After delivering two terrific review meals within the past 13 months, Azure, the soaring restaurant located off the InterContinental Toronto Centre’s spacious lobby, is firmly lodged on my culinary radar.
Under chef de cuisine Grace DiFede, the kitchen is firing on all cylinders, and is turning out food that is refined and hearty all at once. Recently, for example, chef sent out a soup built on a silky puree of maple-roasted parsnip and cauliflower accented with horseradish cheddar and bits of soft, double-smoked bacon.
The salad is a study in cleverly contrasting flavours and textures that add up to a delicious whole: sweet and crunchy (candied walnuts); tart (ice wine-infused grapefruit sections); bitter (endive); creamy (fior de latte mozzarella-style cheese); and mild (kale).
And then comes perfectly al dente garganelli tube-shaped pasta draped in cremini mushrooms and accessorized with a rich, earthy porcini cream brilliantly punctuated with velvety whipped ricotta sweetened with Medjool dates (the genius touch). A superb dish, it’s an early candidate for Best Pasta of 2018.
Mains continue the kitchen’s hot streak. Two sizeable bison short ribs wear a thick and luxurious red wine reduction. Providing sweet-tart notes are port-marinated cranberries and chestnut celery root puree.
Rutabaga mash, King Oyster mushrooms and pickled shallots accompany medium-rare beef tenderloin from Ontario’s Wellington County. Chicken supreme brings moist and tender bird flanked by fingerling potatoes, squash, spinach, and pomegranate jus.
To finish, there’s a super-fun sundae built on two excellent made-in-house sorbets (cherry Amaretto and dark chocolate), sliced banana, toasted almonds and chunks of crunchy sponge toffee.
Throughout, service is polished and professional.
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 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.