Rick McGinnis/Metro Toronto
Address 124 Danforth Ave.
Dinner Mon. to Sun. from 5 p.m.
Brunch Sat. & Sun., 10 a.m.- 3 p.m.
Dinner for 2 w/tax & tip $90
There were still rough edges on the banquettes and unpainted walls in the private dining room when Ed Ho held Globe Bistro’s opening party last week, on a stretch of the Danforth between the Prince Edward Viaduct and Greektown.
It hadn’t been that long since Ho had quit his job as a portfolio manager on Bay Street to pursue his dream of running a restaurant, and while a film crew documented the party for an episode of Opening Soon, the restaurant reality show, he realized that he’d very nearly done it.
Ho worked in restaurants all through his youth, but his life took a detour when a securities course he took turned into a 10-year career on the Street, managing other people’s money. Everything was fine except for a nagging feeling that maybe this wasn’t what he really wanted to do.
"I was talking with my financial planner, and he asked me what it was I imagined myself doing in 10 years, and said it would probably be running a restaurant," Ho says. "And he looked at me and crooked his head and said, ‘Running a restaurant? You’re a portfolio manager, why do you want to be doing that?’
"But it turns out one of his wife’s best friends ... had run a very successful restaurant business in Mississauga for 23 years. He was looking to get out, so he put us together and we got to talking about me taking over his business ...
"We didn’t complete the deal — he wanted to maintain too much control, wasn’t ready to sell — but I left my job to pursue it, and I thought that instead of paying for the good will of someone else’s business, let’s start out fresh."
He ended up going to dinner with a friend at the Café Brussels, an institution for 20 years at the corner of Broadview and Danforth. Here was another owner who wanted out, and Ho ended up taking over the location, with its mezzanine and upstairs rooms and hardwood floor left over from the bowling alley that was here many years ago.
He began working with Mark Cutrara, who had worked his way up through the kitchens of Jamie Kennedy, Eugene Shewchuk (Messis) and Rocco Agostino (Silver Spoon) and wanted a place to showcase local produce and ingredients, while Ho wanted to draw from a world’s worth of flavours without evoking the dreaded word "fusion."
"I didn’t want to be pigeonholed into being Italian, continental, French, Asian," Ho recalls. "Everyone seems like they have to categorize themselves somehow, probably not to confuse the customer. I’m willing to let them have a whole gamut of flavours, and not pigeonhole them.
"From Mark’s perspective he’s always been locally oriented, in terms of getting the best ingredients from local farmers, because you can get the best flavour and quality that way, and you have more control over them."
In the slow ramping up of the kitchen, while painters and electricians work during the day to finish the space, Cutrara and his staff have been pulling together the menu and bonding over, for instance, butchering a whole pig.
"We got so much from that one animal," Ho enthuses, "including breakfast sausage for our brunch on Saturday, on Sunday. Out of the whole pig, they only wasted about a softball’s worth of the material, which was very exciting."
The ultimate destination for much of that pig was the Globe Farmers Plate, a $34 entrée that sums up what Cutrara is trying to do. "Right now on the plate we have a pork loin that’s been seared off, there’s a piece of head cheese that was made from the same animal, and piece of pork belly from the same animal," Ho says. "The vegetables are coming from one farm as well, but ideally we want the whole plate to come from the same place."
Ed Ho’s been through a lot of money — and a lot of changes — getting the doors of Globe Bistro open, and he’s ready for whatever might happen next, including a name change: "The bistro is probably a misnomer. The bistro is probably more in the spirit of buying what’s fresh for the day and putting it on the menu instead of having a little French corner place, which is sort of what we intended at a certain point. Maybe we’ll drop the bistro at a certain point."