are accurate!
                Perhaps anyone who has been to both (apart from me - which at least allows me to draw a comparison) can describe anything that is comparable between the two and/or can be compared directly.

                I haven't been to La Madia - and because of a taste 'aversion' to tomatoes (they taste incredibly bitter to me) I'm unlikely to ever travel to Sicily (for food anyway). With luck, I may get back to Noma - got in on my first attempt a couple of years ago.
                And I do enjoy Yours Truly - and have done so ever since it opened - if you search the Board you'll see I was a consistent defender from the early days.

                1. re: estufarian

                  So we did go to Noma back in February (possibly the best meal we have ever had) and agree that Yours Truly is not is the same sphere in terms of sourcing of ingredients, intricacies of prep, complex combinations of flavours, etc. What did remind us of Noma was the playfulness, creative aspirations, and the sheer number of courses. Anyway, didn't realize that a simile would cause such controversy! :)

          2. has anyone been since the new chef arrived?

            4 Replies
            1. re: helenhelen

              Bumping - any thoughts? Also, does anyone know how the menu works now? I am looking at a 6pm rez which is clearly not for the higher end tasting menu but I'm not sure what it is for and the website isn't clear.

              1. re: Cat123

                THIS IS A 'WARNING OVERTURE' :

                Because of Cat123 posting above, as a member of this fraternity, I believe it is my duty to post this 'pre-emptive' warning. I'll let the actual person ( my son ) who suffered the entire dining episode do the detailed review later on!

                Yesterday evening, my son and GF had the $100 pp Carte Blanche tasting menu. They returned home TOTALLY DISAPPOINTED!! Some dishes they commented, were some of the 'worst' food they had eaten in a western establishment inToronto! Plain and inexpensive ingredients used reflected a huge rip-off!
                Some dishes served were cheap 'Chinese clones' which one can get for a dollar or two from Chinatown!! These included 'Rice Congee' and 'Lotus leaf wrapped glutinous rice'. There were also commercial rice cake on skewer topped with curry sauce, pork rind and a mediocre Falafel which they called 'Truffle'...etc!!. A shooter with a Balsamic vinegar foam was a total disaster with the foam so thick it got stuck at the back of the throat when swallowed!
                Finally, after dishing out the price equivalent to an Omakase Meal at Sushi Kaji, my son was still hungry afterwards and came home searching for food!!
                BTW, he had taken photos of the entire meal so hopefully one can see some of the over-priced food.
                Guess the departure of Chef Claudio really have an impact!!

                1. re: Charles Yu

                  I was there last week and also had the 'big' tasting menu.
                  For clarification they only have 'prix fixe' style menus of which the Grand menu is the largest. The other prix-fixe are (IIRC) basically 4 courses. You choose your menu size when you order.
                  So, NOTHING has really changed in the past few months (except the chef).
                  As before, this is a patchy ride. But it's better than Charles' post suggests. Indeed the shooter is a disaster (and we told the chef so) - our foam never made it out of the glass - stuck to it!
                  And indeed Asian spicing was the norm, but more subtle than bold.
                  Our meal took around 3 hours and we certainly didn't leave hungry. I thought the tastes were mainly 'good' although I felt most dishes lacked complexity. The star though (for me) was the textures which were balanced and creative throughout. I've only previously found this balance of textures at the top destinations in Toronto.
                  The chef came out several times for comments - and seemed to be overly sensitive to criticism - so not sure he was listening. Nevertheless, I thought the meal was 'fair' value for what was delivered. No bargain, certainly, and my rating has not changed significantly.
                  What has changed is the clientele - on my prior visits I stood out 'demographically' (probably the oldest person there) - so much so that the chef greeted me on all subsequent visits. However, this visit I fitted right in - I must be getting younger. Even the noise level was tolerable.
                  Before the chef change the meals were always a roller coaster - have never had a fully satisfying 'regular' meal there. Without doubt the desserts are now much improved - that was always the weakest part.
                  My view was that the 'clone' dishes were actually personal 'takes' on those dishes (not copies) - in much the same way that Susur re-creates his heritage dishes - but I know Charles has the identical criticism there. But my western heritage has trained me to prefer creative presentation, wine choices, trained servers (OK in Toronto that stretches it a bit) etc.
                  I guess you pays your money and you takes your choice. Kaji doesn't excite me. But he's usually packed - as is Yours Truly.

