I hadn’t dined at Azure, the soaring restaurant located off the InterContinental Toronto Centre’s lobby, in some years, so I dropped by, to see what the kitchen is up to.
As this visit demonstrated, the kitchen has never been better. Case in point: two strong soups, one a silky purée of lentil, scented with cumin, and the other built on a powerfully earthy mushroom broth loaded with barley.
Salads are another strength, as evidenced by excellent quinoa bolstered with apple, dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds, the whole brought together with a restrained pomegranate yogurt. An anchovy-inflected vinaigrette animates a Caesar salad anchored by crunchy romaine and bacon.
The mezze platter brings smooth hummus and chunky roasted eggplant, both scented with cumin, and both excellent.
Rich goat cheese sauce, walnut pesto and cubes of sweet butternut squash turn al dente orecchiette into a pasta fit for a king.
Mains show similar skill. Beef tenderloin is like velvet and nicely accessorized by red wine jus, truffled pureed potatoes and pancetta. Similarly excellent is moist and tender pomegranate-glazed duck breast perfectly paired with cherry jus. Apple parsnip puree and pearl onions cozy up to tender braised lamb shank.
To finish, there’s homey and delicious apple tart, and a creation built on dark chocolate, peanuts, hazelnut sponge and chocolate peanut ganache.
Seating 130 people for plated meals and accommodating 350 for receptions, Azure is available for buyout. Sapphire and Turquoise private dining rooms can hold up to 50 for plated meals or 70 for receptions, and can be divided for smaller groups.
— Don Douloff has been a restaurant critic for over 25 years and, during that time, has critiqued more than 1,300 eateries. In 1988, he studied the fundamentals of French cuisine at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris, France. During his time in France, he furthered his gastronomic education by visiting the country’s bistros, brasseries and Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine. He relishes exploring the edible universe in his native Toronto and on his travels throughout Canada and abroad.