Restaurants at TIFF Bell Lightbox
We visited Toronto’s International Documentary Film Festival in May to check out Asif Kapadia‘s amazing film about Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna. The film was excellent, but, as this is not an F1 blog, let me get to the food ….
Toronto has a brand new building (Sept 2010) for its many film festivals, and, on the advice of Mary Henricksen (@garryoakgirl) we decided to eat there before our film, to be close by to get a good seat. The Lightbox is at the corner of King West and John streets, and has three restaurants (plus the popcorn stand, and Malaparte, for events), a Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) gift shop, exhibition space, and five theatres. We were so impressed with our first visit that we tried each of the three main eateries in the building, all run by Chef Jason Bangerter @ChefBangerter. So, if you’re in Toronto for TIFF, any film festival, or just to see the Toronto, I would highly recommend each of the following.
Luma is the dining room, upstairs at the Lightbox.
Our Australian server, Imogen, was fantastic. When we asked for recommendations, we actually got them – thoughtful, descriptive (although perhaps making the choice even more difficult!). It is important to me that a server has actually tried the dishes on the menu, so s/he can provide some useful information (none of that “I hear it’s good”, or “lots of people order it”). As well, Imogen was just the right amount of attentive. She kept a close eye on our table to be sure we got everything we needed when we were supposed to, and to make sure we got out in enough time to see our film.
The food was innovative, but not over the top silly, and delicious. I ordered the burrata to start – burrata is a fresh cheese, made from mozzarella and cream (burrata meaning “buttered” in Italian). This one made in Tuscany on the weekend, then shipped to Toronto on Mondays. It was paired perfectly with red and yellow beets, and a pine nut vinaigrette. I may need to take a trip back for tomato season…. I was also very tempted by the tuna tartare. My husband ordered the pressed duck confit and marinated foie gras, and his eyes rolled up into the back of his head with the pleasure of it.
At the risk of overdosing on duck, R ordered the tagliatelle for a main – it was served with duck confit, butternut squash, toasted almonds and sage, Delicious. Ordering the special was a no brainer – BC halibut, with a perfectly poached egg on top, and asparagus. Perfect taste of spring.
Imogen suggested great wine matches from the well thought out wine list. But I can’t resist an innovative cocktail, and had the Amélie (Absolut raspberry, with raspberries, white cranberry juice and lemon), and the Stompin’ Tom Collins (gin, ginger lemonade and candied ginger – love the name).
Dessert – my favourite course. It was a tough call (so tough we went back the next night after a disappointing dinner elsewhere). Not knowing we would be back, I opted for the most unusual dish, the Chocolate Delice. It was a bar of dark Valrhona ganache, topped with a stunning peanut butter ice cream and perfectly bruléd bananas. My only regret is that I couldn’t savour it because we had to get to the theatre.
Technically the bar is called the Blackberry Lounge. There is a good mix of people enjoying drinks, tea, dessert or a light meal (and I saw no one chipmunked into a Blackberry).
I wish I had been hungry enough to order the frites with truffle salt that smelled so amazing. Since we had already eaten dinner, and were back just for dessert. For R, this meant a Taylor’s 20 year old, and for me the lemon tart. My favourite desserts involve chocolate, raspberry, or lemon and I expect the flavours to be true and intense. I was not disappointed. The lemon curd was perfectly smooth and tasted as if it had been infused with lemon zest. The pastry chef is a master with the brulé torch – the rectangle of lemon tart was covered with a perfectly thin sheet of glass. The tart was served with blueberries (yum), and a sour cream ice cream. The ice cream was good, but I would have gone with a lighter fruit sorbet, given the choice.
Sunday was Mother’s Day – usually meaning avoid-restaurants-especially-at-brunch day. The Lightbox and Chef Bangerter came through again with Canteen. Not only did it avoid the banquet-like special occasion menu for Mother’s Day, the food was obviously freshly prepared to order. And delicious.
Canteen bills itself as a casual, fresh market café and bakery. You can sit in the restaurant, outside on the patio, or get sandwiches and pastries to go. The menu is a nice combination so that you can go breakfasty or lunchy, depending how much you slept in, or sweet or savoury. R had the eggs benedict, which was piled with pulled pork. I sampled the hollandaise – super lemony. He is lucky the pork was so hard to pick off, or I would have eaten half his breakfast! Unable to resist my sweet tooth, I ordered the daily french toast. Made with brioche, it came with a Saskatoon berry compote, maple syrup and gently whipped cream, with several pieces of Ontario peanut brittle sticking artfully out of the top. Very Canadian.
Looking forward to our next visit to the Lightbox and to Toronto. Do you have any Toronto eating advice to share?