                  1. re: estufarian

                    Thanks both for your thoughts. Might give another spot a whirl based on those!

            2. Anybody know where Chef Jeff Claudio went?

              2 Replies
                1. re: aliangwb

                  Last reported - Traveling the world, I think??!!

                2. We were in the area last night so walked in around 9pm and were pleased to be seated right away. 'Thought we'd add a current review to this list.

                  Overall we REALLY enjoyed the food as usual (this was our third dinner there); found the portions on the small side; found it quite loud, though not unbearable; and for the first time had a shocking service faux pas (and I'm not usually sensitive to poor service).

                  To explain the last point - most servers were helpful and friendly. But one young man brought our dishes and raced through the explanations such a rush that I interrupted him to ask him to slow down. He said "I have to go" and ran off without even finishing the descriptions! And he didn't come back or send anyone else back to finish the job! I had to ask the next server for a recap AFTER we had finished that course. I was stunned - I have come to expect that showing interest in the food leads to more time from servers, not less!

                  We tried to let go of this and focus instead on the food. We had the Yours Truly menu (5 courses with two options each, one vegetarian) and ordered everything.

                  Started with an Eagle's Dream cocktail (gin, Creme Yvette (violet petals and berries spirit), lemon, egg white - a little sweet, a little herbal, pleasant if not mind-blowing

                  Deep-fried garlic bread - yum! like a garlic doughnut
                  Soup shooter: Turnip broth with dill oil and green garlic foam - too salty

                  Three very tasty amuses:
                  Albacore tuna (from Oregon - hopefully sustainable), soy glaze and lemon
                  Fougere pastry, chicken liver pate, huckleberry jam (like little savoury profiteroles)
                  Compressed spinach leaf covered with puffed wild grains, vinegar gel, semolina (?) powder - this was cool; very interesting spinach leaf texture, and fun to roll up

                  1. Venison tartare in broth with creme fraiche, salted wild berries, pickled pearl onions, toasted corn and cornmeal chip

                  Chick pea aspic with horseradish granita, dollop of smoked queso, various sprouts and lemon balm

                  2. Pan-roasted pickerel, cured edulis mussel, braised seaweed, sea asparagus, circles of celtuce root, mussel nage (foam), lemon gel with herbs - this was a particular highlight, the pickerel was just beautiful.

                  Beet braised in barbecue beet juice, caramelised/smoked buttermilk, milk skin (very cool texture), malabar spinach, wild flower petals

                  3. Aligot (monforte cheese and garlic potato puree) surrounding a runny sous vide egg, crowned with daubs of tarragon puree and smoked yogurt, topped with potato chips, nasturtium, wildflower petals. Definitely my favourite of the evening - flavourful and fun!

                  Raviolo made of cocoa dough, sweet moist beef brisket, a hint of guajillo chili, sweet parsnip puree, parmesan and chervil oil

                  4. Cauliflower three ways (cooked in brown butter and dusted with spruce powder, raw circles, dehydrated strips); chokecherry gel, walnuts, sour cream, herb emulsion

                  Poached chicken breast, chicken skin, roulade of leg, white anchovy, field bean ragout, herb emulsion, jus gras, puffed wild rice, maitake mushrooms. All three chicken parts were particularly amazing for flavour, and the breast was remarkably moist and tender.

                  5. Soy milk mochi ice cream, soft sweet tofu, soy caramel powder, wild plum gel, black sesame cracker, hazelnut crumb - very interesting, not quite as tasty as the below

                  White chocolate genoise cake, sea buckthorn sauce (sort of self-contained in a skin like an egg yolk), coffee meringue, candied pine nuts, whipped creme fraiche - really enjoyed the moist cake, tangy seabuckthorn and whipped creme fraiche (that's a neat idea)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Klafouti

                    Thanks for the review.
                    I love their family format dinner and $35 pre-fixe.

                    1. re: happycamper

                      I hadn't heard of either option - I thought they just had the two menus (Yours Truly and Carte Blanche).

                  2. As of last Sunday, they are a la carte menu only. The octopus is phenomenal. Go.