What do you get when three veterans from a luxurious hotel restaurant create their own space? A casual fine dining farm-to-table experience on West Queen West. Vv Magazine’s Libby Roach has all the details.
Canis has been open a little over three months, taking over the nostalgic One of a Kind Pasta, which was sold when the owner called it quits after 30 years on West Queen West. An overhaul of the space was much needed, and while the building had good bones, it took a major dose of elbow grease to get the restaurant gleaming as it does now. The owners and co-chefs Tosh Agassiz and Jeff Kang reworked the space, with the front of house/GM FOH Adam Ashukian pitching in for the months-long renovation.
A Scandinavian design features a warm honey wood palate, with vertical wood lines running up to the ceiling, making the space feel airy and spacious, and somehow cozy at the same time. A bright window bank flanks Queen West, affording diners a pretty perch for people watching. With 28 seats wrapping around the space, the room feels restrained, they could have likely shoved another 10 seats in, but wisely kept things concise, allowing the open kitchen to be the focal point.
The menu echoes that restraint. And while clichés like ‘farm to table’ and ‘seasonally inspired’ both would apply when it comes to describing the food – both chefs remain determined to offer only produce that is fresh, local and organic when possible. While they’re hesitant to label their cuisine, they do reference Canadian ingredients exclusively, insisting on sustainable proteins and produce for their creations. Fish is all Ocean Wise, imported from BC when possible. Plating is exquisite, most courses come presented almost as gifts, with the diner forced to unravel the pretty plates to reveal their order. Price wise, it comes off as a casual fine dining restaurant, somewhere not reserved merely for special occasions, rather for impromptu meals or date nights.
Wines complement that focus, with a hefty list hailing from Spain, Italy, France and of course Canada. All wines are organic, some biodynamic as well.
Adam, Jeff, and Tosh all worked together at Bosk at the Shangri-La hotel before creating Canis. Service is a hallmark of the Canis experience, with Chefs regularly expediting food like the Chicken liver parfait ($6), an artful tart meant for one, with creamy whipped liver topped with a thinly spread in house-made grape jelly and garnished with tiny thyme leaves, tweezered on meticulously.
Starter Albacore tuna ($18) is a hidden gift. Artichokes and chunks of tuna are bundled under gently misted nasturtium leaves, a feat in plating and complex in taste.
Carefully crafted Beef Short Ribs ($31) are tucked under tender radicchio, with shiitake mushrooms and diced leeks adding a perfect texture and flavor to the juicy and tender beef ribs.
Desserts prove equally artful. Presented tableside, Mutsu apples ($8) come compressed, adding a dose of molecular gastronomy to the chefs’ repertoire. Chamomile kombucha is poured tableside, with hazelnut and thyme making for a harvest-themed dessert.
It’s not ground-breaking, and they’re not trying to achieve that. While farm to table eating is nothing new, their approach – creating visually appealing and supremely tasty food that allows Canadian ingredients to shine is welcome. It’s a Canadian menu, upscale, with no poutine in sight. Precision plates showcase the team’s talents, and with the previous tenant holding court for 30 years, let’s hope this dream team can continue that tradition.
Canis is open at 746 Queen St. West, Monday to Saturday 5:30pm to 10pm.