taste canoe — fall 2022
Behind Taste Canoe: Executive Chef Ron McKinlay’s Seasonally Driven Tasting Menu Celebrates Uniquely Canadian Ingredients as Autumn Unfolds in Toronto
As brisk mornings and looming cold temperatures summon shorter days ahead, the change in season also brings with it a new eight-course Taste Canoe menu from Executive Chef Ron McKinlay. Artfully composing dish after dish to highlight the freshest and most local ingredients possible, it is seasonality that drives the change in menu as our foragers, suppliers and farmers offer up a new crop of autumnal treasures. Root vegetables, grains and game meat play starring roles as apples, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms and squash deliver on much-loved fall flavours.
Taking a cue from elements of former Canoe dishes, Chef McKinlay eagerly showcases familiar flavours while simultaneously honing in on what makes them unique. Abiding by his deep pride in the bounty of our home country and a desire to spotlight local vendors and their praiseworthy product, Chef McKinlay serves up both adaptations and brand new creations that explode with Canada’s best from coast to coast.
In an effort to produce as little waste as possible, ingredients are often incorporated in multiple ways, a sustainable philosophy that uses every element of the vegetable or animal to impart flavour at every turn. Lobster shells add richness and umami, vegetables are puréed, burnt and pickled and sauces are reduced, siphoned and gelled to deliver a variety of texture, acidity and depth.
The resulting culinary showcase is a tour of the country through taste and memories evoked by the nostalgia of comfort foods that ward off cold Canadian weather. As guests sample the best of the fall harvest with every bite, they’ll depart with a profound appreciation for Canada’s bounty and a desire to share their experience with those who’ve not yet lived Canoe’s legacy. We sat down with Chef McKinlay, who offered a preview into what diners can expect from each carefully prepared and thoughtfully crafted course.
The culinary journey begins with a crispy P.E.I. oyster wrapped in a charred napa cabbage leaf sitting on a delicate spoonful of lobster custard — a playground of texture where softness and crunch collide. Cutting the lobster custard’s richness is the addition of a sweet and sour dill oil split with pickling liquid. Dusting the intricate mouthful is a powder made by cooking lobster’s dark green roe until it reaches its prominent red hue. Served in its shell perched atop the spinal bone of a 600-pound bluefin tuna — a nod to sustainable practices even when it comes to presentation — the uniquely Canoe bite offers a small tease of the innovation and creativity that await.
For the second course, a pair of emulsions bring together flavours of the East and West coasts. A sea lettuce emulsion offers acidity while a whipped salmon roe emulsion delivers a refreshing note, both cradling the scallop in its shell. A nutty brown scallop butter, made from roasted scallop muscles then finished with dashi and fresh herbs, is drizzled atop to offer a glistening finish. Delicately placed on the scallop, a mixture of caramelized Brussels sprouts, roasted wild and tame mushrooms from Marc’s Mushrooms and pickled Saskatoon chanterelles from the sibling foragers at Pacific Wild Pick come together with roasted pine nuts and clay pepper (Canada’s version of espelette, made in the clay beds of Montréal). Next, a healthy dollop of scratch-made XO sauce consisting of 100% Canadian ingredients, including house-made pancetta and locally sourced Ontario shrimp is added. Finally, candied pine nuts, clay pepper and a fried Brussels sprout leaf offer the finishing touch.
Built in layers, Executive Chef Ron McKinlay’s thought-provoking Crab Porridge is wildly complex while playfully nodding to the nostalgic stick-to-your-ribs breakfast many Canadians grew up eating. Caramelized celeriac custard and punchy sour apple gel are topped with a mixture of barley, wild rice, spelt and grains sourced from across The Prairies, bound together with celeriac purée and a dark, rich shellfish stock of reduced crab and lobster broth. Next, carefully deboned chicken wings are stuffed with a crab and grain mousse, fried, and cut in half to reveal their lustrous interior before medallions are painted with a generous spoonful of reduced shellfish stock. The dish is then topped with nori oil, dehydrated fried grains, and diced pickled apples. To finish, a blanket of thick foie gras foam covers the entire dish before being dusted with nori powder. Simple and unassuming in presentation upon arrival, Chef McKinlay advises diners to “make a mess” while digging in. This ensures each bite is perfectly composed of soft, chewy porridge, crispy chicken wing, crunchy grains, fresh pickled apple and creamy foie gras. When all elements are eaten together, Chef McKinlay’s self-proclaimed “ugly delicious” dish is anything but simple while shining a light on an all-Canadian cast of ingredients.
Working with suppliers Affinity Fish, Indigineous fisherfolk use the traditional Japanese method of ikejime taught to them by co-founder Jon Klip, who spent years studying the process in Kyoto. Fish are killed in the most humane way possible, bled and then handled gently to prevent bruising and further damage. Offering a cleaner flavour, firmer texture and dryer skin compared to most other locally sourced seafood, Chef McKinlay was eager to showcase Klip’s deep respect for the fish along with a method no one else in the country is using — making for a truly Canadian ingredient. After the trout is dry-aged for two weeks, it is simply roasted so as to not hide its delicate flavour while developing a crispy skin. Dry-aged white fish, also from Affinity Fish, is sent a short distance to sister restaurant Liberty Commons for smoking and then made into a crispy croquette that also joins the plate. A sauce of trout roe and Champagne split with herb oil accompanies poached white onions and charred and creamed napa cabbage for an exquisitely harmonious dish that lets Ontario fish truly shine.
