Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Oliver & Bonacini Café Grill at Bayview Village

When restaurateur Peter Oliver and chef Michael Bonacini teamed up in 1993, little did they know that almost 20 years later they would be running seven restaurants with more on the way. South African-born Oliver and Welsh native Bonacini, first opened Jump Cafe & Bar, and quickly became a unique and successful player on the Toronto restaurant scene. Other notable restaurants followed, including Auberge du Pommier, Canoe, Biff's, Bannock, and Luma. The latest in the O&B chain is Oliver & Bonacini Café Grill, a new wave of upscale casual eateries that now stretch from Toronto's Bayview Village to the Blue Mountain Resort in Collingwood.

Oliver & Bonacini Café Grill open kitchen and homemade preserves

O&B's impressive Wine Rack features over 50 varieties of wine 
including red, white, Prosecco and Champagne

O&B's modern interior

The heart of the Bayview Village Oliver & Bonacini Café Grill is a gleaming open kitchen, complete with a central pizza oven designed to produce traditional fire-roasted pizzas. A bright modern dining room detailed with washed tin ceilings, leather banquettes and distinctive light fixtures, O&B is a large urban space which feels very downtown despite its North Toronto location. At the helm of O&B's Bayview outpost since 2008, is Chef de Cuisine Steven Kwon.

Chef de Cuisine, Steven Kwon 

After attending Vancouver's Culinary Arts Program, Kwon immediately joined Bacchus Restaurant at the Wedgewood Hotel in Vancouver under Executive Chef Frank Dodd and Executive Sous Chef Jonathan Gushue, now of Langdon Hall. He also worked with Chef Lorenzo Losetos’ brigade at George Restaurant in Toronto before joining the O&B team as Chef de Cuisine at The Café Grill at Bayview Village. With a broad menu that offers something for everyone, popular O&B favourites include B.C. Albacore Tuna Tataki, Tempura Rock Shrimp, Lamb Shepherd’s Pie, Pan-Seared Ontario Pickerel, O&B’s legendary Macaroni and Cheese as well as their delicious Mushroom Soup.

Beef Carpaccio with honey mushrooms, arugula, horseradish and 
shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano with a drizzle of truffle oil

Pan-Seared Ontario Pickerel

Oliver and Bonacini have been serving their famous Mushroom Soup in all of their restaurants since 1995. The recipe calls for no butter or cream, so is extremely health conscious. They use six to eight varieties of wild mushrooms and even add a little truffle oil. They also make their own mushroom stock, vegetable stock and use only fresh herbs. "It's about the simple quality of ingredients that come together to produce a flavour that is fresh, bright and keeps clients coming back for more."

O&B Mushroom Soup with no cream or butter

Japanese Chicken Caesar Salad made with teriyaki-glazed chicken breast, edamame, 
pickled ginger, cashews, roasted shiitake and wasabi peas in a sesame & miso Caesar dressing

B.C. Albacore Tuna Tataki with asian pear, avocado, daikon, tomato & watermelon 
with yuzu, ginger & wasabi dressing

Q-water is a unique filtration system that filters tap water which then dispenses 
Still and Sparkling Q-water into glass decanters, eliminating inventory and recycling 

A Macchiato and biscotti to finish

O&B Café Grill is located at the south-west corner of Bayview Village Mall

Michael Bonacini, as well as Massimo Capra and Jason Parsons, have each established solid reputations as imaginative and masterly cooks. Available at O&B Café Grill at Bayview Village, is their new cookbook, Three Chefs: The Kitchen Men. In the cookbook, Michael, Massimo, and Jason combine their best recipes to create a cornucopia of tasty menus, bursting with international inspiration, and complemented with stories of growing up and learning to cook. My hands down favourite recipe is Michael's famous Mushroom Soup, which at less than 50 calories per cup, is a brilliant healthy and delicious dish.

3 Chefs: The Kitchen Men cookbook which features 
Michael Bonacini's famous Mushroom Soup recipe

Oliver & Bonacini Café Grill Mushroom Soup
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy 3 Chefs cookbook

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
Chopped leaves from 1 sprig of thyme
6 cups assorted wild mushrooms (shiitake, oyster, cremini, king oyster etc.)
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
4 cups water
1 bay leaf

Optional garnishes:
Truffle oil
Chopped chives
Trimmed enoki mushrooms
Plain yogurt

Clean, trim and dice the mushrooms, and place in a large bowl. In large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium. Add the onions, garlic and thyme. Cook while stirring, about 6 minutes, reducing the heat if the onions start to brown. Add the mushrooms in 4 batches, seasoning each layer with salt and pepper while stirring constantly. This allows each batch to cook down slowly. Add the water and a bay leaf. Raise the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once done, discard the bay leaf. For a coarse soup, purée using a hand-held immersion blender, or for a creamy soup, purée in a high-speed blender. Return the soup to the pot and bring back to a simmer over medium heat. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper if needed.

Serve immediately, or refrigerate overnight to let the flavours develop, however this soups keep well refrigerated for up to four days. Top each serving with a drizzle of truffle oil, a sprinkling of chopped chives, several enoki mushrooms and if you wish, a dollop of plain yogurt.

Additional optional garnishes:
• Grated cheddar, croutons and a few freshly sliced raw mushrooms
• 1/2 cup 35% cream and 1 tsp of butter, for a richer, creamier and more velvety smooth soup

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