Restaurant: Edulis Restaurant
Last Visited: February 27, 2013
Location: Toronto, ON (King West)
Address: 169 Niagara Street
Transit: King St West at Niagara St
Phone: (416) 703-4222
Price Range: $20-30+
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
- Chef/Owner Michael Caballo
- Owner/Manager Tobey Nemeth
- Husband and wife operation
- European bistro
- Small/share plates
- Seasonal menu
- Very few vegetarian options
- Good wine/cheese list
- European Sunday ($40/set menu)
- Dinner: Wednesday – Sunday 6pm – 10:30pm
- Lunch: Sunday 12-1:30pm
- Closed Monday & Tuesday
**Recommendations: Wild Hedgehog Mushrooms, Glazed Sweetbreads, Lightly Smoked Herring, Roasted Wakefield Cabbage
I had departed from my wonderful Buick Encore Culinary Experience, but Follow Me Foodie to Toronto was just getting warmed up. Well actually I was getting colder since I didn’t have the luxury of a Buick Encore to drive around in anymore, but my personal Follow Me Foodie to Toronto adventure was about to begin.
This was the first restaurant on my wish list for Follow Me Foodie to Toronto. I always travel with a very carefully researched restaurant list. It is not the “holy grail” because it changes often as soon as I set foot in a city, and I only have so much time. I get new recommendations, meet new people, explore areas of interest and discover hidden gems along the way, so I am not committed to a set itinerary, although there are some restaurants I “must try”.
Edulis was one of them. I wasn’t willing to shuffle it down the list. It was named #1 Best New Restaurant in Canada by EnRoute Magazine and Top 50 Best Restaurants in Canada by Macleans Magazine, but those were not the convincing factors. I don’t always buy into lists or titles, but in Canada those are prestigious awards given by credible and trusted sources. I also ran my list by some foodie friends and Toronto chefs and Edulis seemed to be on a consistent A-list.
I had reservations for it the night I arrived in Toronto, but I ended up having dinner in my hotel at Victor Restaurant instead. I was actually very nervous I wouldn’t be able to get another reservation at Edulis because their online reservations seemed booked up weeks in advance. Luckily I made it because it was a restaurant I would feel passionately about recommending to locals or tourists.
It is a quaint, cozy and sophisticated neighbourhood restaurant. It is considered a hidden gem, and for a Vancouver, BC reference (my home town) it would suit being in Kitsilano. It was reminiscent of European bistros on the countryside, and it felt rustic and homey, yet polished.
Husband and wife operation Michael Caballo and Tobey Nemeth’s intention was to bring European feel to their restaurant and it worked. I didn’t realize until after I had actually met and tried Nemeth’s cooking back in Vancouver at the grand opening of The Helm (now closed). I remembered liking her food, but she left the restaurant before it started to really go downhill. Now she takes front stage as manager at her own restaurant and leaves the kitchen in the hands of her husband Chef Caballo.
It is a farm to table Euro-Canadian bistro inspired by seasonal and mostly local ingredients. The concepts, flavours, and techniques are European and the food is presented unpretentiously. They take a keen interest in foraging – especially for mushrooms and the name Edulis refers to their favourite wild mushroom, the Boletus Edulis. The menu features shareable small plates which is one of my favourite styles of dining because I like to try a variety of dishes. I wouldn’t come with a big group, but it is a great catch up spot for a nice and low key evening out.
The menu was quite protein heavy and surprisingly adventurous for the area. He’s not afraid to use offal, but the food is still approachable and comforting. The food is more upscale than “mom and pop” and every dish is executed with experience and an understanding of seasoning and balance. Although classic, the dishes are exciting and it left me wanting more. The menus change often so there are always new dishes to try.
Their European touches were followed throughout the theme of their restaurant, but they weren’t always charming. The prices were written as if they were in Euros (without dollar signs and double zeros eg: 20,00 for $20), and it offered a “carte blanche” menu which was more or less chef’s daily price fixe menu. Those elements I appreciate, but the $2 unlimited filtered Q Water per person and “thank you for not using your cell phone at the table” written in fine print at the bottom of the menu contradicted the warm and unpretentious atmosphere. The cell phone “rule” was never enforced and the service was friendly throughout the night, so it was easy to look past, but at the same time unnecessary. Characteristics like that are usually expected and accepted in Europe, but in the context of Canada it doesn’t work quite as well. Despite these minor details, I had an excellent meal and experience and it is worth visiting. I had high expectations going in and it didn’t disappoint. It is a honest restaurant I would appreciate anywhere.
