Canada’s Best New Restaurant, Restaurant 20 Victoria, shows us the way back from the pandemic–born land of the fast and casual.
20 Victoria St
City + Province
“Our trout is from Affinity Fish in Toronto and our swordfish is from Organic Ocean in B.C.; it’s fully traceable,” our cheerful, aproned server tells us when we grill her about our first two dishes. Composed of just a few ingredients, their magic has left us walleyed with wonder: a silky, vegetal swordfish and caraway crudo with fennel and an almond–sherry vinegar sauce, and a restrained, delicately steamed trout dish with radishes, crème fraîche and pink grapefruit. Because she’s so humble and preternaturally sunny, it takes us a few moments to catch on: We’re speaking to head chef Julie Hyde.
If you haven’t heard of her – she slipped off to hone her talent in the three–Michelin–starred kitchens Maison Lameloise in Burgundy and London’s Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester – the Scarborough, Ontario–raised star–in–the–making leads the kitchen at the much–anticipated successor to Brothers Food & Wine (No. 8, CBNR 2017). Here floor–to–ceiling draperies, herringbone parquet floors and crisp white linens fancy up the old Imperial Life Building. The upfront bar area is for à la carte plates, and the dining room and patio for the six–course tasting menu (with optional wine pairings and add–ons).
The staff is lean and non–hierarchical: Hyde and sous chef Jenna Reich serve as well as tend the kitchen, making short trips between the front and back. This is performance, everyone acknowledges: “We hired really experienced cooks who are comfortable working in the open,” Hyde explains. Yet host and partner Christopher White, usually found patrolling the floor, is nowhere to be seen; the dishwasher called in sick tonight so he’s in back, scrubbing.
Floor manager Danna Oleynikov tells us a little story about every wine pairing she introduces from a pulsating, all–winners list put together by sommelier Toni Weber. The bone–dry fruity and mineral–driven biodynamic Domaine Trapetriesling was born when the Alsatian wife of a revered Burgundy winemaker wanted to try his methods on her home turf. Like the restaurant itself, it’s restrained yet electrically charged, cutting like a jewelled knife through the richness of the rustic “nonna soufflé,” the creamy flan–like sformato surrounded by lightly buttered al dente peas and topped with sturgeon caviar.
Across the room, a lovestruck couple and the trio of friends next to them are taking turns snapping photos of each other, while a pair of pearl–and–Chanel–wearing ladies take their check. Reich presents us with her salted, honeyed and herbal lemon semifreddo. Here, too, the building blocks are simple – partly, Reich says, out of necessity: “I don’t have an ice cream maker.” So, she’s blended sugar, eggs and whipped cream with whole preserved lemons to make something so mouth–puckering it barely qualifies as dessert. Yet the result – like everything at this best new restaurant in Canada – is brilliant.
Don’t miss: A hallmark of Brothers Food & Wine continues here, with pitchers of fresh flowers that chef Julie Hyde picks up every day on her way to work.