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Patrick Kriss' latest offers cocktails and small plates in a tucked-away setting in the heart of Yorkville
More accurately, it’s a full-scale version of the Bar at Alo, the lofty tasting menu spot’s side room, which acts a laid-back, walk-in-only foil to the main mothership. (Alo, by the way, has somehow only gotten more booked up since earning the title of Canada’s best restaurant in April).
“I love [the Bar at Alo]. I never eat there. I can’t,” says Kriss, whose schedule is further split by Alo’s downstairs neighbour, the retro-inspired diner Aloette. “But I love that concept, and we took it and expanded it into a restaurant.”
The perfect location eventually appeared in Yorkville, in the form of what was once a little-known French joint called Crème Brasserie.
“I think Yorkville is a very interesting neighborhood. It’s a neighborhood that’s being, I guess, rebuilt or rebranded.” The chef scoffs at the notion that Yorkville doesn’t have a rep for being particularly cutting-edge: “When it’s full in here, it’s packed, it’s rocking, it’s fun, it’s loud. There’s lots of energy in here.”
Kriss says the patio, the first outdoor space for any Alo restaurant, was a big selling point, as was the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it location down one of those warrenlike Yorkville pedestrian alleys. “We’re in our own little world here — kind of like at Alo,” Kriss says.
As with Bar at Alo, the focus is largely on smaller, shareable items and a strong cocktail program. “Personally, I like to eat like this,” Kriss says, gesturing toward the small plates section of the menu. “Everything’s really simple and protein-focused. But you can also get, like, a double pork chip with a very simple garnish. The portions are big – you’re gonna leave full, guaranteed.”
The kitchen also features a charcoal grill, which makes up a big part of the menu’s DNA. “We do king crab, 24-ounce USDA prime rib, lamb and scallops,” he rattles off. “We were doing duck, but not anymore. We want to start doing whole fish and foie gras.”
You likely won’t see menu items brought over from Alo or Aloette — Kriss says they even took pains to do the fries differently (shoestring versus Aloette’s thick-cut, since Kriss feels they go better with steak). But keen-eyed visitors may recognize some familiar faces: Aloette CDC Matthew Betsch is here, as well as Alo barkeep John Bunner, who’s been promoted to operations manager.
“Everyone gets new opportunities when we open a new restaurant – I don’t really bring in outside people for the top management positions. Everyone just kind of moves up.”
Does that mean that after opening three restaurants in three years, Kriss still isn’t planning on slowing down? He smirks a little: “Do you think it’ll stop here?”
Here’s a closer look at the menu.
One of Kriss’ favourite dishes on the menu is the raw hamachi with lomo iberico, manchego, zucchini relish and chorizo ($24).
A summer salad features ribbons of cucumber and chunks of honeydew melon, plus dill, pickled shallots, feta and smoked pumpkin seeds ($16).
One holdover from Alo is the bread course: Pan au lait served with tempered garlic butter.
Foie gras is served as a pate with sour cherry ginger puree and topped with shaved foie and toasted hazelnuts, and ready to spread on brioche ($20).
Tuna tartare comes piled high with shavings of Australian black truffle, plus pickled chanterelle ($24).
From the cocktail menu: The Western Bay ($16), a tropical riff on a classic Champs-Elysees with Martell VS, green chartreuse, citrus and coconut. (Fun fact: Bunner named it after a line in “Brandy, You’re A Fine Girl.”)
The Leisure Noise ($15) has another stellar namesake: a 1999 album by UK band Gay Dad. This one includes fino sherry, Havana Club 7, banana and lime, plus a bouquet garni borrowed from the kitchen.
For dessert: Multicoloured mille-feuille and cheesecake with strawberry puree (both $14).
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