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Oliver & Bonacini

Hot Dining: A Canadian Connection at Bannock

photo by Allison Woo

It’s hard to think of a more apt pairing than that of the nation’s oldest department store, The Bay, and its new restaurant, Bannock. Named for the flatbreads brought here by Scottish explorers—and adapted by Aboriginal peoples—this Canadian-casual eatery is at home within The Bay’s flagship Queen Street location, and offers both dine-in and take-out menus for a busy downtown clientele. Bannock ($12 to $14), of course, is a featured dish, alongside robust regional fare such as venison chuck chili ($15), wild sockeye salmon ($19) and pulled-pork tourtière ($16). If you’re in a rush, grab a gourmet sandwich to go, but do take a moment to admire the warm, woody surroundings, highlighted by pine and hemlock reclaimed from a more than 100-year-old wharf.

Query the Cook #2: Chef Luke Kennedy of Bannock

As part of our 2011 Dining Guide, we asked a few of the city’s chefs about their work, and what dishes to expect from their kitchens this season. Luke Kennedy is Chef de Cuisine at Bannock.

Bannock offers regional Canadian cuisine in a casual environment. Why do you think this style of cuisine and dining have become so popular in recent years?
Casual is popular right now because of the economy. The restaurant industry always ebbs and flows with the economy. Also, diners are more educated and the magic show of ultra-fine dining doesn’t play out as well as it used to. Why is Canadian cuisine popular? Because we have a young generation of chefs exploring their own country.

What’s the secret to making good bannock?
There is no one true recipe; there are hundreds to choose from. The key is to find a recipe you are comfortable with—and don’t overmix!

What are the dishes you’re most excited about serving in the coming months?
Braised meats all the way! Working in a comfort food restaurant, I’m going to get to serve some heavy, cold-weather meat dishes.

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Hot Dining: Canoe’s as Good as New

photo by Kristina Doyle

There’s never been a better time to renew acquaintances with Canoe. Consistently named one of Toronto’s best fine dining establishments during its 15 years in business, the Oliver & Bonacini flagship welcomed 2011 with a million-dollar facelift and some delectable new dishes. The restaurant’s Canadiana theme is clear as ever—check out the etched caribou images beside the new soapstone bar—while taupe, copper and other earthy tones bring considerable warmth to the open-concept dining room. Executive chef Anthony Walsh has made some upgrades, too, with such seasonal menu additions as Ontario buffalo mozzarella with birch syrup and mountain cranberries ($19), and maple- and miso-glazed B.C. sablefish ($43). One thing, however, remains unchanged: Canoe’s stunning 54th-floor view of the city.

Hot Dining: Oliver & Bonacini’s Latest

Add another jewel to the downtown crown of the Oliver & Bonacini dining empire. The company’s portfolio includes Financial District stalwarts Canoe, Jump and Biff’s Bistro—plus Auberge du Pommier in north Toronto. Now its Oliver & Bonacini Café Grill chain has expanded into a 14,500-square-foot space at the busy intersection of Yonge and Front streets. The casual-chic eatery sports a bar and lounge, a wraparound patio and an airy dining room that’s open daily for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. You’ll want to book a table for all three meals—the better to indulge in eclectic cuisine like rock shrimp linguine ($16.50), pancetta and mushroom pizza ($15.95) and a rack of New Zealand lamb ($29.50).