It had been some years since I’d visited Tundra restaurant, nestled in a sprawling, multi-level space just off the bustling lobby of the Hilton Toronto. Outfitted in understated earthtones and plenty of gleaming wood, Tundra is a sleek space catering to hotel guests and the pre-theatre crowd flocking to performances at the adjacent Canadian Opera Company.
The food, under the watchful stewardship of executive chef Kevin Prendergast and sous chef Andrew Lewin, is as refined as ever.
Take the daily soup, chicken noodle. It’s anchored by a properly rendered broth, coloured a deep golden, chock full of intense chicken flavour. Scattered throughout the broth are tiny, moist nuggets of chicken and perfectly al dente pasta shells. It’s a dish fit for a king!
Baby kale salad, loaded with butternut squash, house-dried cranberries, wheat berries, candied pumpkin seeds and apple, accented by maple sherry vinaigrette, is a perfect harmony of sweet flavours and crunchy textures. And what a deliciously refreshing change to encounter a Caesar salad garnished with anchovies, so rare in our anchovy-averse world!
Sea scallops in lemongrass-infused buttermilk.
Chef Lewin sends out fat sea scallops, tender from pan searing and complemented by buttermilk subtly infused with lemongrass. Complementing the shellfish are pickled mussels, watercress, dill oil and onion dust.
The kitchen’s hot streak continues with main courses. Coq au vin brings wonderfully moist and tender braised Cornish hen garnished with properly reduced — and therefore, deeply flavoured — red wine sauce. Accessorizing the hen are gratin potatoes, wild mushrooms and pearl onions.
Boasting a custardy, meltingly tender texture, black cod is exquisite, and further heightened by miso butter emulsion. Riding shotgun is spaghetti squash, diced butternut squash and wildflower honey squash puree — autumn on a plate.
To finish, there’s rich crème brulee, made with duck egg and served not in the traditional ramekin, but rather sectioned and presented, like a piece of cake, and animated by sea buckthorn sorbet. There’s also a construction built on Ontario ice wine sabayon, maple poached pear, brown butter sponge cake and spiced sweet nuts.
Group options include Tundra’s bottom room (which hosts 44 people, seated and 60, cocktail style); Tundra’s top room (60, seated and 80, cocktail style), the top and bottom rooms combined (98, seated and 150, cocktail style) and the lower Tundra lounge (40, seated and 60, 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.