taste canoe — winter 2023
Behind Taste Canoe: Discover Executive Chef Ron McKinlay’s latest tasting menu, a culinary voyage through the Great White North
Artfully curated to combat the humdrum of Toronto’s coldest season, Executive Chef Ron McKinlay unveils a new eight-course tasting menu celebrating the breadth of Canada’s diverse landscape. Taking inspiration from ideas and techniques of dishes past, Chef McKinlay delivers delectable cold-weather flavours with refinement and grace, balancing sweet and savoury with delicate restraint.
To deliver a dose of comfort with every bite, each course features a hot element, offering a playful nod to keeping warm in colder temperatures. Whole animal cookery takes the stage, with odd bits and offcuts incorporated whenever possible to offer layers of flavour and depth while ensuring nothing goes to waste. Although seasonality plays a supporting role, the driving force of McKinlay’s latest eight-act performance is to pay tribute to Canada’s rich, raw land.
The notion of challenging creative boundaries is whole-heartedly embraced by our new Executive Pastry Chef, Raffaele Stea, whose palette-cleansing and sweet courses are brimming with innovation. The French Canadian delivers unique flavour pairings while paying homage to classic techniques, seamlessly embodying the wow factor that Canoe diners have come to know and love.
The menu begins with a delightful duo. Canoe’s signature crispy oyster reprises its starting role, this time wrapped in guanciale and nestled in a smoked mussel custard. A vinaigrette of local Niagara Minus 8 vinegar and sea buckthorn, a thorny tree native to Europe and Asia, is drizzled atop, creating a bite that combines acidity, sweetness, crunch and fat in one delicious mouthful. A second snack accompanies it: a long, thin piece of crusty bread, or grissini, made from matsutake mushrooms dipped in foie gras parfait and wrapped in cured bison strip loin. Both offer a uniquely Canadian bite and a preview of the imagination and innovation to follow.
A whole venison from Ontario Harvest Farms, locally known for its exceptional game and specialty meats, inspires the second course, taking on many forms including smoked, dried, corned and cured. A tartare of aged cured venison leg brings together beetroot, cabbage and horseradish married with egg yolk gel, blackcurrant purée and charcoal mayonnaise. Pear compressed in ginger beer is burnt to add acidic bitterness, nodding to the classic pairing of venison and fruit. To ensure no part of the animal goes to waste, the tartare is finished with smoked and dried venison heart and served alongside a venison consommé designed for sipping in between bites. Chef McKinlay completes the game jus with corned venison heart and yellow beetroot.
Up next is squid ink ravioli, handmade daily and filled with a scallop and mushroom mousse. Underneath, a compote of caramelized onions, bacon and coffee offers a slight bitterness designed to counteract the sweetness from two onion veloutés. A clean and simple white onion velouté carries the flavours of the dish while a second, made with vermouth and housemade XO sauce, is aerated to mellow out its intensity, finishing the plate with a light, fragrant foam.
A treat for lobster lovers, Chef McKinlay’s fourth course features East Coast lobster tail wrapped in blanched kale and doused in butter made from charred seaweed. Wild Humboldt squid from B.C. acts as a bed for the crustacean, along with barbecued kale, pine nuts and pickled apples. The dish is finished with a lobster cream sauce and curried lobster oil, both made by simmering bones and shells to impart as much lobster essence as possible.
With four courses down, a fifth course of beef three ways soon follows. A thin parsnip cream and haché of spinach with shallot and garlic confit is topped with a filet marinated in miso and rolled in charred nori, roasted and carved to order. A playground of textures comes next as a burnt piece of baguette dotted with foie gras parfait, puffed beef tendon and crispy flank steak are added. Inspired by his time at Estelle, one of Chef Scott Pickett’s Melbourne restaurants, Chef McKinlay braises beef tendon overnight until soft. Once tender, they are pressed together, sliced and dehydrated for 12 hours. Once the 24-hour process is complete, they hit the fryer and puff up like a classic chicharrón. Sauced with a Périgord jus, the dish gets a final seasoning of beef salt to finish.
Skillfully transitioning diners into their final bites of the evening, Executive Pastry Chef Raffaele Stea reintroduces a fan favourite to cleanse the palette — a sure sign dessert is on its way. The much-loved Canoe classic features tarragon ice cream, housemade tarragon vinegar, punchy tarragon oil and bright green tarragon powder atop a caramelized hazelnut praline. Simple and delicious, cold ice cream is cut by herbaceous vinegar and oil, delivering a subtle hint of sweetness with more to come.
Hailing from Montréal, Chef Stea comes to Canoe after eight years spent perfecting his craft in Michelin-starred restaurants across Germany and Denmark. His fine dining training and desire to merge classic techniques with avant-garde ideas are a welcome addition to our kitchen. He embraces the beauty of pickled, preserved and fermented products that have been harvested at their prime, a principle shared with Nordic cuisine.
Spotlighting beets from late fall, his enchanting chocolate crémeux features a black garlic ganache, chocolate soil, wild cranberry chutney and aerated chocolate. Bee pollen offers notes of honey while pop rock candy adds a surprising burst of texture. Pâte de fruits made with quince delivers a refreshing brightness that pairs beautifully with the earthiness of the beets. Chef Stea then adds cranberry sorbet and uses honey pickled beets to form a ravioli filled with chocolate crémeux — a playful nod to Chef McKinlay’s scallop raviolo, followed by one last dusting of beet powder for a Pollock-inspired plate.
Chef Stea closes out the whirlwind coursed affair with a trio of petit fours. A delicately baked cannelé de Bordeaux made with cardamom, clove and allspice gets a dose of sortilège whisky, a celebration of Chef Stea’s native Québec. A second bite of pickled chanterelle custard forms an airy crème mousseline that joins cedar jelly inside a pâte à choux topped with matsutake powder. Finally, Canoe’s staple miso truffle also makes an appearance, concluding the triad of decadent delights.
From start to finish, Chef McKinlay’s eight-course tasting menu is driven entirely by Canadian ingredients. As presentation is key, tableware is curated to match each menu item, a handful of which include handcrafted ceramics of local supplier Spirit Wares, a Canoe alum whose bespoke masterful creations are used across the country. When enjoyed at the chef’s rail, dishes are served by the culinary artists themselves, accompanied by in-depth descriptions and a front-row seat to the action.
Honouring ingredients unique to the true north, land and sea come together in one carefully choreographed event served 54 floors above the city — an appetizing escape from winter’s frosty chill. Whether Canada is home or a temporary destination, new and returning diners are bound to discover the delicious treasures hiding in our nation’s backyard.
Book online today to make your reservation for Taste Canoe, available now through spring.
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.