Sunday morning was cold, snowy and dreary so it only seemed logical to brave this ridiculous April weather for some brunch. We headed down to Dufferin and Dundas to try brunch at Antler with our friends Renée and Sean.
Photo Credit: BlogTO’s review of Antler
Antler is unassuming from the street: the restaurant’s frontage is a large, simple window surrounded by what is now black painted wood and with simple yellow block letters spelling out the restaurant’s name. The large window looks immediately on to bar seating at the window, allowing passers-by on the street to be tempted by the beautiful food inside. The restaurant has that cozy, hipster restaurant vibe that has exploded all over Toronto: exposed brick walls, pew seating, simple textiles, large reflective surfaces to give the illusion of a larger restaurant and industrial lighting.
Antler’s tagline is “Inspired Canadian Cuisine. Regional Ingredients.” which was part of the reason for choosing it. I’m always intrigued by restaurants that are trying to help create a national cuisine by using local and seasonal ingredients. The menu features ingredients like boar, bison, foraged mushrooms and foraged black walnuts. These ingredients are hearty, abundant and reflective of the country they are made in. They can also be used in a variety of different ways, highlighting their versatility and range of flavours and textures.
Renée ordered the House Baked Granola (pictured clockwise to the right).
Note: I have started following chocojanna on Instagram because everything is beautiful, Toronto and food which are my three favourite things.
The House Baked Granola with Greek yogurt, foraged black walnuts, almonds, and wild blueberry compote.
I know what you are thinking. “Audrey, how are you friends with someone who comes to brunch and just orders granola?!” But don’t worry – we all passed judgement on Renée for coming to brunch and ordering granola. And when she saw our plates she regretted her decision. But to her credit, if you are going to order granola at brunch, this is the granola to do it for. The yogurt is creamy and silky, the nuts add a woody texture and taste to the granola and the blueberry compote is sweet and tart at the same time.
Giancarlo and Sean ordered the Eggs Benedict.
The Eggs Benedict with House smoked roast pork belly, poached eggs, English muffin and hollandaise sauce with home fries.
Seeing two servings of this dish arrive to the table and not one of them being mine was one of the most depressing moments in my life. Ok, well that statement is mostly hyperbole but it was disappointing that I didn’t get to eat this.
The guys loved their dishes. GC said that the pork was smoky, fatty and tender. The egg was actually sous vide (a way of cooking that seals the ingredient in an airtight plastic bag and then it is cooked in a water bath that is maintained at a consistent temperature. This allows the food to cook evenly throughout – this I actually knew) rather than poached. The result was the egg had been reduced just to the yolk, there was hardly any white left with the egg and the yolk had the creamy texture of cream cheese.
I ordered the Game Burger.
The Game Burger with wild boar, bison, deer, hot mustard, garlic aioli, and house smoked cheddar.
I obviously ordered this because it featured all the wild meat. The various fattiness of the three types of meat resulted in a juicy and balanced burger. The patty was at least an inch thick, seared to a nice, even crisp on the outside and left juicy and pink on the inside. The juices ran wild with each bite, drenching the bun and plate, to be sopped up by the accompanying French fries.
My favourite part of the burger was the hot mustard and the house smoked cheddar. The mustard added a tangy heat to the burger and the granular texture of the mustard was like crunching on tiny pieces of roe on top of sushi. The cheddar was smoky and velvety, melting on top of the burger and dripping down the sides of the burger.
The accompanying fries were obviously made in house, and were tiny shoe strings that were crispy on the outside and soft and starchy on the inside. They were sprinkled with a touch of salt and thyme, adding that slightly minty flavour and bringing out the earthiness of the potato and the early tastes of spring that are trying to push through depths of April snow.
I instantly fell in love with this restaurant. I love the idea of a restaurant challenging the ideas or lack of idea what Canadian cuisine is, bringing in local ingredients and fusing them together with the multicultural nature of Canada. There is a rustic quality to eating game meat and foraged ingredients but it is much more comfortable to do it in a cozy restaurant on Dundas West rather than in the deep and isolated woods of Canada. Canadian flavours should be accessible to anyone not just those who can channel their inner Susanna Moodie and rough it in the bush. I will definitely be returning to this restaurant for brunch to see if it can push its way into my top 10 brunches in the city. And I definitely want to return and try dinner. This will need to happen at some point in the near(ish) future because the menu is too tempting to ignore, but will have to be reserved for special occasions with special people since the price tag is a little steep. Brunch is the (relatively) more affordable option but both are so tempting and will have to happen again in 2016.