ALO Restaurant is set to open the last week of July, a partnership between general manager Amanda Bradley and chef Patrick Kriss. Libby Roach has the exclusive first look.
Occupying the third floor of a heritage building at Queen and Spadina, the room drips with sophistication. Designed by Commute Home, the muted colour scheme is akin to a pastel version of Mad Men, complete with warm golden lighting fixtures, soft grey banquettes and a varied palette of woods – from the matte plank flooring to the black-panelled entryway that greets you upon arrival.
The buildout of the space saw Patrick swooping in back in 2013 after Next Modeling and Just Miss, a dress shop, moved out. Taking the space over meant courting the Heritage Committee, but after blowing the space away and revealing the soaring ceilings, the pair knew this place was more than just a busy street corner. The renovation began in November 2014 and creates two separate but cohesive spaces; the bar area, with huge windows letting in natural light and contrasting with the dark, moody bar.
Meeting in the middle is the open concept kitchen, allowing guests to peer into the action or opt for a seat at the counter and graze as they gaze on. One step up is the dining room, with spacious seating for 42. More natural light from the many windows bounce off the mirrored walls, creating a dramatic, modern atmosphere that marries with the bustling energy from the street.
Equal parts comfortable and elegant, the overall emotion wafts through the well-thought space. The building overlooks one of Toronto’s busiest intersections, which creates a lively backdrop, but thanks to the double-paned windows, the streetscape is muted. An eclectic playlist swings from hip hop to rock.
That energy and spontaneity is also on display when it comes to the food. Chef Patrick Kriss has created his menu with no borders, a customized (to an extent) five course tasting menu that stretches to as many as nine plates when amuses and breads are thrown in. From those five courses, diners can choose from two different options, taking the blind guesswork out of what the kitchen will be serving, so if you suffer from Brussels sprouts anxiety, fear not, the thoughtful menu will allow for some flexibility. The menu will rotate and shift as seasons and moods change, but the price tag is stuck, an approachable $89 per guest, with a wine flight pairing setting you back an additional $65.
While the menu has yet to be revealed, Chef Patrick says it will always begin with an amuse (think sorbets) followed by a raw seafood element like oysters, followed by something warm and comforting, a classic French stew (think Boeuf Bourguignon), tailed by more meat, like foie gras or veal tenderloin, fish and, of course, desserts. Pastry chef Cori Murphy has crafted the final course, which will let guests choose between dark, milk or white chocolate for their mysterious first course, continued by another dessert course, which, like everything else (including the butter) is made in-house.
The bar isn’t merely relegated to a holding pen for those waiting for a table. The bar menu, while totally different from the dining room, will see guests nibbling on shared plates and imbibing on John Bunner’s extensive cocktail program. The wine list is curated by Sommelier Anjana Viswanatha and features natural wines, mostly old-world bottles manufactured with minimal chemical or technological influences, and are geared towards matching the ever-evolving food menu.
The aim of this restaurant isn’t just to be your next anniversary dinner or special occasion. Amanda and Patrick (formerly George and Splendido, Acadia respectively) have created a unique venue for more than just that one night out a year, ALO is meant to be taken in and enjoyed; its balance lies between the careful and thoughtful attention to the overall experience as much as it is the food. The price point allows for less formal and more exciting tasting menus, exactly what Toronto has been missing.
ALO officially opens the last week of July, open from Tuesday to Saturday, starting at 5 p.m. at the bar.
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