Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Distillery District: Tappo Wine Bar & Soulpepper

There's no place like the Distillery District. One minute you're downtown and the next, you're walking down cobblestone lanes surrounded by the Gooderham & Worts Distillery, considered to be one of the best-preserved examples of Victorian Industrial architecture anywhere in North America. Founded in 1832, it was the largest distillery in the world, but with the de-industrialization of the surrounding area in the late 20th century, and the winding-down of distillery operations, the district became increasingly derelict.

A portion of the old Distillery - Building #3

In the 1990's, a group of developers came up with a visionary plan for restoring the 47 abandoned industrial buildings by harnessing the talent of hundreds of craftsmen, skilled in working with 19th century timber, planks, stone and brick. Going to great lengths to repurpose the Distillery's original materials and blend them with today's modern materials, the result is an inspired blend of Victorian industrial architecture and stunning 21st century design and ingenuity.

An old archived image of workers at Gooderham & Worts Distillery

It's only when you step inside the buildings that you realize the magnitude of what was accomplished. A dramatic fusion of old and new, the historic Distillery District is widely regarded to be one of Canada's premier arts, culture and entertainment destinations, with its 13-acres of brick-lined streets and restored Victorian industrial buildings housing one-of-a-kind shops, galleries, studios, restaurants, caf├ęs and so much more.

Tappo's signage is a whimsical touch on the Distillery's oldest building

Located in the landmark 'Stone Distillery Building #3' is Tappo Wine Bar & Restaurant, an historically unique and beautifully restored space full of old world charm. Thick stone walls, a soaring 35-foot ceiling and large wooden beams accent the twinkling chandeliers and bar-length mirror that sweeps across the room. Antique machinery once used for grain milling, add a note of industrial-chic to the rustic decor and simple elegance of Tappo's charming and comfortable candlelit dining room, a perfect spot for a romantic dinner.

Exposed stone masonry and timber framing adds to the old world charm 
of this romantic little restaurant

The vision for Tappo was a collaboration of two old friends, Armando Russo and former Leaf's power forward Shayne Corson. The dream of opening a restaurant was always a hot topic with the duo over the years. Well established now and thriving, Tappo is a culinary fixture in the historic neighbourhood. "We have that downtown Montreal feeling," says Russo, "It's more like the loungy destinations you'd find on St. Laurent Boulevard". Tappo's extensive wine collection ensures that there are topnotch wine matches for Chef Tyson Lambert's classic Italian dishes, and with over 300 different varieties of wine to choose from, there's something for everyone.

Shayne Corson (L) and Armando Russo (R) at a Tappo event last year

Tappo's menu which features northern Italian Mediterranean-style dishes, is also serving a Winterlicious menu from January 27-February 9 2012. The special $35 menu offers diners a selection of three antipasti: Zuppa del Giorno; Insalata di Arugola with endives, red onion, gorgonzola, poached pear, pistachios and a prosecco vinaigrette; or Calamari alla Griglia with a vegetable orzo salad, basil pesto and micro greens. 

Calamari alla Griglia with a vegetable orzo salad, basil pesto and arugula

Tappo Zuppa del Giorno - pea soup with double smoked bacon

A choice of three secondi include Ravioli ai Funghi di Bosco, a wild mushroom ravioli with sundried tomatoes in a rich parmigiano cream sauce; Gallina Vetro all Albicocca, an apricot glazed cornish hen with garlic mashed potatos, seasonal vegetables and red wine jus; or Salmone alla Griglia, grilled Atlantic Salmon served with creamy polenta and market vegetables with a sundried tomato pesto.

Salmone alla Griglia with creamy thyme polenta, haricots vert and sundried tomato pesto

Gallina Vetro all Albicocca, an apricot glazed cornish hen with garlic mashed potatos, 
seasonal vegetables and red wine jus

To finish, the Winterlicious menu offers a choice of two dolce: Torta di Cioccolata Senza Farina, a flourless chocolate cake with French bean vanilla ice cream; or Tappo's Tiramisu. A lovely meal in one of the city's most romantic dining rooms, makes Tappo one of the Distillery District's better bets.

Torta di Cioccolata Senza Farina


After dinner we walked along a cobblestone lane to see 'Kim's Convenience' by Ins Choi, the first fully original Canadian play in Soulpepper's history. Set in a Regent Park Korean convenience store, the play was the smash hit of the 2011 Toronto Fringe Festival. Choi, whose parents came to Canada in 1975 with $200, three children and hope, says that Kim's Convenience is his love letter to his parents and all first generation immigrants who call Canada their home.

The award-winning Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 
permanent home of the Soulpepper Theatre Company

Soulpepper Theatre Company is positively brimming with talent. Their numerous training programs help train artists for the future, creating an environment that can inspire dreams and help them come true. With Soulpepper alumni Ins Choi's debut play opening the 2012 season, it's already made one young man's dream come true.