Where else can you find white asparagus bathed in white truffles, from Tuscany? Where else can you be presented with fresh hand-rolled spaghettini, from a private recipe, that needs only a light tomato-basil sauce, to evoke murmurs of delight?
By Peter Budnick
Well, I’m sure you can find these in the Northern Italian corridor between Milan and Venice, but you can also find them at Toul?’s, on the 38th floor of the Harbour Castle Hotel, in Toronto.
On entering this remarkable restaurant you are captivated by the understated elegance of its decor. Soft wood tones, gold leaf, subtle wall coloration, are reminiscent of an establishment on the canals of Venice; yet, Toul?’s circular structure, with expansive windows, overlooking the heart of Toronto and Lake Ontario, create a sense of restrained excitement in anticipation of what is to come.
Our diners at Toul?’s today are Karen Dunlop, a prominent, veteran trial lawyer in criminal cases and Henry Jerzey, a former entertainment manager for Catherine McKinnon and symphony conductors such as Boris Brot. Both of our diners are no slouches in the kitchen. Karen’s garlic stuffed capon and Henry’s medallions of veal tenderloin in green pepper sauce, are legendary among friends and relatives that have eaten at their tables.
Today, chef Pino Padula is in complete control of food preparation and our diners are only required to give an evaluation of the chef’s creations.
After tickling the palate with a glass of Prosecco Di Valdopbiadone La Villa, our chef escorts the diners into his kitchen, to witness the initial preparation of “Imperial Shrimp”, direct from Thailand, to be served with risotto and wild rice, with salsa misti.
Chef Pino has also prepared a carefully stirred polenta that he presents to our diners as a “cradle”, for his pan sautÄed forest mushrooms. This provokes Henry into a vibrant “whooa!” and brings out a protracted “m…m…m…m” from Karen.
The obligatory, famous hand made spaghettini, with fresh tomato and basil is served in the traditional northern Italian manner: the sauce is stirred into the pasta.
Chef Pino delivers a “double hitter” for dessert. He delights our diners with a panna cotta (Italian crÅme brulÄ) with fresh fruit compote and a rich very dark, chocolate mousse, with black berry sauce. Excellent cappuccino, of course, and the leisurely three-hour meal is complete.
The name Toul?, was suggested to the restaurant’s founders when they established a location in a converted “hay loft” on the outskirts of Cortina, Italy. Alfredo Beltrame and Antonio Fillippini then expanded the “Toul? Group”, throughout Italy and internationally to include Tokyo, Helsinki, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Monte Carlo and now, the first North American location at the Westin Harbour Castle in Toronto, Canada.
Comfortable environments for dining are not accidental, but must be carefully created. Starting with the firm, confident, Luca Viscardi the “hands on” CEO of Toronto’s Toul? we find a restaurateur who enjoys his disciplined work. He takes obvious pride in his knowledge, his staff, the restaurants uncompromising menu and wine cellar.
From the cheerful hostess that greets you on entering, to the soft-spoken waiters that appear, perform their service flawlessly, then remain otherwise invisible, Toul?’s is an “atmosphere” for exceptional dining. This is not a place to merely “fuel up”. Toul?’s is an experience you must “savour”.
Karen and Henry both give Toul?’s their thumbs up and intend to return soon, with their “significant others”.