PANGAEA (1221 Bay, at Cumberland, 416-920-2323, pangaearestaurant.com) Complete dinners for $100 per person (lunches $50), including all taxes, tip and a glass of VQA wine. Average main $35/$25. Open Monday to Saturday for lunch 11:30 am to 5 pm, dinner 5 to 11:30 pm. Closed Sundays. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN
Martin Kouprie knows his seafood first hand.
"I'm a scuba diver - it's a passion," says the Pangaea chef. "I've always been in the water, whether off the coast of Newfoundland deep in the Atlantic, or the Caribbean or Pacific. I know the beauty."
He's also become increasingly aware of the restaurant industry's part in the thoughtless damage we're doing to the seas' fragile eco-system. To become part of the solution instead of the problem, his swanky Yorkville boîte has hooked up with Ocean Wise (see what that means here).
"First of all, you don't have to pay to participate," continues Kouprie. "And Ocean Wise is the only program that verifies the pedigree of the fish at both the supplier and restaurant level. There's a lot more choice out there than people realize."
We'll happily go for Pangaea's legally fished New Zealand abalone three-way on the half-shell - ceviche on kohlrabi slaw, frothy tempura with avocado mousse, seared over pickled watermelon ($20) - or a dense filler-free West Coast Dungeness crab cake in a spicy pool of gazpacho ($18).
Meaty BC albacore tuna gets cooked sous-vide, then casually tosses over a tsunami of crisp haricots verts, barely-there rings of raw red onion and leafy butter lettuce dressed with house-cured anchovies, black kalamatas and hard-boiled quail eggs to become a deconstructed niçoise ($29 lunch), the highlight of Kouprie's late-summer carte.
You just have to look at his perfectly timed BC black cod ($33 lunch/$39 dinner) and its silky flesh falls apart on a plate of pureed white beans and ripe ratatouille. A beautifully crusted slab of farmed rainbow trout by way of Collingwood ($28/$35) props up a mini Blue Mountain of wilted arugula and a veritable moat of preserved-lemon jus.
Chased with house-carbonated water ($2.50 per person), a trio of pastry chef Colen Quinn's whipped ricotta-stuffed doughnuts arrive still warm from the oven, paired with shooters of citrusy cardamom milk shake ($10).
Why aren't more local restaurants involved with Ocean Wise?
"I'm kind of disappointed that more Toronto chefs haven't jumped on board," says Kouprie. "Maybe they don't like putting symbols on their menus, but for me, it's a point of pride."