Just shy of one “a” on his last name, Chef and restauranteur Scott Vivian of Beast could be considered my “compadre”. Yet this pseudo compadre prides himself on bringing what he calls “Ontario Soul Food” to a city that longs for setting a higher bar in the food scene, as he more or less explained to Anthony Bourdain during a Toronto Layover episode.
Beast is the 4 year-old post by the Vivians. A restaurant that features nose-to-tail and farm-to-fork meals in a nonchalant way. The venue itself is decorated with intriguing art pieces that would make you second guess your meal, hopefully in a good way. The wooden tables and chairs are small and have a rusty look to them.
The menu is contentious with unapologetic descriptions that are meant to test your waiter’s knowledge of the food. Items are meant to be shared and though they don’t claim to be a “tapas” restaurant, they certainly make it a point to serve extremely small plates. Service is once again nonchalant, but nonetheless cordial.
The Smoked Mackerel is a 4 bite plate that comes served with rosti; in other words potatoe hash in the shape of a triangle. The smokiness of the fish is defiant, strong and tasty. The smoked fish sits on a bed of house-made sour cream and is topped with dill. Combining all ingredients into one bite is the perfect way to enjoy this dish.
The Rainbow Trout Gravlax is good but the least favourite from the menu items. Unfortunately the taste of the trout alone meant nothing, unless mixed with the outstanding kobeyaki vinagrette that was beautifully smothered all over the plate with sesame oil.
On the other hand, the Grilled Octopus stood out on it’s own with or without the romesco sauce in which it sat. The tentacled squid was perfectly grilled and seasoned. Accompanied by roasted potatoes and pickled quail eggs, this dish hit all marks when it came to taste, seasoning and combination of ingredients.
The expertly cooked Wild Boar Loin sat on a bed of grilled cauliflower, topped with what potentially tasted like a sour plum sauce. The loin was tender and rich with a semi-burnt layer that allowed for the juiciness of the meat to be contained. The grilled cauliflowers were a perfect accompaniment to the dish balancing out the strong taste of the meat.
Foodie Tip: Head to Beast with an open mind but not an open stomach. The dishes are rather small and prices are steep, but they are definitely worth a try.
Until next time Foodies!
Venue: Beast Restaurant
Location: 96 Tecumseth Street, Toronto, Ontario
Menu items: Smoked Mackerel, Grilled Octopus, Rainbow Trout Gravlax & Wild Boar Loin