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Chef Jonathan Pong preps the cured fish board.
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The $9 Fish Snack consists of three containers of deep-fried goodness.
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Aw, shucks, doesn’t this oyster plate look awesome?
HOOF RAW BAR (926 Dundas West, at Gore Vale, 647-346-9356, theblackhoof.com) Complete dinners for $35 per person, including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $13. Open for dinner 5:30 pm to midnight Tuesday to Saturday. Closed Sunday, Monday. No reservations. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, three steps to washroom. Rating: NNNN
Those apprehensive about visiting snout-to-tail bistro Black Hoof's new next-door Raw Bar will be relieved to learn that uncooked offal, hoofs or otherwise, isn't on the carte.
Instead, Jennifer Agg's month-old HRB is dedicated to all things fishy, particularly if they're smoked or cured. We start traditionally with chef Jonathan Pong's anything-but spin on shrimp cocktail ($15), a smoky six-pack of BC spot prawns perched on the rim of a champagne glass full of ketchup kicked with horseradish and Bellwoods Brewery chef Guy Rawlings's own line of pickled mustard seeds. Busy guy that Guy.
If Grant van Gameren's unconventional charcuterie put the original Hoof on the map, Pong's cutting-edge cured fish board ($22) will do the same for Raw Bar. Arranged from mildest (a subtle sheet of branzino brined in olive juice, flaky black cod rubbed with miso paste) to medium-strength (albacore gravlax in zest, meaty mackerel cured in sugar) and beyond, the shareable platter culminates in sushi-grade scallops in spicy smoked paprika, all - like most seafood on the menu - sustainable. Stellar stuff.
Baby octopus ($15) comes tenderly grilled and strewn across a plate artfully dressed with preserved lemon, dehydrated tomatillo and puréed piquillo peppers, while Fish Snacks ($9) turns out to be three Chinese take-away containers stuffed with whole salty deep-fried spot prawns (the heads are the best part), panko-battered smelts and a raft of tiny tempura bait fish, not the guts 'n' entrails we expect from the Hoof.
We finish with what our server calls "a rhubarb thingy" ($10) that we'd describe as a deconstructed trifle, or more accurately as random bits of sponge cake tossed with mandarin orange, salted caramel and ribbons of raw rhubarb.
After the crazy-mad success of Black Hoof, Hoof Café and now Raw Bar, is Agg considering a fourth Hoof?
"Only if it's on the same block."