On the table:
- It is something I always comment on because it can say so much about the restaurant.
- If you’re coming from Europe you’ll probably never think North American bread is as good.
- The bread was served cold which is quite typical of French bistros even in France.
- It was a rustic levain (sourdough) bread with a chewy and doughy centre and crusty, but not crisp crust.
- The bread was okay and a bit tougher than expected, and I think it is made in house.
- The fact they offered bread complimentary is always appreciated though.
Amuse Bouche – Olive Skewer
- Guindilla peppers and anchovy stuffed olives drizzled with olive oil.
- The amuse bouche is standard and part of their daily service. It was unexpected and a nice personal touch.
- The olives were meaty with a salty bite of tiny anchovy tucked inside.
- The olive was good quality and the cube of bread helped ease the saltiness and absorb the oils.
- It looks like a Spanish tapa, but it was actually Italian inspired.
**Lightly Smoked Herring “a L’Huile” – 5.5/6 (Excellent!)
- This is their signature dish.
- The French name for it is Hareng pommes de terre a l’huile which is herring with potatoes in oil.
- This is a very typical Parisian “potato salad” and/or appetizer found throughout France.
- This was a very classic way of serving it and I’ve never even seen it offered outside of Europe.
- I found it special, memorable and bold to have on the menu since it is not typical for North American tastes. I appreciated it very much.
- Herring is generally an under used and valued fish in North America. It is sustainable and low in mercury so I wish it was offered more.
- I would say it is a bit acquired, but this really wasn’t fishy for herring.
- For that reason it could be appreciated by those who might not like herring, although the style and presentation of the dish was made for those who love it.
- It was a deep cast iron pot generously filled with at least 10 pieces of beautiful herring.
- I didn’t know it was a “help yourself to as many as you want” dish and I ended up finishing the whole thing.
- I thought it would be wasted if I didn’t, but unfinished herring goes back in the kitchen and the pot is refilled for the next order.
- This is lightly smoked herring so the flavours are less aggressive than pickled herring.
- The herring was soft and tender almost like a smooth and delicate piece of sashimi and the fishiness was very mild.
- It was not too salty and it could have been soaked overnight to desalt.
- I couldn’t pick up any smoky flavours, but the herring did have flavour.
- Typically the herring would be marinated for days in bay leaf, chervil and/or thyme infused water/oil, but I couldn’t detect those herb flavours.
- The herring skin was glossy and not thick or rubbery and it was easy to cut through and chew.
- The herring was swimming in a bathtub of sunflower oil which is very light and neutral in flavour.
- It looks intimidating with the amount of oil, but it does not feel super rich or oily.
- The best sunflower oil I’ve had to date (and I hate saying “best” anything) is Volte-Face Sunflower Oil, and since then nothing can compare.
- I felt like I had never had sunflower oil until after trying Volte-Face Sunflower Oil.
- This sunflower oil wasn’t particularly special or artisan, but it worked with the dish and didn’t interfere with flavours.
- The heirloom carrots were shaved thin and crunchy and they were very natural and beautiful as is.
- There were a few random slices of watermelon beets in there too.
- It was also mixed with shaved onions and I could taste notes of cloves (?) and perhaps pink peppercorns (?).
- Any spices and herbs in the oil were so subtle and removed that I could barely pick them out.
- It was a delicate dish and nothing was pickled, and it was quite light despite the oil.
- The star of the show was the herring which really shined, but the heirloom carrots had their time in the spotlight as well.
- To eat this dish you’re supposed to eat the herring and the potato salad mixed together.
- The side of warm potato salad was lovely and the baby potatoes were tender and buttery with a waxy flesh.
- They were tossed in a dijon vinaigrette made from olive oil and the creaminess and emulsification was from mustard.
- The sauce was smooth and there was some vinegar for acidity too.
- The finely chopped chives showed good knife skills and they didn’t go unnoticed.
- It was excellent flavour and texture eaten together, and they gave justice to a classic Parisian potato salad.
- I have always liked herring and I will remember this dish because it is so rare to come by in North America.
- To find one this good was a special moment I savoured. It would have even made a Parisian proud.
**Roasted Wakefield Cabbage – 5/6 (Excellent)
- Bagna Cauda Dressing, Cantabrian Anchovy $8
- Oh wow. This was unexpectedly awesome. I am glad it was recommended.
