When Czehoski (678 Queen West, at Tecumseth, 416-366-6787) debuted this spring, more than a few eyes rolled when details of first-time chefs David Haman and Nathan Iseberg 's audacious initial menu were leaked. It wasn't ballsy enough that the supper-club's Brad Denton , a Montrealer and former Roots furniture designer no less, was going to take on the Drake, but Iseberg and Haman's avant-garde card promised the likes of "Ontario whitefish, dashi, brown rice, fennel, flax, umeboshi, roe." Say what?
No doubt it was Haman's six-month stint at Ferran Adria's El Bulli in Spain that first attracted Denton to the young talent, but his frequently fussy fusion dishes at Czehoski more often confused than inspired the too-cool crowd.
"Not a month after opening, management wanted to change the direction of the kitchen," explains Iseberg. "Streamlining was mentioned - a lot."
Iseberg stayed, but Haman left the trendy trat a month ago. Goodbye, duck confit parfait with chantilly foam, and hello, gourmet comfort food.
"It was about principles, like that guy from Square leaving, right?" says Iseberg, referring, to the recent kitchen contretemps between iconoclastic cook Neil McCue and Oliver and Bonacini , his corporate paymasters, by way of explaining the sudden departure of his partner. "The artistic impulse was a little too great for the venue."
"We were trying to do something unique," reasons Haman amicably. "The management's only interested in getting as many people through the dining room as they can in as short a time as possible."
In a surprise move, the 26-year-old chef has started as a food runner - fancy restaurant-speak for glorified busboy - at JK Wine Bar (9 Church, at Front, 416-362-5586).
"I've only worked in the kitchen," he says, "and I want to learn as much as I can about the front of the house and about wine before opening my own place down the road."
Until then, Haman and Iseberg are still collaborating. They're planning to present $50 12-course BYOW Sunday-night suppers at an undisclosed east-side boîte at the end of June. For more information, check out their website: www.paperplateproject.com.