Dining out in Toronto has undoubtedly made its triumphant return, and our days spent contemplating endless takeout options, attempting DIY meal kits and celebrating special occasions at home are no longer a necessity. As summer in the city blossoms, there is a palpable appetite for truly spectacular dining experiences — meals so remarkable that they captivate, inspire and excite with flavour, technique and presentation.
Cue Taste Canoe: Executive Chef Ron McKinlay’s eight-course tasting menu and culinary love letter to Canadian ingredients in all their glory.
Having cultivated relationships with farmers, producers and suppliers from across Canada that share his deep appreciation for food, Chef McKinlay has worked hard to foster a community that delivers on the promise of a menu driven almost entirely by seasonality. From coast to coast, each ingredient is thoughtfully sourced and carefully prepared to highlight the breadth of our country’s bounty at its peak. Growing season, climate, quality and supply dictate each course. Case in point: Chef McKinlay selects morels from British Columbia instead of Ontario, where the growing season was cut short by May’s early and sudden heat. The subtle nod to his home province is an added bonus.
Taking familiar ingredients and applying techniques designed to surprise and delight, Chef McKinlay focuses on treating every element on the plate with the respect it deserves. Products are sourced as locally as possible and transformed using labour-intensive processes, old school cookery and precise care, producing a level of cuisine that can only be delivered by a Michelin-trained chef and the support of a talented, creative and hard-working team.
The end result? Guests will leave Canoe feeling as though they’ve toured Canada through taste, sampling the best of the season’s harvest with every bite. Chef McKinlay aims to have diners come away with a profound appreciation for Canadian ingredients and a desire to share their newfound knowledge with those who have yet to sample what our country has to offer. We sat down with Chef McKinlay, who offered a preview into what diners can expect from each artfully prepared course.
The tasting menu begins with a P.E.I. oyster that has been coated in a batter of buttermilk, vodka, beer and squid ink then lightly fried to create an exquisitely black and perfectly crispy bite. Once fried, the oyster is wrapped in Canoe’s housemade pancetta, cradling the warm morsel in rich fattiness. Sitting on a bed of truffle custard, it is finished with a green jus made from juiced Ontario pea pods seasoned with bonito and dashi — a palette-cleansing drizzle that embodies root-to-shoot cooking.
Next up, roasted wagyu flat iron is paired with wild swordfish caught off the coast of Nova Scotia alongside Ontario asparagus. Charcoal is rendered white hot in the oven and later used to marinate oil that replicates barbecue flavour sans open flame. Used sparingly, charcoal oil adds a smoky note to an asparagus vinaigrette made from the vegetable’s juiced trim — another method of ensuring nothing goes to waste. Once plated, the wagyu and swordfish sit atop a smoked mussel and a whipped salmon roe emulsion, enhancing their flavour and rounding out the dish.
Challenging preconceived notions about less common cuts, sweetbreads reach new heights with Chef McKinlay’s playful take on a dish taught to him by famed French Chef Pierre Koffmann while working in Edinburgh. Instead of stuffing pig’s trotters with morels à la Koffman, the process is flipped on its head as B.C. morels become a vessel for braised pig’s trotters, reversing techniques and reworking a classically prepared dish with a distinctly Canadian spin.
Sitting on a bed of delicately laid zite pasta, veal sweetbreads are poached in chicken stock seasoned with Canoe’s very own version of Colonel Sanders’ secret spice blend and pan-roasted in brown butter to order. Crispy pig’s ear, reminiscent of chicharrón, joins the plate along with pickled pernot to cut through the richness. Using all-natural green colouring from housemade chlorophyll — the natural pigment found in leafy greens and vegetables — parsley is boiled, chlorophyll is separated and then strained over ice before being added to a garlic purée, offering a burst of freshness in addition to its lush green hue. The plate is then sauced with a piquant Madeira-based jus that’s finished with brown butter, hazelnuts and sour apple.
For the fish course, peak-season West Coast halibut is cut and portioned, its trimmings salted down, poached in milk and flaked, later added to a scallop mousse made with sea lettuce foraged in Nova Scotia. The mousse is spread over each piece of halibut and wrapped in collard greens before being poached low and slow. Jerusalem artichoke emulsion sits on the bottom of the plate, and a compote of nori and capers also joins the party, along with some pickled Pernod gel for an acidic jolt.