- It was very simple, but the execution and quality of ingredients took the dish to maximum potential.
- Wakefield cabbage is an heirloom cabbage that is naturally sweet and here it was slowly caramelized and treated with patience and care.
- The cabbage was almost executed like meat and the natural sugars were well released, but the layers of leaves still had shape.
- It was beautifully wilted, but not melted and the cell structure was still there at the thicker parts.
- It really celebrated the beauty of the cabbage and let it be.
- Cantabrian Anchovies are premium quality anchovies from Spain.
- There was only one whole fillet of Cantabrian Anchovy draped over top the cabbage and I would have loved one more.
- However it was very salty, so I could see why there was only one.
- Usually it is less salty, but it was better than most anchovies in North America and it was not aggressively fishy.
- The Bagna Cauda dressing is an Italian dressing not commonly used in North American restaurants, so I found it refreshing.
- Bagna Cauda means “hot bath” and it is a warm Italian dip for roasted vegetables.
- It is made from olive oil, garlic, anchovies and butter.
- It is not a complicated dressing, but sometimes simple is best.
- It would have been great to see the dressing served separately in a pot over a candle (like fondue), which is traditionally how it would be presented in Italy.
- It would have been an unique experience to enjoy the Bagna Cauda as they would in Italy.
- The cabbage had so much flavour that I didn’t even rely on the dressing, but it was all still very good.
**Wild Hedgehog Mushrooms Roasted in Duck Fat – 5.5/6 (Excellent!)
- Fried egg, duck skin breadcrumbs $16
- The description had everything I loved and it was a very indulgent dish that I could have eaten two of.
- The duck skin breadcrumbs put panko to shame and it really topped the dish off giving it texture and a salty gratin crust.
- I loved this even more because it was not predictable with crispy pancetta or bacon, if not panko.
Runny egg yolk? Check.
- Everything was mixed together before eating, like a farm to table breakfast scramble.
- Hedgehog Mushrooms are almost like chanterelles, but not as supreme in flavour.
- They are naturally a bit sweet and nutty in flavour as they cook.
- They were roasted in duck fat so they tasted a bit meatier.
- There were lots of mushrooms and I couldn’t necessarily taste the duck fat, but I could taste the duck skin in the breadcrumbs.
- The dish was nutty and crispy with slippery mushrooms and the egg yolk was a natural sauce.
- I would have loved a fried duck egg instead of a regular chicken egg though.
- I forgot to try the green sauce alone and I lost its flavour after it was mixed.
- It could have been an herb oil, but I wouldn’t have minded it as a Chimmichurri.
- There was no acidity to cut the richness of the dish, so I was hoping for something to brighten up the flavours.
- It was excellent as a side dish more so than a main because there wasn’t a whole lot of substance.
- It was a very simple dish, but simple is fine and it tasted more complex like many of his dishes.
**Glazed Sweetbreads – 6/6 (FMF Must Try!)
- Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Fried Almonds, Celeraic Purée $18
- It was another winning dish I instantly fell in love with!
- I love sweetbreads and anything with mushrooms I assumed was going to be excellent since the owners are so passionate about them.
- It was elevated comfort food and it was very well thought out.
- The stacking presentation was perfect because everything was better eaten all together.
- There were about 7-9 sweetbreads which were well cleaned and not stringy from remaining membranes.
- They were lightly tossed in flour and fried crispy with a sweet, savoury and tangy glaze.
- The glaze was a reduction of sherry vinaigrette and it had flavours of honey, orange, caramel, and balsamic vinegar.
- The inside of the sweetbreads were tender, pillowy and creamy.
- I loved the crunchy and crispy textures of fried sliced almonds to contrast. They were very generous with them too.
- The black trumpet mushrooms were simply sauteed in butter and stacked on top of the sweetbreads.
- There was a drizzle of herb oil, but the star of the show were the sweetbreads.
- The celeraic puree was intense with butter and very rich, creamy and silky smooth.
- The purée was the “mashed potatoes” to my fried “chicken nuggets”.
**Roasted Duck Breast with Smokey Drumstick – 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)
- Marinated Wild Mushroom Salad, Blood Orange Paste $20
- I love duck and duck confit, and while this was very good I’ve had duck dishes similar to it before.
- Something about this tasted very Asian to me, but there were no obvious Asian ingredients.
