Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Origin Restaurant: Taste the Journey

Origin Chef de Cuisine Stephen Gonzales

One of the hottest new restaurants to hit the scene this past year in Toronto, is Origin, located at King Street East and Church, in the St Lawrence Market area. Inspired by executive chef and owner Claudio Aprile's desire to create a spontaneous high energy restaurant that serves ingredients at the height of the season, Origin was created and has been receiving rave reviews ever since. Aprile, also of Colborne Lane, has been called a food renegade, a mad scientist and a North American pioneer of molecular gastronomy, but one thing's for sure, at Origin, it's the food that matters most and it takes centre stage. The menu offers bold bright bites to suit any palate, featuring tapas, or small plates, that offer simple yet intricate culinary creations from around the world, ranging from Spanish, Portuguese and Thai to classic Canadian inspired dishes.

The open concept kitchen at Origin

For Origin's look and feel, Aprile collaborated with designers Jason Stroud and Angela Foot of Toronto's Stroudfoot to create an original looking space that was respectful of the building's history, being one of Toronto's oldest heritage properties. The designers used reclaimed wood from the Gooderham & Worts whiskey distillery to construct the bar and reclaimed barn board from the Cambridge area to create the flooring. Black banquettes line the wall in the lounge area with dining tables made from repurposed aluminum. The private dining area, dubbed The Andy Warhol Room, is crowned with a chandelier made from hundreds of little plastic toys. There's exposed brick, fabulous post industrial light fixtures and fabulous art pieces throughout the restaurant, but the centrepiece of the room, is the gleaming stainless-steel open kitchen of Chef de Cuisine Steve Gonzales. Trendy and high spirited, Origin is hip, cool and just the right side of retro. But the food is the highlight.

A sous chef prepares the finishing touches on our Cod Croquettes and Tostones with Guacamole

The menu which features bold bright bites to suit any appetite, is divided smartly into sections like Snacks and Sides (Smoked cod croquettes with saffron aioli; Tostones with guacamole; or Spicy Spanish fries with chorizo and manchego); Chilled (beet and goat cheese with picked red onion, walnuts and sherry dressing; smoked salmon with Russian potato salad; Bangkok beef salad with peanut, mango and crispy noodles) to Hot (Chinois duck wrap with pickled cucumber and hoisin; Chorizo with manchego rice with a poached egg, salsa verde and black olive tapenade; and Aprile's famous Miso glazed cod and soba noodles with a ginger vinaigrette and miso broth) plus an entire section dedicated to Mozzarella (Bufala Mozzarella and pear with rosemary; Fior di latte with mushrooms and truffle oil; and Burrata with pesto and romesca). They even have a smart little burger made with Cumbrae beef and topped with avocado, smoked mayonnaise and arugula. 

Smoked Cod Croquettes with Saffron Aioli

We ordered the Smoked Cod Croquettes with Saffron Aioli and the Tostones with Guacamole. The croquettes were lightly fried with a delicate centre of smokey cod, with a wonderfully fragrant and creamy saffron aioli which perfectly complimented the dish. 

Tostones with Guacamole

The tostones were in fact, smashed plantains that had been flattened, quickly panfried and served warm with a small serving of coarse bright green guacamole on the side. As an entrée, I ordered the Pan Seared Scallop with Jerusalem Artichoke Purée, Bacon and Rapini. 

Pan Seared Scallop with Jerusalem Artichoke Purée, Bacon and Rapini

The scallops were cooked perfectly. My husband ordered the Chorizo with Manchego Risotto and Poached Egg with Salsa Verde and Black Olive Tapenade, which was like a deconstructed Spanish breakfast. He loved it. The Chorizo was extraordinary. Delicate, smoky, and wonderfully smooth. As it turns out, Chef Stephen Gonzales has them custom made by a local producer just for Origin. All of their produce is purchased locally, whether at the St Lawrence market, or through local artisans specializing in unique fare, it's only specialty items that are purchased abroad. It's no wonder that the food is so exceptional. The servers are personal, attentive and informed, and the atmosphere upbeat and friendly. The food at Origin is absolutely delicious, full of flavour and reasonably priced. And with an extensive menu that is constantly updated, we will definitely be coming back for another culinary expedition without leaving our prime kitchen side seat — just ask for Table #24.

107-109 King Street East, Toronto (416) 603-8009