TORONTO — Vancouver’s Kissa Tanto topped enRoute magazine’s list of Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2016, it was announced last month.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of Air Canada enRoute Canada’s Best New Restaurants, a program that seeks to promote the nation’s culinary excellence at home and abroad. Food writer Andrew Braithwaite returned for a month-long eating marathon from coast to coast in search of the country’s latest and greatest.
Tannis Ling and Joël Watanabe, of Kissa Tanto, wowed with their atmospheric Japanese-Italian restaurant in Vancouver’s Chinatown. Winning the public Eat & Vote contest was Backhouse, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
Here are some highlights from the Top 10 restaurants:
- Kissa Tanto, Vancouver: “When the sun sets in Chinatown, Kissa Tanto’s glossy ceiling shimmers like a rain-slicked Vancouver street. Tannis Ling and chefs Joël Watanabe and Alain Chow prove that Italy and Japan are natural bedfellows, from tajarin egg pasta tossed with butter-and-Marsala roasted shiitake and porcini to a tofu-and-mascarpone tiramisu that could bring a ninja’s nonna to tears.”
- Alo, Toronto: “Few restaurants pursue perfection the way Alo does. The service troupe operates like Broadway stagehands, deftly swapping out props before you’ve even anticipated the next act. Patrick Kriss’s dishes require your full attention, like meaty morels with fried shallots and crème fraîche from Normandy.”
- FireWorks, Bay Fortune, PEI: “At the Inn at Bay Fortune, celebrity chef Michael Smith’s “fire brigade” cooks over the brick-lined grill. Dessert is a magic trick: Chefs pluck the flower arrangements from terracotta centrepieces, revealing a celery-carrot cake topped with cream cheese frosting and almond brownie dirt.”
- Agrius, Victoria, B.C.: “In this slick downtown dining room from self-taught baker Clif Leir, use selections from the bread basket to scoop up chef Sam Harris’s smoked sablefish brandade, the rich boudin sauce that accompanies the rosé duck breast or the sweet and sour Parry Bay lamb tartare.”
- Foxy, Montreal: “There are no gas or electric burners at this glamourous nighttime spot; chef Leigh Roper cooks with hardwood that’s been split and stacked in a Griffintown alley. Her flatbreads arrive blistered, her whole deboned sea bass crisped and smoky from a turn over the coals.”
- Agrikol, Montreal: “Can you drink and eat so fantastically in Port-au-Prince at midnight on a Sunday? Montreal has Jen Agg and Roland Jean, of Toronto’s Black Hoof, and Régine Chassagne and Win Butler, of Arcade Fire, to thank for this. Tabletop ti’ ponch service will make you ravenous for accras and griot.”
- Kraken Cru, Quebec City: “Twelve is a capacity crowd at this oyster and raw bar named after a mythical sea beast. It’s a seriously good restaurant run by profoundly unserious Québécois. Mackerel is sliced thin and topped with a four-punch combo of radishes, arugula, grainy mustard and freshly grated horseradish.”
- Le Fantôme, Montreal: “A mound of melted candle wax grows craggier with each night’s moody ambience at Kabir Kapoor and chef Jason Morris’s Griffintown room. Lobster is grilled over charcoal, and the dense, charred nuggets of tail meat are paired with a rich sparkling crémant d’Alsace.”
- Highwayman, Halifax: “On Barrington Street, this sophisticated and hospitable Galician-style restobar celebrates Nova Scotia’s own seaside ties with luscious slices of locally caught, salt-cured albacore loin and silver-skinned sardine filets acidulated with good sherry vinegar. The tequila and coffee Jesus Bravo cocktail is a master stroke.”
- Savio Volpe, Vancouver, B.C.: “A trio of restaurant vets – Craig Stanghetta, Paul Grunberg and Mark Perrier – combined their talents to update old-school Italian hospitality for a designer-eyewear crowd. Over cappuccinos and cannoli stuffed with orange-hazelnut cream, you’ll resolve to return to take down an entire bistecca fiorentina.”