- It was a similar sauce/glaze used for the sweetbreads, but this one was more intense with orange and balsamic.
- The blood orange paste was the base of the sauce and duck and orange are classic pairings.
- The fat on the duck breast was decently rendered, but the skin was still a bit chewy and not crisp.
- The meat of the duck breast was cooked medium and it was tender and not chewy or dry.
- The duck leg is always my favourite and it seemed smoked and braised and then roasted.
- The meat was melt in my mouth tender with a crispy exterior and it was actually smoky in flavour.
- The salad was just sauteed greens and wild mushrooms which seemed pickled.
- I would have loved some lentils or beans to accompany the dish, or something to absorb the sauce.
- It seemed a bit unfinished and for the price I think there could have been one more component.
- It was topped with crispy panko crumbs mixed with fresh orange zest.
- I was really hoping for the crispy duck skin crumbs from his wild hedgehog mushroom dish with the orange zest, but this was still good.
- It was an excellent plate, but it wasn’t at its maximum potential like some of his other dishes.
Baba Au Rhum – 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)
- Chantilly Cream, Appleton Rum Syrup $10
- This is their signature dessert, and while I enjoy Baba Au Rhum, it’s never a dessert I order if there is something else.
- The dessert menu only had 3 three options so I ordered all of them but the Meyer Lemon Ice Cream which sounded a bit ordinary.
- The house made Appleton Reserve syrup was poured at the table and she drenched the cake with it.
- It was not a boozy syrup and it wasn’t too sweet either and I prefer it just like this.
- It was a bit spicy and even slightly salty and I loved it.
- The house made chantilly cream was served on the side and they put effort in the presentation of what is typically an effortless dessert.
- I call it an effortless dessert because the cake can be made days in advance and it doesn’t matter if it dries out since it is served soaked in rum.
- This one was made as a large bundt cake and then sliced, but traditionally the cake is served in an individual bundt cake portion.
- I would have loved if the chantilly cream was whipped with real vanilla bean seeds, but I couldn’t taste the vanilla extract either.
- The cake is a yeast cake made with eggs, flour, butter and sugar and it is a very rich cake that sneaks up on you.
- This one wasn’t intense with butter flavour, but it was good and it had perhaps some almond extract in it too.
- Considering I’m not crazy about most Baba Au Rhum, this one convinced me otherwise.
- It was slightly pricey, but every component was made in house and it was very much enjoyed.
Soma Chocolate and Espresso Pot de Crème – 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)
- Cookie Crumbs, Salted Caramel Cream $10
- Again it was very good, but for what the desserts were and the style of restaurant I don’t feel like their desserts should exceed $8.
I finished both desserts easily, but I had the same feelings with the pot de crème as I did with the Baba Au Rum.
Pot de Crème is a relatively easy and practical dessert that can be made in advance and it keeps well.
I understand the practically of the desserts for the size of the restaurant, but I still think the dessert menu can grow.
- I normally don’t get too excited for pot de crème, but the other components made it sound out of the ordinary. And it was!
- The Soma milk chocolate (excellent local chocolate) pot de crème was smooth and not quite pudding like, but a bit denser.
- I think there was orange juice or grand marnier in the chocolate because it was quite fragrant and not just chocolate.
- The salted caramel cream was a great contrast to the sweeter chocolate and it was a creative addition to the dessert.
- The cookie crumbs tasted like ground up Werther’s Originals and sesame crisp crackers.
- It was a moist and slightly chewy and soft cookie crumb meets butterscotch nut brittle.
- It was a very nutty and caramelized crumb and it tasted so good I asked for more.
- I’m also a texture person and pot de crème as is, is a bit plain and one dimensional for me so I enjoyed this version much more.
The server was nice enough to bring me a whole jar of cookie crumbs which I poured all over the Baba Au Rum too!
Hi Mijune! I’m sending Bruno here the next time he goes to TO. It’s right near his office and we used to live a couple of blocks away from this restaurant when we lived in Little Italy. *sigh* I really miss being able to walk to some really great restaurants (including dives) within minutes. We spent the WE enjoying Beaucoup’s delicious pastries. We think they have improved even from a few weeks ago. They were really good to start out with but they seem to be even better now. Bruno is leaving for Marseille/Nice next month so I am writing up a list of things to bring back…. is there anything you’d like? Some things travel better than others….. we make our own cider there but we can’t bring any back since it kind of turns vinegary upon travel….. but it’s something to look forward to each summer.