I am on a mission to eat an authentic dish from every country in the world, right here in Toronto. You can find all past recaps here.
My home and native land! I’m so happy to officially colour that in on my map. I mean, I eat Canadian every day, I guess. We’re so multicultural and we have food influences from many cuisines, so I am not even sure what Canadian food is. Poutine? Butter tarts? Nanaimo bars? Beaver tails? Maple syrup? Ketchup chips? Dill pickle chips? All of the above, but I think we can do better than that. What did the original Canadians eat? They hunted!
So for eating Canada I roped my blog friends Casey, Michelle and Shanondoah into joining me at Boralia, a restaurant that opened in 2014 at Queen and Ossington that specializes in historic Canadian cuisine.From Boralia’s website:
Boralia celebrates the historic origins of Canadian cuisine. Our menu draws inspiration from traditional Aboriginal dishes, as well as the recipes of early settlers and immigrants of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Sounds interestingly delicious. I was excited. We actually tried to go here the last time we went out to eat but we weren’t able to get reservations. This time we were smart and booked two weeks in advance, but even then the only time we could get was 8pm! On a Thursday! That is really late for a weeknight dinner and almost my bedtime, but we needed to eat here already.
I arrived first, a bit early, so I snagged a seat at the bar while I waited for our table.
Don’t worry, I wasn’t drinking alone — Casey was there five minutes later, so we caught up until Michelle and Doah arrived. It’s a cool atmosphere in there, and I saw a lot of Canadian things kicking around, like antlers and a life-sized stuffed wolf near the bathrooms. Definitely some cottage-country influences too.
Boralia is basically a tapas place, all their dishes are smaller and meant for sharing. The menu is about 90% Canadian game animals. Basically if you were hunting your food it’s what you would find.
Our server recommended we get about 8-9 dishes for our group of four and I found that to be accurate. We nearly ordered the entire menu and it was expensive for sure, but I don’t think it was overpriced (maybe about $45 a person plus drinks). I ate a lot of meat that I don’t usually, or even have tried before, and I wouldn’t trust that kind of thing from just anywhere. Our dishes were high quality and EVERYTHING was good, we all agreed.
We started with the Venison Liver and Foie Gras.
Venison is deer, by the way. I’ve eaten it a few times and really like it if it’s done right. I do not get down with liver and onions but when liver is in pate form I am a fan. Maybe because it feels fancier? This was really good. Rich and buttery and definitely a highlight for me.
Next was the Kedgeree.
Which looks like chips but there is some fish under there. Smoked whitefish topped with curry mayo and parsley purée and then rice crackers, which are totally covering the fish. The fish was probably my least favourite of everything, but it was still good.
Next we have the Mussels L’éclade (which is a French way of cooking them, apparently).
Mussels smoked in pine needles with pine ash butter. These are brought to your table with a glass dome covering them and when your server lifts it off you are suddenly in a cloud of pine steam. It smelled amazing, like a true Canadian forest. The mussels were really good — not the best or most flavourful I’ve ever had, but decent. And fresh, which is more than I can say for Bier Markt mussels.
Moving onto the Bison Tartare…
Yep, raw bison with wild ginger, garlic aioli, pickled fennel and grilled bread. This is one of those meats I was talking about that I wouldn’t trust from just anywhere, but I trusted it here and it was another highlight for me. I couldn’t believe how much I liked it! The flavour was amazing. So good. It makes my mouth water thinking about it now.
Next, Pan-Roasted Elk.
With wild rice-crusted egg, cranberry gastrique, burnt onion, radish. I have had an elk burger before but this blew that out of the water. Melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. I think the elk was my very favourite of everything. I loved it.
Not actually on the menu but a special feature that night was the duck breast.
Errrmagherrrd. I can’t remember ever trying duck before, so I don’t know if it is always this good, but it was succulent and delicious.
Next, and I’m so sorry Paula, we have the Rabbit Rubaboo.
Which included roast saddle and sausage, pine mushroom duxelle, and beets. I’ve never had rabbit in my life and it is not something I would eat on the regular, but I felt like I had to try it. At least once. And I felt like this was the place to do it. It was so, so good! I am almost sad I liked it so much.
And last but absolutely not least, Pigeon Pie!
With roast squab breast and parsnips on the side. Freakin’ amazing. I don’t think the pie is made from pigeons just off the street or anything…or at least I hope it’s not… We were all surprised at how good this pie was. Huge thumbs up from me. I didn’t like the pigeon on the side though. That had a weird taste to me and was the only thing I ate all evening that I didn’t care for.
There are three desserts on the menu and we decided we needed to try them all. Pumpkin bread pudding with corn ice cream, rosehip syrup, and ginger shortbread crumble; Louisbourg Hot Chocolate Beignets with spiced chocolate ganache, beer batter, and lemon gugar; and lemon pound cake with sherry, toasted almonds and blueberries.
All good but the beignets were my favourite. I think they would have been better if they had been filled with more beignet and not chocolate though. Just my opinion.
It was such a fun and delicious evening! I didn’t get home until after midnight but it was well worth it. Highly recommend Boralia, and all Canadian food in general. Of course, I may be a bit bias.