Brothers Food and Wine
1240 Bay St (Bay St/Bloor St)
I am writing this review, or should I say ode to Brothers, unexpectedly, today. I had all the intentions of writing about whisk(e)y for this blog post (which will come, I promise). But, last night, I had a glorious meal that left me *shook*. For months, I have been planning on eating at Brothers Food and Wine. I have read about it, most notably, in the NYT: A Toronto Restaurant Both Simple and Iconoclastic. And, with all my reading and research about Toronto restaurants, Brothers was right on the top of my list of restaurants I must patron.
Reading about food can be a challenge of sorts. It definitely tells you about how good (or not so good) the food is, but until you eat it, you just can’t know. It’s the equivalent of reading an article about Bali. You can read interesting facts and figures, see beautiful images of the rice terraces and stretches of black sand beaches with hammocks hung between giant palms, but you can never really know what it’s like until you go there. But, what reading about these things can do, is give you a sense of what it is like and inspire the fuck out of you to visit that place. The way I was highly inspired to go Brothers. Food is the luxury that some of us can afford. It’s undoubtedly more affordable than traveling to Bali.
I arrived at Brothers one hour earlier than my reservation time. I had finished an appointment and thought I would grab a cocktail somewhere. But, on a whim, I decided to pop by the restaurant to see if they could accommodate this party of one. They did so with open arms, quite literally. One thing you will observe is the warm invitation to the steady stream of guests who enter the restaurant. Sometimes arms outstretched, handshakes offered, and always with a warm and gracious smile. I’m of the opinion that Torontonians are often haughty and unfriendly, but this is certainly not the case here.
The restaurant has long, clean lines. White subway tiles frame the back wall of the bar, which cheekily pay tribute to the not so clean or beautiful TTC station next door. I sidled up to the long, wooden bar to one of the most delicious wines I’ve had in ages. It was a 2012 Grenache Noir from Boulevard Napoleon, Languedoc, France. #ohmyfuckinggawd. This wine was expressive and fruit forward. Think ripe summer berries. It has low tannins and light acidity. It was sophisticated, interesting, and fills the mouth with a big juicy flavour, but balances with a toasty and ever so slight bitter finish.
I sat attentive to the room around me. I was ravished by the scents. Hot plates drifted by offering intoxicating aromas of butter, cream, charred bits and garlic. The pace of the restaurant was decidedly unhurried. The dim lighting and excellent selection of music were juuuuuust right. Featured artists that night included D’Angelo and Frank Ocean. It put me in a super sexy eating mood.
Our first plates arrived. Crunchy, fresh puntarelle with umami anchovies and pungent garlic. Perfectly fried sweetbreads, soft with a little bounce, paired beautifully with sour cabbage and bitter, but tender radicchio. And, last, but certainly not least, rich but fresh mackerel crudo with acidic and sweet green grapes, fresh sprigs of dill and pebbly crushed black pepper. All the plates, completely destroyed. So. Good.
We shared two mains. First was a plump portion of Halibut which fell apart at the gentlest probing served with a beautiful beurre blanc that was decadent tasting but, still light and silky smooth. The counterpoint to this rich dish was grilled hispi cabbage adding a lovely depth with its charred leaves and bitterness. The pork was a massive meat chop with cross-hatched skin for maximum crunch. The skin crackled and reluctantly gave way to my teeth as I ate it. The fat from the skin rendered as I chewed. It was like the very best chicharon. The sides were a succulent creamed corn, with sweet, crisp kernels and a green sauce - a concoction of mixed herbs that added some needed brightness to the heavier meat and cream. We destroyed both fucking plates. Left nothing. Not a morsel nor a crumb. My mom would have been so proud of me. Gold star for finishing my food.
I didn’t really need to eat more, but I did. Fuck, we were already here, we would be remiss if we left without trying dessert. In front of me was a slice of exquisite pie. A ricotta tart served with stewed plums. Each fluffy and decadent mouthful was superb. The crust was rich and crumbly, if just a little too heavy on the edges. The filling was thick, soft and moist with an ever so slight crumbly curd synonymous with ricotta.
The meal ended with me in a state of elation. I got home, showered, and fell into the most magical food coma. Like a travel book that inspires you to board planes and escape the monotony of life. I hope Brothers inspires you to quit the banality of the every day for a few hours and dwell in a warm place and a good meal while D’Angelo serenades you.