À la table de Madame Marie: Alo Midsummer – Toronto’s culinary destination of the summer
Introducing À la table de Madame Marie – a new post-pandemic series that provides in-depth experiences of restaurants in and around Toronto.
Amidst a sea of construction downtown, Alo Midsummer’s white tent shines like a bright beacon. Situated on Wellington Street West, this pop-up concept from Chef Patrick Kriss and the Alo team (currently number one on Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants list) is one of the city’s culinary destinations of the summer.
What impressed me the most was the team’s ability to quickly pivot during a pandemic — putting forth a hybrid of immaculate contemporary gastronomy in a serene outdoor setting. Chef Patrick Kriss and his team completely transformed an old car dealership, erected an event tent, and furnished it with sophisticated leather banquettes, socially-distanced tables, and hardwood floors. Despite challenges, they recreated the refined Alo experience while embracing the magic of the season. The same was true for le menu.
Our highly entertaining server, Will, explained that the ten-course blind tasting menu was a curation of new, seasonal dishes along with some old favourites. As my guest and I settled into our elegant corner banquette — with a prime view, I might add — we imagined how the culinary journey would unfold.
After sipping on some artisan cocktails, and commencing the evening’s wine pairings, our amuse-bouches arrived. From the heirloom tomatoes with thyme and lemon oil to the manchego-stuffed zucchini flower, all made a welcoming first impression. The watermelon carpaccio, presented as a vibrant pink spoonful on crushed ice, was the most refreshing bite I’ve tasted all summer and set the tone for the rest of le repas.
Chef Patrick Kriss and his team are meticulous in their craft, presenting only the best for their guests. Three dishes that left a lasting impression were the fluke, the foie gras terrine, and the Koshihikari rice. First up, the fluke was delightfully fresh and a visual masterpiece that was thinly sliced and presented on a stunning marble plate. One of the evening’s highlights was when Chef greeted us and poured the accompanying sauce tableside. With its marbled swirls, the dish mirrored the very plate it sat on. As I pierced a slice of fish and trailed it through the sauce, the pattern changed, allowing me to feel like I was putting my own touch on Kriss’ culinary masterpiece. While a sauce like this could be overly complex, it didn’t detract from the fish’s delicateness. As for the wine pairing, a young Grüner Veltliner by Gschweicher was a sophisticated expression of Austria’s rich terroir and elevated the dish to a further degree.
A rather indulgent preparation of foie gras — described as “foie gras terrine” on the menu — arrived as a generous slice of tart. While I would have preferred a plus petite portion of this decadent dish, I appreciated its beauty as well as its luscious taste. Its buttery crust proved that the pastry chef knew their craft. Intricate garnishes of miniature croutons, celery ribbons, and sweet fig glaze balanced the richness of the foie gras.
Having lived in Japan, I appreciated the chef’s influences from Japanese cuisine — both in ingredients and in preparation. Koshihikari rice, a risotto-like dish consisting of Japanese short-grain rice, was a prime example. Instead of using Arborio, the Japanese varietal glistened in yolky, cheesy goodness and chanterelles soaked up all the irresistible flavours. A true comfort — and one I’d gladly consume encore et encore.
One of two desserts was a local peach labneh, which had a slightly slimy texture and wasn’t as thick as a traditional labneh, however its acidity was balanced by a ripe stone-fruit compote. We were pleasantly surprised when the sommelier poured us a rare pairing of Rosé d’un Jour from producer Mark Angeli.
Sommelier Brittany O’Rourke delivered a superb tasting — divulging just enough information about each wine and allowing one’s palate to explore the rest. The meal was utter refinement with some stunningly designed plates and genuine hospitality. Some other dishes included Wagyu, scallop and caviar, and a “Ruby Chocolate” dessert as the grand finale.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic night under the city sky or one last hurrah before the summer slips away, Alo Midsummer is a whimsical treat for all senses. At $250 per person for a ten-course tasting menu plus wine pairings ($150 per person), the high expense was well worth the experience. It’s safe to say that the chances of Alo Midsummer exceeding all your expectations are très, très high.
Alo Midsummer will be open until the end of September 2020. Reservations can be made via Tock.