ONE (116 Yorkville, at Hazelton, 416-961-9600) Complete brunches for $50 per person (lunches $50/dinner $100), including all taxes, tip and the cheapest glass of wine. Average main $24/$35. Open for brunch Saturday and Sunday 11:30 am to 4:30 pm; restaurant daily 6:30 am to 2 am. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN
Mark McEwan’s One in Yorkville’s Hazelton Hotel has had a rocky start.
Launched during last fall’s film fest, the glitzy Yabu Pushelberg-designed all-day café- slash-supper club quickly established itself as a favourite with both visiting Hollywood A-listers and local fabulosi.
Problem was the notoriously meticulous McEwan – Pronto, North 44, Bymark – wasn’t quite ready for the spotlight. Plates needed focus and service lacked polish. Had Toronto’s golden boy finally lost his touch?
Well, no, not really, if a recent swanky Sunday brunch at One is any evidence. In the six months since its debut, McEwan has tightened the reins. Whatever didn’t work in the kitchen appears to have been fixed, and the servers this wintry afternoon are some of the most pleasantly professional and personable we’ve ever encountered.
Of course, when a glass of orange juice goes for seven bucks a pop, they’d better be.
The high-vaulted room still is a tad stuffy. If One feels like you’re dining in the lobby of a hotel, it’s because you are. Nearly. But tables are well-spaced, and a gauzy wire-mesh scrim obscures the floor-to-ceiling windows that look out to the street.
This allows us to see you, but you can’t see the likes of me and Mats Sundin and entourage – who dine opposite us – knocking back $10 IsoBolic protein shakes and $14 egg-white omelettes.
At these prices, eggs Benedict ($17) is a bargain. Over a round of toasted brioche and layered with what the menu euphemistically describes as “artisan” ham, a pair of perfectly poached eggs get lightly sauced with lemony hollandaise and come sided with sautéed new potatoes and grilled cherry tomatoes.
The house’s unorthodox take on Cobb salad ($23) finds a crisp bed of chopped romaine topped with slightly dry grilled chicken breast, crumbled blue cheese from Quebec, brioche croutons, a hard-boiled quail egg and a surprise of purple Thai basil sprouts.
One’s duck confit ($22) is easily one of the best in town, served in the same pan in which it’s seared in a warm blackberry reduction and garnished with candied sage leaf. Remember, that’s just the bird. Sides of roasted organic candy cane beets – heirloom, no doubt – or frites showered with shaved truffle and Reggiano will both set you back an additional $12.
McEwan made headlines when he introduced Toronto to the $36.95 hamburger at Bymark a couple of years back. My verdict at the time: I’d rather have nine Big Macs. Despite its handle, One’s Ultimate Street Burger ($27) may not be an improvement – where Bymark’s USDA prime beef patty comes topped with grilled porcini, shaved truffle and Brie de Meau cheese and sided with onion rings and a cone of stellar frites, One’s is a cheeseburger, hold the sides – but it’s still one helluva Whopper.
So much so, there’s leftovers. Presenting the remains in a shopping bag big enough to accommodate a shoplifting spree at Holt Renfrew, our server offers a parting suggestion.
“You might want to check your burger before you leave,” she stage-whispers with a wink, nodding to her colleague across the room. “She’s been known to take bites out of them.”