While I truly have no objection to street food, it’s still almost always my preference to eat while sitting down, with a knife and fork, and preferably a nice glass of beer or wine to go with it. So while I’ve avoided pretty much all of the recent street food events in Toronto because I’m annoyed by the trendiness of the whole thing, the opportunity to enjoy some traditional street food dishes, all while sitting comfortably, was not to be passed up.
Put together by Scott and Rachelle Vivian of Beast Restaurant, last night they gathered a number of chefs for a dinner in which they each created a course based on a street food dish. Yes, there were forks and knives (along with tasty wine pairings from Fielding Estate Winery), but the only china we were given was a side plate. Everything else came in the traditional wrapping/carrier, or else on paper plates, just as you would get the items from a food cart or truck.
96 Tecumseth Street
brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $57
I’m breaking our ethical policy here. We normally prefer not to “review” places where we know the chef or owners. Just so that if it’s a bad review, nobody is hurt when their pal Sheryl disses their grub. And so that if it’s a good review, we can’t be accused of writing something positive only because we know the chef. But we really wanted to review Beast because Chef Scott Vivian is doing really unique brunch stuff, and in a land of never ending eggs Benedict, unique stuff deserves to be covered. And while I’m not going to be able to use the ideal situation of “anonymous and impartial reviewer”, know that I’m going to be as fair as I can in my assessment.
Like much of the regular menu, brunch at Beast is heavy on the meat. Burgers ($12 – $14) and the signature pig’s head pasta ($12) top the card before the traditional Sunday morning fare appears. Vegetarians have the option of French toast ($10) or yogurt and granola ($6), but if you’re not up for some form of beast, then Beast likely won’t appeal.
Born in Montreal to an Italian father and an Indian mother, Chef Scott Vivian has always loved food. Chef Vivian has earned praise from Georgia to Colorado to Oregon before coming back to Canada. In 2006, he took on Toronto via Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar. A year later he was promoted to Chef de Cuisine of Jamie Kennedy at the Gardiner (111 Queen’s Park). In October of 2009, he had the amazing opportunity of becoming co-owner and executive chef of Wine Bar(9 Church Street). Chef Vivian will continue his support of local food procurement as he and his wife Rachelle open their first restaurant Beast(96 Tecumseth Street) in June 2010.
What inspired you to become a chef?
My deep passion and understanding of food and culture. I knew it the moment I stepped foot in my first professional kitchen.
Sourcing all beer, wine and the majority of ingredients from local growers or producers (there’s a chocolate dessert, but no stewed greens until they come back in season locally), the pair are offering up a pretty decent assortment of southern dishes, done really well.
I am generally sceptical when being served game meat. Having grown up eating wild caught stuff, the flavour of the game meat served in Toronto restaurants is generally subdued. Ontario law dictates that wild game meat cannot be sold to the public, so most of the venison, rabbit, elk, kangaroo, etc., that we eat here has been farmed. Farming has its pros and cons, of course, but one of the the most noticeable differences is the lack of a gamey taste because the animals are eating controlled feed instead of foraging in the forest.
This is a good thing, in a way, because it means that people will try game meat and not be put off by the strong flavour. But folks like me, who expect the strong flavour, often find game meat lacking. What is needed, then, is for the meat to be prepared at the hands of a skilled chef who knows how to nuance, accentuate and tease out the flavours. Last night, 9 sets of those skilled hands took on the challenge.
The Ontario Game Dinner at Hank’s was a benefit for Slow Food Toronto – money raised went towards sending Toronto chefs to Slow Food’s bi-annual conference in Italy.