Friday, December 13, 2013

Origin North: Uptown Tapas at Bayview Village

The culinary mastermind behind the Origin restaurant empire, Chef Claudio Aprile opened his third and largest location this past summer in the parking lot of Bayview Village, a new two-storey stand alone structure built on the site previously occupied by Sierra Grill. Celebrating the diverse cuisines of the world, Aprile’s uptown Origin North shares the same DNA, and most of the menu with the other Origin locations, but it’s a distinct restaurant in its own way. As Chef Aprile explains, "It’s a different demographic, and it’s exciting to learn about the neighbourhood and create dishes that will resonate with the people living here. For example, there’s a large Asian population in the area, so I wanted to explore that even further. It’s a natural fit because I love working with Asian foods and ingredients.”

Chef Claude Aprile

And the cooking is excellent. No small wonder because Aprile spends more of his time at Origin North, watching over the kitchens and developing his newest dishes. Downstairs is his management office where he runs his empire and works on a cookbook, expected to be out in 2015. There's also a rumour that he’s planning an ambitious new follow-up to Colborne Lane. With so much on the go, Aprile shipped in Andrew Wilson from Colborne Lane, to take care of day to day operations as chef de cuisine at Origin North.

Andrew Wilson, chef de cuisine at Origin North

Designed by Toronto-based interior design firm Mackay & Wong, the interior exudes a refined industrial-chic aesthetic. The space is cavernous at 12,000 square feet, but handsomely detailed and 
suffused with natural light, with bright floor-to-ceiling windows, polished concrete floors, industrial pipe light fixtures, studded black leather banquettes, and massive Douglas Fir wood beams suspended from the ceiling, which create a warm and inviting space despite the enormous size. But the main event is the food, and judging by the number of tables filled on a chilly weekday afternoon, the menu is a success.

The central square open-concept bar at Origin North

Industrial lighting hang from suspended Douglas fir wood beams 
that stretch over the length of the bar

Cascades of oversized bulbs hang over a number of dining area

A casual dish towel-style napkin anchors the table setting of modern flatware 
and clean white ceramic plates and serving dishes

A small bowl of fresh lemons and limes arrive with the sparkling Q-water

Q-water is produced in-house at Origin, a unique filtration system that filters tap water and dispenses still and sparkling Q water into reusable glass decanters

Origin North extensive lunch menu

The international menu of small plates, a juxtaposition of Asian, Mexican and Italian, with mostly great results. Choosing from the menu's extensive selection of Snacks and Sides, Chilled Hot, Sandwiches and Sweets is a struggle — everything sounds interesting and appetizing. We decide on the Beet Salad with goat cheese, pickled red onion in a sherry dressing with yogurt and walnuts, a dramatic presentation of one whole roasted beet suspended on spears of red picked onions and nestled on a cloud of whipped goat cheese. Garnished with a delicate sherry dressing and a flurry of bright magenta sumac, this dish was delicious as it was spectacular. I think I'd have to order it every time.

Beet Salad with goat cheese, pickled red onion in a sherry dressing with yogurt and walnuts

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with sherry vinegar, bacon and toasted black quinoa

One of Origin's more popular dishes, Chinois Duck is served in a taco-style format. "It’s a complete rip-off of the Peking duck one would get at a Chinese restaurant," says Aprile, who swaps flour tortillas for classic scallion pancakes. The dish was deliciously balanced with fiery Sriracha-spiked duck paired with sweet and fruity hoisin sauce, crunchy pickled cucumbers and cooling sour cream. Topped with chopped scallions, shredded carrot and baby watercress, the dish was light but wonderfully full flavoured and satisfying. I could have easily devoured two orders on my own — unfortunately I had to share them.

Chinois Duck on a flour tortilla with cucumber, hoisin, sriracha and sour cream

An extra squeeze of sriracha hit sauce on my serving of Duck Chinois

Origin Frites oddly come with the Duck Chinois

Cappuccino with heart-shaped foam!