Wednesday, April 13, 2011


It's taken longer than expected to discover restaurants that lure me to return again and again. Lynn Crawford's Ruby Watchco on Queen Street East has definitely earned Must Go Back status. I not only watch her admiringly on the Food Network, but her creativity in combining ordinary ingredients to create extraordinary tastes is really just...well, extraordinary. Another terrific place is Auberge du Pommier at York Mills. The food is clean and crisp and fresh bread baked on the premises always earns brownie points in my book. My favorite part was sitting outdoors under the canary yellow and white stripped canopy surrounded by the lush garden.

This weekend I went with Minh to Bravi on Wellington Street East. An Italian restaurant that is definitely underrated. From the moment we walked in (Oopsies! 30 minutes late) we felt welcomed. The host took our coats and immediately offered us drinks at the bar. I sipped a glass of juicy sweet Kim Crawford rosé and Minh enjoyed a caesar.

A few moments later we were brought to our table, I didn't think much of it, it looked like an ordinary seating for two nestled in the corner. Our noon brunch was big enough to tide us over the whole day, giving us plenty of energy to walk from the Harbourfront to the Distillery district. We window shopped luxurious furniture shops, touched everything in quirky craft stores and explored cafes, inhaling lusty fumes of chocolate. By 8:30pm, I was ready to eat and boy, was I in for a surprise.

My arugula salad with bosc pear, roasted pistachios, and pecorino was divine. The perfect balance of bitter and sweet was pronounced with the Meyer lemon and olive oil dressing. The cheese added a hint of nuttiness to the dish. Minh's turnip puree with apples was sumptuous too. One bite took me on a wave of flavors (in a good way), first was that earthiness from root vegetables, followed by a jolt of tartness from the fruit yet tamed by the lemon cream.

The highlight of the night was not the food however; it was how our entrees took us on a high (literally). “Would you like to go for a ride?” Our waiter politely asked. Dumbstruck, I stuttered, “S-s-sure.” What I naively thought was “just” a quiet corner was really a freight elevator. As it clanged and clacked upwards, my jaw dropped. The company of other restaurant patrons disappeared and were replaced with the carved initials of lovers who declared their feelings in every wooden crevice possible. The only noise was distant voices from the kitchen and our forks scraping food off the plate. How sneaky Minh was to book this place, voted one of the most romantic dinner spots in Toronto.

I've been craving pasta the past few weeks so naturally, I ordered the basil-infused pasta sheets with seafood in a tomato sauce. It was lovely. Delicious. Fresh pieces of shrimp, scallops and squid were tender and succulent among the slippery rags of pasta. The robust sauce was rich and chunky in tomato. Minh's salmon with roast fennel was fabulous, the fillet intensely moist, the vegetables slippery on my tongue; fragrances of licorice and olive oil swirled together harmoniously.

I'm sure the elevator has passed rigorous testing and that it is in tiptop condition, but despite Minh's urging, I was too much of a scaredy cat to take a ride up and down. Why risk getting stuck in an old elevator with only a candle as a source of light? We had already finished our meal, the bread basket was long gone, and if it stopped working, what could we possibly survive on? Green olives? (Yuck) So we finished our main courses, came back down to ground level and stayed put with our desserts.

Though it’s always nice to lounge on my sofa and eat homemade bread, I still reminiscence the crackly olive bread, the soft and chewy rings of squid, and the thick cut pasta sheets in the quiet confines of the elevator.
Recipe here!

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