For all the outsize heft of David Chang’s Five-headed Momofuku empire on University Avenue, tiny Shōtō feels remarkably removed from the via-New-York hype. Tucked behind a wall of wine coolers on the third floor, 22 patrons sit around the urbane U-shaped black granite bar (in real chairs! with backs!) and spend roughly 150 minutes, plus a fair chunk of change, to experience a storybook of a tasting menu, with all the typical annoying bits – the repetition of ingredients, the showy caprice, the monotonous pacing – smartly edited out.
Your meal here is authored by eight young virtuosos: five chefs, and two wine stewards who execute roving sommelier Jonathan Gonsenhauser’s daily wine pairings (see below). It unfolds like a lively collection of 10 short stories, spanning the culinary world but focusing on the seasonal bounty of Alice Munro’s Ontario.
Each delightful dish – a tiny cup of liquid curry that gives up a single perfect bite of Dungeness crab, a dry-aged beef rib carpaccio topped with poppy lumpfish roe – lasts exactly as many beats as required to reach the next plot twist. By the time the Danish sous-chef grates a block of pine-nut miso onto your rhubarb and vanilla cake and the cute wine steward in the jean jacket pours that perfect glass of late-harvest cab franc from Stratus in Niagara, you’re still savouring every bite, like the final pages of a great book.
The epilogue: five sweaty, victorious chefs executing a well-deserved beer toast of Steam Whistle, “clinking” their plastic tubs repurposed from soup stock containers. To happily ever after.
Matchmaker: Shoto’s Jonathan Gonsenhauser on the art of wine pairing
“Wine pairing is almost like a travel fantasy, showcasing the best the world has to offer,“ says Momofuku’s 29-year-old South African-born beverage director, who devises a set of pairings for Shoto’s ever-changing 10-course tasting menu. “We like to play around a bit. It’s a lot of fun for me.” And for us too.
- BUTTER PLUS: Adding fat to butter? Whether duck fat (Supply and Demand) or barbecue drippings (Electric Mud BBQ), we say the more, the merrier.
- FOOD-FRIENDLY REDS: Versatile, high-acid, low-tannin red grapes, like zweigelt, lacrima, frappato and gamay, have moved to the top of the sommelier’s speed-dial list. Don’t call us, cab sauv, we’ll call you.
- LAMB BELLY: The new pork belly.
- SMALL PLATES, SMALLER TABLES: If you’re going to ask us to order four dishes per person to share, you’d better have a plan for where to put them. Yes, we are still working on all of these.
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