Restaurant Review: Henry’s – An oenophile’s paradise
|922 Queen Street West
|Dinner for two with a bottle of wine
West Queen West is home to Henry’s, one of the city’s freshest restaurants/wine shop hybrids. It made a splash when it opened in the summer of 2022, and, more recently when it received a coveted spot in Toronto’s inaugural MICHELIN Guide. Basking in its newfound MICHELIN glory, it was no surprise that the restaurant was bustling with patrons when I arrived for an early dinner service one evening.
Making its home in the former home of Argentinean restaurant, Tanto, owners Ben Hodson (Brix + Mortar Wine Co.) and Roxanne Hodson spent the pandemic dreaming of a place where they could offer patrons an exceptional culinary experience with wine at the forefront. The duo stripped the former restaurant down to the studs, and created a space that’s sleek and minimalistic, yet equally warm and inviting. White-washed walls and shelving, statement lighting, an earthy green banquette, sleek cane dining chairs, and gold and marble accents contribute to a mid-century modern feel.
Henry’s is very much a magnet for oenophiles, boasting an eight-page wine list that has been curated by Ben Hodson himself. On its pages are primarily unique bottles from the Old World with price tags ranging from $90 to $1,000. And, it’s not uncommon to see some of the last bottles in existence printed on those pages. You can also purchase the wines in the bottle shop next door.
My guest and I shared a bottle of red Burgundy from Domaine Armand Heitz. Its earthy tones and hints of salinity paired well with our meal, however I longed for the sommelier to provide some educational value while he uncorked our bottle or periodically checked in to refill our glasses. A miss in my eyes, as wines tell interesting stories—as I can only imagine the ones at Henry’s do. In addition to an impressive array of bottles, Henry’s also has several unique options by the glass, as well as a small list of traditional cocktails.
Wine and food play nicely together at Henry’s and one does not outshine the other. When it comes to the food, Chefs Kevin Le and Alex Fields offer a new Canadian cuisine. Their hearts lie in seasonal cooking that draws influence from their experiences working and traveling abroad. Both have an impressive resume, having worked at esteemed Michelin three-starred Noma and Toronto’s own Momofoku-Kojin.
Marked with a date stamp, the daily printed menu is tiny enough—with 15 odd dishes—that you could order everything and roll out of there. A couple dishes were showstoppers, though.
If you can’t get enough of the shrimp toast at MIMI Chinese, Henry’s rendition ($14) will easily become your new BFF. House-made shrimp paste is sandwiched between deep-fried, sesame-crusted Pullman loaf, resulting in a piping hot, crispy and satisfying-beyond-belief first bite. Savour each morsel as-is, or dab it in the accompanying lemongrass aioli for a hit of brightness.
While I wouldn’t classify the lychee ceviche ($18) as a showstopper, it will certainly impress in all its vegan glory. The sweet, floral fruit is cured in a cilantro and ginger spiked leche de tigre and is garnished with avocado mousse, Aleppo chili and dill oils. Crunchy cassava chips act as a vessel for the mixture to travel from bowl to mouth. While stunning in its presentation, I would have edited the ceviche to chip ratio, adding at least a few more chips to polish off the dish (as it was intended).
When the Ontario smashed potatoes ($14) landed on our table, we waited patiently for our other entrees to arrive. After a few minutes of admiring the dots of golden tarragon sabayon and hot sauce interspersed among the crispy taters, we dug in. At this point in the service, it became apparent that dishes were being churned out of the kitchen as they were ready instead of as we intended to enjoy them. Just as I swirled the last potato through the sabayon, the Picanha steak ($32) arrived. Another outstanding dish, it was vivid and flavourful with its accompanying spicy suya and blistered Ontario sweet peppers. A pool of jus was left on the plate, evidence that the meat needed more time to rest before being served, but that was a minor detail.
Dry aged duck breast ($38) was the final entree, and it did not leave a lasting impression with fat that hadn’t been properly rendered. As any well-trained chef knows, perfectly cooked duck breast is moist and juicy with a luscious and crunchy skin—and this duck was missing the latter. Accompanying mole sauce added a hit of flavour, but there was far too much on the plate for it to be palatable beyond a few bites.
Desserts for the evening were a sticky toffee pudding and a matcha cream puff, both of which we admired from afar at a neighbouring table. Like the rest of the menu, the rotate regularly.
Before departing, I ventured to the bowels of the basement to use the restroom. I noticed a bottle of Aesop Resurrection Aromatique by the sink, the perennial status soap, and couldn’t help but think that this is a common sighting at many Michelin-starred restaurants.
Throughout our meal, I was puzzled by the serving staff, many of whom seemed disheveled and disengaged when they came to check on us. For a restaurant that is now part of the Michelin Guide, I would have expected more polished service and serving staff who can at least pretend to like the company of their patrons.
All that said, Henry’s is worth stopping in for dinner or for the wine menu alone. There truly are some unique bottles that any wine nerd would appreciate. I look forward to witnessing how this restaurant, particularly the food menu, continues to evolve.
Mme M. xoxo
La rubrique de Madame Marie
1 étoile – Run. Before you get the runs.
2 étoiles – Mediocre, but nothing you couldn’t make at home.
3 étoiles – C’est bon, with some standout qualities.
4 étoiles – Many memorable qualities and excellent execution. Compliments to the chef.
5 étoiles – Formidable! Michelin Star quality. Book a reservation immediately.