In Toronto with work, and with a free evening and morning to myself before the business stuff kicked in, I thought I would re-watch the episode of The Layover to get some hints on interesting foodie places to check out.
Always a sucker for any restaurants focused on animal innards, I decided to check out the Black Hoof. I was staying downtown and the restaurant is in Little Italy which didn’t look too far on the map, so I headed out on foot – mainly as I didn’t have a car and I like walking anyhow. About half a mile in it started raining, so I caved in and got a cab for the rest of the way.
As I was in a cab, I needed to tell the driver the destination with a bit more accuracy than “I think its on Dundas Street somewhere” – having to look up the address on my phone turned out to be a big time saver as even then we drove past the restaurant once before realizing we had gone too far. Given they have three venues next to and opposite each other, the Black Hoof is not particularly well sign-posted. (yes, yes – I know, after my Akiko experience, this is probably more an indication of my lack of boy scout skills).
Anyway, I got into the restaurant with a vague idea of how the inside looks having seen Anthony doing bone marrow shots with his chef buddies on the Layover. What I didn’t appreciate from the show was how small it actually is – basically a long narrow room with two tables at the front – a bar with 8 or so seats with main (only?) cooking area and dishwashing section in an area about 1/8 of the size of my home kitchen, and another half dozen or so tables at the back (where Tony had been)
Being Billy No-Mates again, I opted for the bar counter to eat. I have travelled solo with work enough that dining alone does not bother me too much, but it does make you look slightly less of a sad loser sitting at the bar than a table, IMHO.
Peering over the bar into the kitchen area, I noticed how rudimentary the set-up is – it even had an electric domestic cooker, a sight I have never seen in a commercial kitchen. Shoe-horned into this space were the three chefs, who must get on really well as they are sharing an area the size of a Queen-sized bed.
The menu is on the wall – unsurprisingly given the cooking space available and complexity of production and preparation it is a small, but perfectly formed selection.
Its a rare day that I will pass on the opportunity to have blood (black) pudding, so that was my first order plus, after a brief discussion with the waiter, went for the pork carnitas tacos.
The tacos arrived first – three corn tortillas with layers of guacamole, carnitas and tomatillo salsa, each with a deep-fried tortilla. All accompanied with hot sauce if needed – which of course I did.
The tacos were incredible – carnitas very moist without being overly greasy, balanced out by the creaminess of the avocado and the acidity of the salsa. Probably the best tacos I have eaten in a very long time.
Next up was the blood pudding – it is prepared and served more as a terrine than the sausage style I am accustomed to, but that provided an interesting new flavor profile rather than disappointment. It was very moist again, a real achievement given that it is baked – I’d love to see their recipe to see how they achieve that.
My one minor quibble would be the accompaniments – ketchup flavored chips and green salad. Whilst 90% of the time I have blood pudding for breakfast, I do also add it to grilled meats (lamb and pork notably) for evening meals. I could see this working as well with a different form of potato than chips, or even with an egg.
I decided to go for another dish as the other two had been so great, and opted for the belly pork with cappuccio. I had never heard of cappuccio, and still am not quite sure I know which part of the accompaniment it was supposed to be, but regardless, the dish was equally as good as the previous two. Very tender pork belly nestling on polenta and shaved brussel sprouts (poached in brine I believe) with a topping of gremolata, and an anchovy sauce. Once again, complex flavor combinations which worked together really well.
It was one of the most memorable meals I have had in a while, with a relaxed atmosphere, and busy given it was a wet, Monday evening. Highly recommended – I’ll go back next time I am in Toronto.