Rick McGinnis/Metro Toronto
Address Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queen’s Park
Lunch Monday to Saturday, 11:30 am - 2:30 p.m.
Brunch Sunday, 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Dinner Thursday to Saturday, 5 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.
Dinner for 2 w/tax & tip $90
**** (out of five)
There are few young chefs in this city, or any other, who’ve had the rare pleasure of opening a space such as C5, the fine dining restaurant on the top floor of Daniel Libeskind’s high profile addition to the Royal Ontario Museum. Even on a rainy day, the view looking over the University of Toronto and the Annex would be a rare treat, even if it weren’t framed by Libeskind’s dramatic windows, with their jagged angles pointing to the room’s high, angled ceiling.
Ted Corrado knows he’s lucky — for a year he’s been preparing for the opening of C5, aware that he’d be under immediate scrutiny as the cook in charge of the kitchen, whose closest competition is none other than Jamie Kennedy across the street at the Gardiner Museum — the same chef who was chef at the ROM museum that used to occupy a space nearby in the museum wing that was torn down to make way for the Michael Lee Chin Crystal.
“I’ve had a chance to meet him,” Corrado says. “Great guy. I hope I have a chance to achieve what he has. He’s left such a mark and I’m a newcomer to the scene, and for the past year or so when I tell people that I’m going to be heading up the project at the ROM, they’re like ‘Oh, you’re going to work for Jamie?’ Everyone thinks he’s still here, which is a testament to what he’s accomplished in his career.”
The Toronto-born Corrado has worked his way through two kitchens associated with Lorenz0 Losetto — Rain, where Corrado succeeded Losetto, and most recently at George, where he worked with Losetto on lunch. Losetto is one of the city’s higher profile adepts at molecular gastronomy, the cutting edge mingling of cooking and science, and while touches of the very voguish cuisine show up here and there on Corrado’s menu — expect the odd foam — he says he’s trying to be judicious.
The experimentation is obvious, though, at a lunch where three separate dishes have been given a smoky flavour with the kitchen’s brand new smoker — one of the toys that Corrado admits he’s excited to be using.
The duck’s liver in a mousse has been smoked, as are the heirloom cherry tomatoes in a salad and the blueberries in a compote that comes with the dessert special — a rich, brownie-like flourless chocolate cake.
“I just like to play with different flavours,” says Corrado, “putting smoke into a salad without having to use bacon in a vinaigrette, and keep it vegetarian. Part of it is just being excited about being here and having all these toys, and trying to use as many of them as possible. We’ve got a sous vide, and I’ve got a thermo-mix — I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, it’s a blender that heats, so it cooks the food in it, rather than doing the traditional method. I try to focus on traditional techniques here, things I’ve worked on in previous restaurants, but I get to refine them, having all the toys.”
The playfulness is obvious, as are the flavours, and the skill. It’s an auspicious debut for both the restaurant and Corrado, a smart menu full of confident flavours. While drawing on the sort of Asian notes that obviously influence chefs like Kennedy across the street, you wouldn’t confuse their food, and with so much at stake — prime among which was the chance that his food would be overshadowed by the room, the hype and the view — Corrado has arrived very nicely.