For years, Toronto’s North 44 has been a go-to restaurant for special-occasion dinners and a magnet for the city’s Big Money set.
It had been about seven years since I’d eaten there, so it was high time I visited, to see what they were up to.
Under chef Sash Simpson and his kitchen brigade, all is well.
Addictive house-made breadsticks were followed by some top-notch apps: intensely flavoured lobster bisque – with a perfect consistency and not cloyingly creamy, as some can be – was studded with huge chunks of tender lobster.
Lobster also starred in mini-tacos. Shells cleverly made from crispy, razor-thin slices of deep-fried beets cradled fresh-tasting lobster salad. A yuzu-tinged soy, served alongside in a pitcher, provide deep umami flavour.
And then the best, most sophisticated palate-cleanser I’ve ever eaten: A scoop of tart, creamy-textured lemon sorbet, splashed with champagne.
Palates sublimely cleansed, we heartily dug into thick slabs of halibut, wrapped in a banana leaf with bright, Asian-tinged aromatics (coconut milk and slivered ginger and lemongrass among them).
The largest filet of Dover sole I’ve ever seen arrived firm and meaty in citrusy, lemon brown butter. On the side, a tender ragout of chanterelle mushrooms.
Rosy slices of seared duck breast were ably complemented by braised swiss chard, creamy risotto and chunks of rich foie gras.
On to dessert: silken, milk-chocolate pot de crème, garnished with shards of house-made sponge toffee and chunks of house-baked cherry chocolate cookies.
Fleur-de-sel ice cream lent contrasting salty notes to a rich and deeply satisfying layering of chocolate ganache and peanut-butter praline.
Finally, two superior ices: pear/ginger, in perfect balance, and tart huckleberry. Two complimentary squares of intensely flavoured, house-made concord-grape jelly studded with pop rocks capped the evening.
Service was predictably professional and attentive. And the room, with its soft lighting, beige colour palette and comfy banquettes, was as beguiling as ever.
Outfitted with its own bar, an upstairs level seats 60, including 20 in a private room, an ideal space for events organized by meeting and event planners.