Trevor Kitchen And Bar
Address 38 Wellington St. E
Hours Tues – Sat: 4 p.m. – closing
Dinner for 2 w/tax & tip $100
****1/2 out of 5
Once a dusty refuge for wine bars and venerable French restaurants, the block where Trevor Wilkinson opened his basement restaurant and lounge has become a pinnacle in the city’s dining landscape in the nearly two years since he took over the space. Next door is Lucien, Colborne Lane is around the corner, and Jamie Kennedy’s Wine Bar is just around the corner on Church. Wilkinson didn’t have nearly as much competition so close when he was chef at Lobby on Bloor by the ROM, but he says he’s enjoying it now.
“I live in the neighbourhood and have lived there for 12 years now,” he tells me. “I like the east side — I’ve shopped at the St. Lawrence market for as long as I remember. I didn’t foresee that all of a sudden all these other great chefs would move into the neighbourhood. We don’t compete at all — we’re all different. And it just makes us more of a dining destination. We have some great chefs – Jamie Kennedy, Claudio Aprile, Scott Woods. You’re not going to get everybody every night anyway — sometimes they’ll be at Claudio’s place, sometimes they’ll be at mine. We just got lucky, I think.”
Wilkinson is grateful for the profile that his years at Lobby gave him, but says he was happy to move on, even if it was into the risky position of chef/owner, when Lobby became more of a nightspot than an eatery: “When you’re having a meal you don’t want a bunch of 21-year-olds dropping their limes and their straws on your table.”
“My place is a restaurant. I try to have an unpretentious atmosphere — an anti-elitist fine dining establishment. We’re lucky we have a fine dining menu and we play the music a little softer, and a lounge where we play the music a little louder. We’re not a club, but we try to be an upscale, tailored to today’s thirty-something.”
Wilkinson’s menu, except for two items he brought over from Lobby, is all new. His rich mac and cheese is comfort food for the recently collegiate, and while almost everyone seems to be doing deluxe little plates of sliders nowadays, Wilkinson was something of a trailblazer with his trio of mini Kobe beef burgers. They’re on the lounge menu at Trevor today, but the action is really on his concise but impressive dinner menu.
He’s proud of the lobster and shrimp pasta dish that’s been there since they opened — “one simple pasta is something you should have on a menu,” he says — but the meat is where it’s at. Braised beef cheeks show up in the nachos at the bar, and Wilkinson says that his steaks are as good as anything at the city’s best steakhouses. Pork is a specialty of Jesse Vallins, his chef de cuisine, and in a city whose culinary present is decidedly pig-shaped, he still manages to do something impressive with a special that brings together a butter-soft tenderloin and a pork sausage with a plate of spring veggies — hard, bright green peas are showing up on menus all over right now, a harbinger of spring produce – and a wild leek mustard. It’s simple and flavourful, would probably pair well with quite a bit of Trevor’s well-chosen wine list, and an indication that you should go with the port when you sit down in Wilkinson’s cozy subterranean space.