One of Canada's most anticipated food lists, enRoute magazine's Canada's Best New Restaurant 2016, was just revealed today and the internet has been busy with congratulations and perhaps even some good debates over the results.
Writing for the list for the fourth year in a row is Andrew Braithwaite, who protects his anonymity year over year as he eats his way across the country at all the most lauded new restaurants to deliver his scoop on the highlights. Surely, he's taken some good notes on what you need to know about this year's lineup.
So here it is, Braithwaite's thoughts about what's memorable and outstanding about each of the top 10 new restaurants, and how they stack up against experiences at some of the restaurants on the 2015, 2014 and 2013 lists.
The Japanese-Italian fusion that chef Joël Watanabe does in Vancouver is wholly original, but I certainly tasted echoes of Toshi Karino’s Carino Bistro in Calgary (2013), which was one of the big surprises of my first year on the job.
High-end, spare-no-expense-and-detail high dining hadn’t disappeared from Toronto the way some people said it had when Alo opened. The Chase (2014), just off Bay Street, was a place that sweated the details in a way that augmented the enjoyment of your meal.
The spirit of thoughtful, farm-connected country dining I loved so much on P.E.I. this year reminded me a lot of how I felt eating Blair Lebsack’s cooking at RGE RD (2014) in Edmonton–farm-to-table cooking by folks who truly lived that connection to the land.
West Coast product-driven modernism is something I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of, so discovering Agrius a year after Pilgrimme (2015), which wowed me with a similar slow-food approach to cooking on Galiano Island, was a welcomed continuance for an Island-grown boy.
Leigh Roper, the chef at Foxy, moved down the street from her previous gig at Vin Papillon (2014) and there’s a lot of that vegetable-focused, wine-friendly touch that shines through at both restaurants--both have super sexy interiors, too.
Sometimes, this job demands that I eat two dinners in one night, and both Agrikol and Toronto’s Electric Mud (2013) were two places I visited and couldn’t stop eating at, even though I already had a full meal in my stomach. I love a restaurant that grows more fun the deeper into the night you go.
Oysters, small plates, raw seafood, quirky flavour combinations, a charmingly don’t-give-a-fuck approach to hospitality: such similar experiences exist in Quebec City and St. John’s, home of Adelaide Oyster House (2015), and speaks to the long threads that connect Canada’s dining culture.
Chef Jason Morris is a passionate, artistic, technique-focused chef, and that doesn’t always work; but when it does, like with Scott Bagshaw’s cooking at Enoteca (2015) in Winnipeg or Mike Robbins’ food at AnnaLena in Vancouver (2015), it’s a beautiful thing.
The Spanish small plates, killer cocktails and cool-kid service here owe a big debt to Toronto restaurants Bar Isabel (2013) and Bar Raval (2015), but if you’re going to stand on the shoulder of a giant like Grant van Gameren and actually pull it off like these kids nailed it in Halifax, chances are, you’ve chosen the right inspiration.
For the way it takes simple but precise Italian country cooking, filters it through a local lens and delivers massive doses of pleasure to its clients, this place shares a place in my heart with Le Bouchon du Pied Bleu (2013), which channeled a similar Lyonnais joie de vivre (aka la dolce vita) in Quebec City.