Artichoke barigoule, a classic dish of braised artichoke and fennel, is then prepared, its sauce marrying incredibly well with Canoe’s custom creation: chicken wing jus. The two sauces are cooked down and brought together before being split with chicken fat, offering flavours that recall a warm Sunday roast. Topping the plate is a take on everyone’s favourite salt and vinegar chips, made using crispy chicken skin sprinkled with dried nori powder and seasoned with ascorbic acid, the form of vitamin C found naturally in food. Finally, wild and poached Ontario onion is carefully added to the plate before the awe-inspiring creation is served.
For Chef McKinlay’s next course, merguez-style sausage made from veal trimmings and foie gras is poached and later placed down the middle of a filleted milk-fed Ontario veal loin, wrapped in bacon and roasted. Held in beef fat until service, it maintains a perfect temperature while resting. When plated, the veal is coated with a sauce of bacon, bone marrow and brunoised stalks of barbequed romaine lettuce for added crunch. Served alongside is a play on potato salad made using Ontario yellow and purple potatoes elevated with bone marrow custard, housemade pancetta and local spring onions. As the dish arrives at the table, a barbequed romaine leaf brushed with beef jus covers the veal, offering diners a moment of wow as they carefully lift it to unveil the show-stopping masterwork underneath.
For a pre-dessert palette cleanser, Pastry Chef Ashley Stock presents a sweet-meets-savoury bite featuring Ontario white asparagus. A fried pastry shell is filled with caramel, Pernod pickle, miso shortbread, white asparagus Bavarois, miso custard and topped with white chocolate snowflakes. Refreshing on the tongue without overpowering sweetness, it hits every note from the umami of the miso to the vinegary tang of the Pernod pickle for a truly thought-provoking mouthful.
In the final dessert course, strawberry takes centre stage. Grown in the same season as fennel, the two pair incredibly well together in this nostalgia-inducing grand finale from Pastry Chef Ashley Stock. Foraged in northern Montréal, two-year preserved strawberries are cooked down into a luscious compote and accompanied by choux filled with wild strawberry, vanilla cream and fennel ice cream. Meringue bâtons are carefully dusted with fennel pollen before being delicately placed on top. Offering just enough sweetness to satisfy while still being light enough to close out a coursed affair, the red and white creation may conjure up memories of strawberry shortcake from summers past.
The final few bites of the evening are delivered in the form of three perfectly packaged petit fours, the French term for “small oven,” referencing the traditional method of baking the tiny, individually composed pastries that are so thoughtfully crafted with precise detail. A trio of wild blueberry, chocolate miso ganache and yellow birch flower madeleines conclude the elegant ode to Canada’s diverse landscape — a satisfying au revoir to summer’s exclusive offering.
Breaking boundaries and exceeding expectations, Taste Canoe is a true expression of Canada’s best, delivered at a level that is rarely replicated and served against the backdrop of one of the city’s most iconic views. A sincere collaboration between Canoe’s talented kitchen team and Canadian suppliers, each course is the result of hours spent sharing creative inspiration, painstakingly perfecting intricate concepts and working tirelessly to ensure the final experience is Canoe-calibre. Each with their own niche, the menu is the collective work of Executive Sous Chef Des Murphy, Sous Chef Eric Valente, Sous Chef Marques Steele, Sous Chef Savannah Pulfer, Sous Chef Lia Sujin Kim, Pastry Chef Ashley Stock and District Executive Chef John Horne.
Whether enjoyed at the chef’s rail, interacting with the kitchen team as they deliver plate after plate of culinary artistry, or amidst the buzz of the dining room, Taste Canoe pays homage to Canada’s best ingredients, producers and culinary minds with 26 years at the top of its class behind each bite.
Book online today to make your reservation for Taste Canoe, available now through September.
Please note, ingredients are subject to change based on seasonal availability.
Please note, ingredients are subject to change based on seasonal availability.
sour dill, cabbage
smoked mussel, sea lettuce, pickled chanterelles, pine nuts
stuffed chicken wing, prairie grains, foie gras, apple
ontario lake trout
champagne sauce, white fish croquette, poached onion
aged rib eye
lobster, burnt carrot, smoked bacon, game jus gras
molasses caramel, yoghurt parfait
pumpkin custard, Minus 8 vinegar, toasted hay + apple sorbet
Please inform us of any allergies. We will do our utmost to accommodate, though we are unable to guarantee an allergen-free kitchen.