Nestled on Bay Street, near the financial district, Locale, last June, unveiled a renovated space and a refreshed perspective on Italian food.
The renovation has resulted in a bright, cheery room outfitted in a butcher shop theme (aprons; weigh scale; meat fridge door). Adding to the room’s appeal are spacious padded booths, an open kitchen and huge picture windows peering out onto busy Bay Street.
On the menu, there is sophistication not often seen at such a reasonable price point. For example, sparklingly fresh raw tuna, garnished, crudo-style, with braised leeks (for crunch) and lemon jelly (for quiet citrus buzz).
Marinated octopus, scallops and shrimp are generously piled onto large slices of toasted bread. A slight and welcome chile-pepper heat perfumes velvety hummus.
Silky cauliflower puree animates a salad generously mounded with kale and, cleverly, dried cherries, for contrasting sweetness.
Local trout, expertly smoked by Locale’s kitchen until it’s mild and delicate, complements cavatelli pasta set off by lemon pesto, arugula and roasted shallots. This is an expertly conceived and perfectly cooked dish, sophisticated simplicity at its best.
A fat filet of moist Pacific cod perches atop a bed of earthy lentils and butternut squash puree. The kitchen does a fine dry-aged, 36 oz. rib steak, presented with the long bone intact, that would make Fred Flintstone and other notable carnivores deeply happy.
The kitchen’s hot streak continues with dessert, which brings smooth lemon vanilla pudding on coconut shortbread and accessorized with torched marshmallow. A large cannolo is stuffed with banana-flavoured mascarpone, a filling that should become mandatory for cannoli everywhere.
Locale is available for buyouts and accommodates 80 people, seated and 150, cocktail-style. A private dining room seats 12. The restaurant also caters corporate events.
— Don Douloff has been a restaurant critic for over 30 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.