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Looking back, it was probably written in the stars that Ten – featuring a 10–course tasting menu for only 10 people – would land at number 10 on the top–10 list for Canada’s Best New Restaurants of the year. But walking in that night, we had no clue.

Twenty–five–year–old chef Julian Bentivegna, clad in a Metallica T–shirt and baseball cap, and his tattooed, earringed, 26–year–old sous–chef, Simon de Sousa, look like they just stepped off the skate park. Yet the food at their long, sleek counter restaurant in Brockton Village is as confident and accomplished as that of their top–ranked elders. Crisp yet creamy English peas marinated in sunflower oil, scallion, mint and fresh lemon arrive on a refreshing cloud of cacao butter and cream – an homage, we’re told, to chef Jeremy Fox, who dreamed it up in the early aughts. My neighbour playfully asks the chef, “Were you even alive then?”

October 23, 2019
Chef Julian Bentivegna
A colourful appetizer

Toronto–born, Calgary–raised Bentivegna worked for star chef Curtis Duffy’s Chicago restaurant Grace; he’s also passed through the kitchens of Paul Bocuse, Alo and Kōjin. He brought his three–year–old sourdough starter with him from Chicago: It’s the base for the tender, buttery whole–wheat brioche he serves with a torpedo of pale–orange carrot butter. With its plant–forward tasting menu, this is the place to come with the loved one you’d like to convert into a vegetarian.

Peas with white chocolate
Two diners sitting on barstools during their mean

The tasting menu involves few animal and fish proteins – a bit of crispy chicken skin peeks out of a satisfyingly garlicky dish of seared fiddleheads, pumpkin seeds and sautéed ramps on a pillow of brioche cream. A small square of meltingly tender, crispy–skinned cod shares the limelight with an equally arresting shaved and puréed fennel dish with black walnut, jalapeño and spring onion. But the robust play on cassoulet, made with buckwheat, beech and maitake mushrooms and white beans, is so good I’d happily give up the original version forever.

With its plant–forward tasting menu, this is the place to come with the loved one you’d like to convert into a vegetarian.

Wine pairings are their own epic journey, guided tonight by regular somm Jennifer Hunter’s able stand–in, her husband Andy, an expert pourer and raconteur. He starts us off with a welcoming flute of Crémant du Jura from Domaine Rolet. Then it’s onto the bone–dry Fol moscato from a crazy maker in Piedmont, and a ravishing Grains d’Estuaire Cuvée Emma merlot from southwest France. By the time we make our way outside, past the floral wall mosaic it took the chef two weeks to make and the well–oiled team that continues to tweeze, spoon, sprinkle and dazzle, it’s clear that Ten is a 10 out of 10.

Sourdough brioche with a side of carrot butter
A chef prepping a green vegetable