You may assume that the stomach of a city is in the center. Yet Toronto chefs are frequently going east of the downtown core. Their confidence is warranted, as Toronto residents aren't opposed to travelling for spectacular food.
One well-known chef with a flair for the spectacular is Lynn Crawford. With over 30 years of experience and a personality that can stand up to television, this Food Network star has clout. She's also delightfully charming.
Her restaurant Ruby Watchco just hit its five-year anniversary, and it's still snowballing in popularity.
"R" is for Ruby; that's good enough for us — Photo courtesy of Ruby Watchco
"Five years ago, the concept of a non-set menu was not really heard of in Toronto," remembers Lynn. "There are a lot more people that are interested in what we are doing now. We really support our local farmers and growers. It caught on."
Ruby Watchco was at the helm of the farm-to-table movement even when Torontonians were more interested in tables than farms.
When asked how the daily menus are created, Crawford leavened with enthusiasm: "We are inspired by the seasons and the incredible ingredients. Our team brainstorms together to be really creative and to find pleasure cooking with the ingredients."
When she arrives to the open concept kitchen at the back of the restaurant, her staff brightens. Even when every table is occupied on a Saturday night, her steady confidence allows her to be particular with the details.
Here, a prime rib may come to the table soaking in its own jus, with side dishes that range from fingerling potatoes to braised eggplant. Everything is served family style, yet reasonably portioned. This allows you to exit gracefully, with nary a pant button undone.
This is where you want to sit if you want a prime kitchen view — Photo courtesy of Ruby Watchco
The fixed-price dinner always has options for additional courses and suggested wine pairings. You'll be asked about your allergies. (And "bad food" is a totally reasonable allergy, but they are 100% committed to making their kitchen free of this intolerance.)
When speaking about her team, Crawford raves: "We're chefs, we love to cook, we love to make memorable meals. This is a chef-driven menu using really great products."
Co-chef Lora Kirk is also incredibly established in the industry, and she's the recipient of numerous awards and media attention.
She's also "the most talented chef that I have had the pleasure of working with," gushes Crawford. "That is what makes the restaurant very unique. There is a lot of camaraderie and passion – likeminded chefs coming together to make a memorable meal."
This is where the magic happens — Photo courtesy of Ruby Watchco
The rustically ambient Ruby Watchco will accept walk-ins, but it's wise to make a reservation. You'll have to trust in the universe – and Crawford and Kirk – that you'll be satisfied without a predictable menu. We would barely consider this risky behavior, with the culinary expertise that soaks through every course.
Desserts are delightfully on point, the kind of sweetness that encourages you to put your fork down to emit a deep sigh.
Studies say that low lighting in restaurants makes you eat more, so watch out — Photo courtesy of Ruby Watchco
This is not only the time to be in Toronto, but also the time to be eating in Toronto. Toronto is quickly becoming a culinary destination.
"When I started my culinary career, I left Toronto. Travel is always so great for a chef to develop their foundation," explains Crawford. "Coming back to Toronto, there is such a talent pool here of chefs that are exploring different avenues. It is so multicultural and driven. Everyone is loving food and wine!"
If you fit into that category (loving food and wine), Ruby Watchco is a must. If you don't fit into that category, we may have less in common than we thought.