Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
TORONTO, ONTARIO — Early during my 13-course extravaganza of a meal, it occurs to me that dining at Alo is akin to taking in a symphony.
There’s a melody, an orderliness, a pace that has been deliberately set and, most of all, an atmosphere of calm. It’s an environment that signals you to sit back and experience what chef Patrick Kriss and his team have orchestrated for you this night.
“You can’t work well when you’re scared,” Kriss says when asked about the easiness of the place.
Alo is the star of Toronto’s dining world these days and is deserving of every fawning review and accolade. Kriss has created a culinary experience that Torontonians in recent years have only been able to find 90 kilometres (54 miles) away at Langdon Hall. At Alo, you escape on a sensory journey without departing the city’s downtown.
It’s located on the third floor of a historic building that was previously home to a modelling agency near the bustling intersection of Spadina Avenue and Queen Street West. To create Alo, Kriss and his team had to gut the space, install kitchen equipment and hope their efforts would bring in diners, despite the doubts of some.
“My friends in the industry all thought I was crazy. They said, ‘What are you doing? No one in this town wants to eat like that,’” Kriss recalls.
But the chef — who previously worked at Splendido, a now-defunct restaurant that was hailed by many as home to the best tasting menu in Toronto, and the highly acclaimed Acadia — is determined to prepare cuisine that pushes his creativity. What he has achieved is the one restaurant you must seek out when you visit Canada’s largest city.
The wine pairings, created by head sommelier Christopher Sealy, are a journey on their own. Sealy’s knowledge of Iberia’s viticulture is on a grand stage next to the delicate, soft notes of Kriss’s dishes.
“We do a lot of fine and interesting white wines because that’s just how he cooks,” Sealy says.
Alo opened less than two years ago and its success is spawning a smaller bistro, Aloette, on the ground floor. With the fabulous tasting menus at Alo, the a la carte options at its elegant bar and the casual French fare at Aloette, Kriss is turning his little corner of the city into a connoisseur’s destination all on its own.
More Toronto and Area Restaurant News
LANGDON HALL (1 Langdon Hall, Cambridge, Ontario) — Speaking of Ontario’s venerable manor house, executive chef Jason Bangerter is humming along at an exceptionally high level. Inspired by the property’s immense garden, Bangerter recently told me he has changed his cuisine, putting his garden ingredients at the top of mind when creating recipes. “I now think of what can I pair with marigolds or radishes or potato flower first and not what can I add to a cut of pork or chicken. The vegetables, the herbs, all this great stuff in the garden comes first and that feels right,” says the chef, who is relishing the creative opportunities provided by the property’s resources. He’s also emphasizing the story behind the food he serves, which is why you shouldn’t be surprised when your order of Newfoundland cod arrives on a large piece of dried and salted fish, or tuna bites comes propped between the bones of the fish’s rib cage. It brings an element of terroir that can often be missing from elegant dining in Canada and underscores Bangerter’s ambition to continue to push the limits of the experience at Langdon Hall. It helps, he says, to have retained the majority of his staff for more than three years. “Now, I think we’re in a position to start making a lot of noise,” he says with confidence. I’ve dined at Langdon Hall numerous times and my most recent visit stands as the most stimulating because of the level of creativity Bangerter has achieved. Read more about how “Langdon Hall Is Blossoming Under Jason Bangerter.”
COPETIN (107 King Street East, Toronto) — Recently opened in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, Copetin serves chef/owner Claudio Aprile’s eclectic cuisine in a casual atmosphere with multiple dining experiences. It features a canteen, snack bar, fine-dining restaurant and counter service station. Read a full report from Copetin’s grand opening in July here.
MORE ABOUT ALO
Address: 163 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, ON (see map below)
Price Range: The multi-course tasting menu starts at approximately $100 per person. Pay more and you can make a dinner reservation at the kitchen counter, where you receive additional dishes and have the opportunity to see Kriss’s kitchen in action.
You Must Order: Be sure to add the wine pairing for an additional charge of about $65-$75 per person.