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Don Appetit! Copetin: Toronto’s Diversity on a Plate

Don Douloff, Food WriterEarlier this year, Toronto restaurateur Claudio Aprile, owner of Origin restaurant, in the city’s Corktown neighbourhood, announced that the restaurant would rebrand as Copetin.

In June, Copetin threw open its doors, and after sampling a recent weekday lunch, I can report that the kitchen is more focused and creative than ever.

Driving the menu are dishes inspired by the cultures and food personalities of Toronto’s diverse neighbourhoods. Conjuring Gerrard Street’s Little India is squash soup, rich and velvety, quietly perfumed with saffron, cumin, cardamom and coriander, and speckled with soft lentils. On the side, there’s crisp papadam.

Roast chicken with couscous.

Echoing the North African restaurants on the Danforth, moist roast chicken is accessorized with apricot chutney, couscous and strips of preserved lemon.

Bloor Street West’s Little Korea gets a shout out via the kitchen’s inventive take on bibimbap, its rice loaded with moist shreds of duck confit and topped with a tea-smoked egg, kimchi, crispy shallots and seaweed.

Minced green onion, soy, sesame oil, crisp, sweet apple and calamansi ‘snow’ turn translucent slices of sparklingly fresh raw scallop into a dish fit for a king.

Golf ball-sized ricotta and semolina dumplings are jazzed with a rich puree of sweet potato and squash, sage leaves, and, the genius touch, pickled grapes, their subtle tang and raisin-like texture bringing the dish together marvelously.

White chocolate eclair.

To finish, there’s popcorn ice cream perched on dulce de leche and served with caramel corn. But best-in-show goes to the daily dessert special. It’s an éclair: dollops of white chocolate cream, preserved ginger and candied blueberries stuffed into perhaps the best choux pastry — exquisitely delicate and pillowy — I’ve ever eaten. Memo to chef Aprile: Please add this wondrous éclair to the permanent dessert menu!

All of this unfolds in a bright, cheery room — exposed brick walls, hardwood floors, modern art — bisected by a busy open kitchen.

Group options in the 2,500-sq.-ft. restaurant include a six-top kitchen counter (which also serves as a chef’s table), as well as a bar/lounge that seats 30 people, and a private dining room that seats 12. The main dining room seats 50, and the patio seats 60.

Available for full buyouts, Copetin accommodates 158 people, seated, indoors and outdoors, or 172, cocktail style.

— Don Douloff has been a restaurant critic for over 30 years and, during that time, has critiqued more than 1,400 eateries. In 1988, he studied the fundamentals of French cuisine at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris, France. During his time in France, he furthered his gastronomic education by visiting the country’s bistros, brasseries and Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine. He relishes exploring the edible universe in his native Toronto and on his travels throughout Canada and abroad.

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