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Bartender Mike Fortier mixes the drinks; Owner/chef Carl Heinrich preps the charcuterie.
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Richmond Station owner/chef Carl Heinrich butchers wild boar.
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RICHMOND STATION (1 Richmond West, at Yonge, 647-748-1444, richmondstation.ca) Complete dinners for $50 per person (lunches $35), including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $24/$20. Open Monday to Friday 11:30 am to 10:30 pm, Saturday 5 to 10:30 pm. Closed Sunday, holidays. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, eight steps to washrooms. Rating: NNNNN
Having kept a relatively low profile after winning season two of Top Chef Canada last February, ex-Marben toque Carl Heinrich is glad to be back in the saddle.
"It's nice to be cooking for people again, playing host and running a kitchen," says Heinrich of his month-old Richmond Station. "All of those fun things that I never knew I would miss."
And what fun! Once home to a no-name sushi joint, the L-shaped room now oozes a casual sophistication. Whitewashed walls are hung with period photos of subway construction, while unusually personable and informed servers treat first-time customers like once-a-week regulars.
Our visit starts with warm house-baked slices of what Heinrich calls crusty pain rustique and a bowl of exceptionally buttery oil and tangy vinegar that chef asks us not to identify lest his limited supply run out. Let's just say they ain't olive and balsamic. A litre of house-bottled sparkling water ($3) washes everything down.
While the table next to ours diplomatically splits four lettuce wraps stuffed with tempura-battered lobster between the three of them ($13), we lay waste to co-owner Ryan Donovan's masterful charcuterie board ($14), a veritable still life of pink juniper-scented lamb terrine, deep-fried headcheese, shredded duck rillettes and beef-heart pepperoni. Squirts of Dijon mustard and slightly pickled onions add appropriate counterpoint.
Another board brings polenta fries ($8) the size of Lincoln Logs sided with both smoky bomba mayonnaise and classic marinara sauce. Heinrich reinvents steak tartare ($12) as chopped raw Dingo Farms tenderloin finished with sautéed green beans, hickory sticks and the de rigueur runny egg.
Speaking of chicken, comfort-food main coq au vin ($25) finds moist chunks of Cumbrae's naturally raised breast, leg 'n' thigh laced with bacon and baby pearl onions on a bed of creamy pommes purée. And our apologies to the Queen and Beaver: the Station's outrageously juicy burger stuffed with short-rib trimmings on a house-baked bun dressed with aged cheddar and sweet beet relish ($20 with fab skinny frites and terrific roasted radish salad) is now the new standard.
No one's bored by Perth County wild boar ragu ($24), a great heap of house-made orecchiette tossed with luxe slow-braised pig, sautéed mushrooms, more marinara and great shards of Monforte Dairy Toscano that's the highlight of the evening. That is until Farzam Fallah arrives with what the menu lists as deconstructed pumpkin pie.
"I hate that word," mumbles the Station's shy pastry chef.
Maybe so, but the dessert ($9) - random layers of butter crust, spicy puréed pumpkin, whipped butterscotch mousse, wild blueberry compote and crunchy walnut brittle, on yet another board - is love at first bite. As are the addictive salted caramels that arrive with the bill.
"Take as many as you like," laughs our server. "I'll only end up eating them myself."
We do. But then, who can resist Scottish crack?