Why Hexagon deserves more than its 81/100 ranking on Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants 2020 list
Introducing À la table de Madame Marie – a new pandemic series that provides in-depth experiences of restaurants in and around Toronto.
210 Lakeshore Road East
Dinner for two with wine pairings: $450
Hexagon has socially distanced indoor dining. Masks are required for anyone not seated and employees wear masks at all times. Sanitizer is available throughout the restaurant and contact tracing protocols are also in place.
When I first dined at Hexagon in 2018, I was impressed. Not yet two years old at the time, it was evident that the team had a strong desire to make a splash in the Greater Toronto Area’s culinary scene. After experiencing Hexagon’s tasting menu, I knew that, much like a fine wine, it would only improve with age.
When I revisited in the fall of 2020, my experience was much like the bliss that’s derived from a glass of the finest Brunello di Montalcino.
In 2020, Hexagon was ranked number 81 on Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants 2020 list — just one of many accolades that it has received, along with its chef. At the helm of Hexagon’s kitchen is Chef Rafael Covarrubias, a talented young chef from Mexico who has already made a name for himself. Covarrubias, although only 26 years old, is a talented artist with a distinctive style who knows how to please his guest’s palates.
When you make a reservation, the nine-course “Carte Blanche” tasting menu and wine pairings are a must. Trust that you’ll be genuinely cared for while you dine in the contemporary space. Hushed lighting from tabletop candlelight and a suspended fireplace set the tone for a romantic occasion or celebratory meal, even amid a pandemic. And, the large open kitchen adds un élément of entertainment that’s akin to watching live theatre. With its chic, spacious dining room and equally spacious patio, Hexagon is quintessentially Oakville — but that’s part of the appeal.
Hexagon’s menu balances French classics with more imaginative dishes. Local ingredients and seasonality are given the spotlight, and influences from Covarrubias’ Mexican heritage punctuate the menu, providing an interesting story to accompany the food. Take the lobster burrito, for example, which is a delightfully messy parcel of goodness.
Or the amuse bouche — a delicate Kusshi Oyster from British Columbia doused with fermented habanero sauce. Another brilliant introduction to the meal is the scallop ceviche, served in a hollowed kohlrabi, coated with milky leche de tigre and balanced with the acidity from thinly sliced granny smith apple.
The stunning crudo plates act as conversation pieces. Luminous slices of yellowfin tuna are arranged to look like rose petals. They share the plate with crème fraîche, preserved tomato and homemade XOXO sauce (a play on the spicy Chinese condiment known as XO sauce). The dish looks complete. Then, Covarrubias pours a steaming broth, made from the fish bones, over the intricate arrangement. The house-aged raw Kobe is also a visual showstopper, with translucent slices of daikon concealing the tender goodness beneath.
Next, the foie gras tart, delicately plated with apple and spices, exudes autumn in every bite. The foie gras’ normally unctuous character is downplayed by the tart’s dense crust, spiced apple gelée and toasted brioche. While it’s a generous portion, each bite doesn’t become as one-dimensional as one might expect.
Then there’s the agnolotti doppio. Stuffed with local honeynut squash (a winter squash cultivar of butternut and buttercup), it’s rich and heavenly, although not quite al dente. The voluptuous cheese sauce it rests in adds to the complexity of the dish with its funky flavour profile.
By this point in the tasting menu, you don’t need to be persuaded that the food is wonderful. Nova Scotia halibut, a normally austere fish, is cured for 24 hours to transform it into anything but. The addition of smoked seasonal corn provides bold flavours and textural variety that bring the whole dish to life. What I enjoyed most was the Choron sauce (a tomato-spiked Béarnaise), intricately feathered like icing on top of the fish, adding balanced notes of sweetness and acidity.
Just looking at the duck — the pièce de résistance — is a treat. When Covarrubias proudly displays the whole duck tableside, he explains the laborious process in detail. It’s been brined, and then flash broiled to achieve a perfectly crispy skin. The taste is all there. Along with the prized protein, shaved matsutake mushrooms, habanada jam, and an elderberry-blueberry compote are further brought to life with the glass of elegant Collemattoni Brunello di Montalcino 2015 the dish was paired with. As far as the wine program goes, John Torrens, manager and head sommelier, provides plenty of knowledge coupled with thoughtful tastings that are in perfect synchronicity with the menu.
Finally, the pastry chef presents two desserts that seem understated at first glance, but offer more than meets the eye. The first is a Gala apple opera cake with bay leaf ice cream — an element of familiarity with a nod to the kitchen’s experimental side. The next is a banana cake – a sophisticated banana bread of sorts – that evokes a sense of nostalgia. However, the banana ganache that oozes from its centre when pierced is overwhelmingly sweet. Baked in a decorative cake mold, dusted with powdered sugar, and finished with edible gold leaf, the taste doesn’t quite measure up to its appearance.
While I dined at Hexagon amid a pandemic, I did not once feel unsafe thanks to restaurant’s adherence to safety standards, strong attention to detail, and wonderful hospitality. Dining here recently proved that Hexagon has continued to blossom. Over time, Hexagon’s impassioned team have refined their dishes and tightened their focus, contributing to a truly memorable experience that is deserving of a much higher ranking on Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants 2020 list.