Sunday, 31 July 2011

Origin Restaurant, Toronto

Photo credit Origin
On our recent visit to Toronto my family and I got together with a wonderful old friend and her husband, and went to an amazing new restaurant on King Street East in Toronto.  It’s called Origin, and came highly recommended to my friend, who booked us a table at this trendy new eatery. So busy was this buzzing new eatery that we could not even get a table till 9pm, but we had so much to catch up on over drinks at our hotel bar that it seemed like no time at all until it was time for the short walk from our comfortable base at the Intercontinental Hotel on Front Street over to Origin.

We walked through the patio, which was full absolutely to capacity on that warm summer evening, and then made our way into the restaurant. The décor is simple and modern, and the tables are laid out round a huge bar on one side, and the fully exposed, open kitchen on the other. The chefs were entertainers as much as cooks, with one chap wearing a top hat, another a Chinese hat and still another wearing a Toronto Blue Jays baseball cap. There was a lot of banter going on in the kitchen, as tempting dishes were passed into the hands of attentive waiting staff. I was delighted to find that our table was right opposite the kitchen, so we had a great view of the action.

Origin is billed as a 'high energy global food bar'. The menu can be a bit intimidating as there are so many dishes you really don’t know where to start, but our waiter was incredibly friendly and happy to explain how to best enjoy the myriad selection. The dishes are prepared in tapas style, so he suggested that each of us choose two dishes and share them.  Between the five of us, we came up with a really good selection.

We were all a bit worried about where all the dishes would go as the table was not that big, and ten dishes seemed rather a lot to fit on it, bearing in mind we already had plates and wine glasses. But our waiter told us not to worry, and explained that they would ‘stage’ the dishes, bringing them to us in groups of two or three complimentary dishes.

We started with a couple of cold salads, the Bankok Beef Salad and a shaved Asparagus, Arugula, Manchego Cheese and Almond Salad. Oh my! The flavours were incredible. The Bankok Beef Salad was rare slices of beef, with peanuts, mint, mango, fried shallots and a nam jim dressing. An explosion of flavours and textures, this was one of my favourites. The Asparagus in the other salad was shaved, and the dressing included strips of lemon rind – the Manchego cheese was the perfect foil to the almonds too. I could have eaten the whole thing for lunch, it was that delicious – but I was a good girl and shared!

Other dishes arrived in a similar fashion as the evening progressed.  Highlights included a dish of buffalo mozzarella, pear, rosemary oil, pinenuts and honey. It was exquisite, the sweetness of the honey the perfect foil to the rosemary, as was the creamy mozzarella to the still al dente poached pear.  I even enjoyed the Chinoise duck wraps, and I won’t normally eat duck! The Tostones with Guacamole were fantastic, as were the spicy Spanish fries with chorizo and manchego cheese.

The whole menu was an incredible fusion of Mexican, Spanish, Eastern and Indian influences among others. Origin also has a very good wine list, with a large number of selections at all price points. We enjoyed a delicious Argentinean Malbec, which complimented every dish we had.

This was one of the most memorable meals I have had in a long time – both for the wonderful company and the incredible food, and the next time I am in Toronto, we will definitely be planning a return visit.

The 21st Century Housewife has not been paid for this post. Our meal for 5 at Origin included 10 dishes, one bottle of wine, two bottles of water and coffees and came to about $300 Canadian plus the tip.

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