Sparked by an idea that took place during a recent trip to Chicago, where Executive Chef Ron McKinlay and Executive Sous Chef Des Murphy took part in a collaboration dinner at two-Michelin-starred Smyth, a former Canoe favourite is brought back to life. A skewer of lobster, Ontario-grown poached shiitake mushrooms and double smoked bacon is glazed with an umami-rich butter of lobster roe, shiitakes and seaweed foraged in Nova Scotia by Fred Dardenne of FD Wild Foods and balanced on a Woodward Meats 40-day aged Guelph, Ontario rib eye. Roasted carrots are further burnt so that they char on the outside while staying sweet in the middle, forming a purée that is finished with caramelized miso and charcoal powder to render it almost black. Canadian game, including elk, venison and bison, are roasted off with lobster shells and finished with an aromatic oil made from lobster bones. The result is glistening jus gras that coats the skewer when served tableside for a head-turning take on surf and turf.
Pastry Chef Ashley Stock’s deliciously imaginative creations close out the final three courses, delivering flavours of the fall harvest with every bite. The pre-sweet course features a speculoos-spiced donut, accidentally (yet fittingly) reminiscent of a Canadian Timbit, with a parsnip chiboust of roasted parsnips and pastry cream lightened with Italian meringue. Dehydrated pickled parsnips are blended into a fine powder for a pickled parsnip and miso crumble, and because nothing goes to waste, the pickling liquid is transformed into a gel that adds acidity. Finally, yoghurt parfait and molasses caramel inspired by the filling of the famed Dutch stroopwafel join the party.
Packing an autumnal punch is Chef Stock’s fall squash dessert dish, a masterclass on seasonal flavours. Pumpkin custard evokes memories of pumpkin pie filling, while pumpkin butter is slowly cooked with spices and caramelized to add depth of flavour. Joining the plate is a pumpkin seed financier, pumpkin seed praline, and a crème anglaise made with toasted Tamarack Farms hay and Minus 8 maple vinegar made from fermented Québec maple syrup. A quenelle of apple sorbet is the final flourish, offering a distinctly fall finish to the carefully coursed menu.
A trio of mini confectionaries completes the final act, each delivering its own unique flavour profile. French for “small oven,” petit four references the traditional method of baking these tiny, individually composed pastries. Miso truffle stacks layers of luxurious white chocolate and savoury miso into a divine one-bite morsel, enrobed in decadent 64% dark Manjari chocolate. Juniper toffee is wrapped like candy, delivering a chewy and soft texture with notes of clove and juniper. Finally, cedar jelly shortbread offers a soft butter cookie dimpled and filled with foraged jellied cedar from Forbes Wild Foods.
Testing the limits of creativity, ingenuity and innovation, the team at Canoe has pulled out all the stops to wow diners at every turn. From mind-blowingly complex dishes served against the backdrop of one of the city’s most iconic views to carefully considered wine pairings that enhance each dish with impeccable precision, the Taste Canoe experience embodies the best of Canada through the lens of the suppliers that grow the best of Canada.
The collective work of Executive Chef Ron McKinlay, Executive Sous Chef Des Murphy, Sous Chef Marques Steele, Sous Chef Savannah Pulfer, Sous Chef Lia Sujin Kim, Pastry Chef Ashley Stock and District Executive Chef John Horne, Taste Canoe is a true expression of collaboration and imagination, delivered with skill, passion and polish. Whether enjoyed up close at the chef’s rail or amidst the buzz of our busy dining room, Taste Canoe pays homage to the splendour of seasonality, the hard-working nature of our local producers and the bright culinary minds that make our country what it is.
Book online today to make your reservation for Taste Canoe, available now through December.
Please note, ingredients are subject to change based on seasonal availability.
185. per person
+100. with wine pairings
+200. with premium wine pairings
Available Monday to Friday from 5–9:30pm
With advance notice, our chefs can prepare a vegetarian, pescatarian, or vegan tasting menu. Our chefs can also accommodate halal requests with one weeks’ notice. Please call 416-364-0054 to arrange.
Please note, ingredients are subject to change based on seasonal availability.
smoked mussel, sea buckthorn, guanciale
foie gras, grissini
charcoal, black currant, smoked heart, game tea
vermouth + xo velouté, caramelized onion, bacon jam
roasted humboldt squid, pickled apple, pine nuts, lobster cream
puffed tendon, crispy flank, foie parfait, burnt baguette, sauce perigord
tarragon variations, hazelnut crumble
wild cranberries, black garlic, beetroot
Please inform us of any allergies. We will do our utmost to accommodate, though we are unable to guarantee an allergen-free kitchen.