I’ve been visiting Archeo, in Toronto’s Distillery District, since 2015, and it’s been fun (and delicious!) to track the menu’s evolution. Indeed, after my most recent visit, I can report that the kitchen has raised the bar and hit a new high point.
The menu, created by chef de cuisine Joshua Dyer and executed by chef de partie Julian Dujoy and the kitchen brigade, is full of creative ideas brought faultlessly to the plate by rock-solid technique.
Even a simple salad is fit for a king. Apple notes — in the vinaigrette; in the reduction that encircles the plate; and in crunchy, razor-thin dried apple slices — harmonize brilliantly with lemon accents and dollops of smooth house-made ricotta, all anchored by superbly fresh local greens.
A puree built on charred carrot lends subtly sweet and intensely smoky notes to soft cannelloni stuffed with tender chunks of chianti-braised rabbit.
Nicely charred from the grill, flat iron steak, cooked to rosy medium-rare, is moist and possess deeply beefy flavour. Branzino’s flesh is exquisitely moist and wears a skin that’s as thin and crisp as parchment.
The daily pasta is brilliant, anchored by al dente casarecce pasta paired with meaty, quietly spicy apple-and-sage-stuffed sausage, slices of Empire apple and diced red pepper lending sweet notes. It’s hearty and inventive, the flavours in complete harmony, and perfect for late autumn.
Sweet endings, courtesy of patissier Chris Kwok, who oversees Archeo’s desserts and the dessert, cafe and bread programs at the Distillery District’s Cluny Bistro, bring moist apple cake doused with marsala cream and sided with brown butter ice cream; and vanilla buttermilk pannacotta topped with apricot gel, rich espresso cream and oat crumble.
The softly lit space exudes the feel of an urban loft — high yellow-pine ceilings, concrete floors, exposed brick walls, Edison lightbulbs. Further enhancing its contemporary-style-meets-historic-tradition look are dining tables and bar fashioned from reclaimed timber, and artist Steven Evans’ oversized photographs of onsite heritage architecture.
Archeo is available for buyouts and seats about 120 people. In the warm months, an outdoor patio (with its own bar) can host cocktails in conjunction with any buyout, and also seats 64.
— Don Douloff has been a restaurant critic for over 30 years and, during that time, has critiqued more than 1,400 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.