Address: 58 The Esplanade
Mon. to Wed. 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Thurs. to Fri. 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Saturday Noon to 2 p.m.
Sunday Noon to midnight
Dinner for 2 w/tax & tip $85
**** (out of 5)
For a seafood lover, it’s a sight to behold — a three-tiered tower of crab clusters, east and west coast oysters, littleneck clams, tiger shrimp, marinated moules, fresh horseradish and four sauces, all carried out through the double doors of the Bier Markt onto its famous passersby patio.
It’s definitely one of the highlights on executive chef Michael Cipollo’s menu offering Torontonians and tourists — suits and shorts-clad alike — a taste of beer-loving continental Europe in the heart of Canada’s business hub.
Some the old faithfuls are here — burgers and frites (ask for fries, and you’ll be corrected), all served with a little flare, including smoked chicken and green peppercorn gravy in your poutine.
But it’s the tower, the Wurst sampler, the pot of moules made with Czech imported pilsner Staropramen and sausages, and the Markt charcuterie for two — dry cured sausages and artisanal cheeses served on a heavy stone platter — that makes lunch for two memorable at the corner of The Esplanade and Church.
Among the Markt’s dinner dishes are bison sirloin, grilled king prawns and a delectable schnitzel — soft bites of breaded veal cutlet served with Belgian stoemp, strawberry jam and lemon caper dressing. Ask for a side of Belgian and French favourite, the white asparagus.
“We go back to the core values to tie into the European experience offering superior products,” Cipollo says on a recent sunny day on the patio.
“All of our sausage is from scratch, we buy raw pork bellies, we take two weeks to make bacon ...
Like the tie tucked under his white frock, small touches are important to Cipollo, like adding, inhouse, applewood flavour to salmon and hickory for beef ribs, or placing a colourful side of Belgian stoemp (carrot mashed potatoes) with the schnitzel. “You have to look at presentation. The eyes eat first.”
Ask your server to recommend some of more than 100 beers (60 taps) from 24 countries to match your entrée — you’ll certainly hear about Staropramen, introduced for the first time on tap in North America last month at the Markt, and perhaps some of the other Inbev beers advertised on the walls of the Belgian-style brasserie — Stella Artois is still its best seller, Markt general manager Rob Medal confirms, and it’s one of the beer’s best Canadian venues, too. Both beers are session favourites.
There are a lot of interesting corners in the Markt: Cast-iron benches and a copper brew kettle near the entrance, faded red and pink brick on many walls and wooden chandeliers. Stainless-steel bars and granite countertops lead past two tiers of tables to the back where picnic-style tables sit and five kegs hang from the ceiling. On the east side, caretaker Mick Matsumomoto adjusts pressure in a windowed walk-in fridge with 135 kegs and a spiderweb of hoses. In front stand 10 30-litre metal kegs of Staropramen.
On the opposite side of the restaurant, look behind a curtain, and you’ll likely be eyed by private party and corporate function attendees sipping suds.
Don’t fret if you don’t like what they’re drinking. Just close the curtain, and order yourself a house cocktail, scotch, wine or port. No one will mind.