*January 27, 2014 Update – The restaurant has closed down*
Let me start off by saying that I avoid dining in the Yorkville area code as a whole (save for Café Boulud @ the Four Seasons). The restaurants are more about ambiance and being seen than it is for good food.
DYNE on Avenue came across my radar when I had heard about the over-the-top Chef’s Last Meal; a 34 oz. ribeye with not one, but two lobes of foie gras, butter-poached lobster and all the fixings for $325 which owner and executive chef Richard Andino tells me has fed as little as two and as many as six.
The ambiance is relaxing, intimate and makes for a romantic date night. Sink into a plush velvet banquette while admiring the details of the décor (my favourite being the mirror above the bar which reflects the window and patio) of DYNE. The background music features a great list of throwback tunes from the 70s to 90s that will have you bopping in your chair while being just the right volume to still carry on conversation. The private dining room upstairs in this Victorian-house converted restaurant can host up to 46.
The menu divides appetizers into hot/cold and then leads into entrées listed by type of protein. The food is spun-off from Portuguese and Spanish classics and often feature an infusion of Asian flavours. The wine list highlights Portugal/Spain but you will find a few Ontario wines as well. The cocktail list makes it hard for one to decide which to get as they all sound delicious!
Andino, who is no stranger to the restaurant business (having started as a busser at the age of 19) and since worked his way up the ranks; all the way to executive chef at Mark McEwan’s North 44. In the kitchen is former Canoe sous-chef Julie Marteleira who shows that the kitchen is not just a man’s world.
Drawing from her Portuguese roots, she wows me with Sardines, served with egg, cherry gastrique, Serrano ham and chili-garlic rice. The combo sounds seemingly strange on paper but you won’t need any convincing once you’ve tasted it. The slight sweetness and tartness of the cherries works really well with the saltiness of the Serrano. The sardines are seared to a golden brown and the words “fishy” don’t even cross your mind.
The Pan Con Tomate is one of the best I’ve had as the freshness of the Heirloom tomatoes and simplicity of buttered bread served with thin slices of Serrano makes it hard to resist not filling up on carbs before the mains arrive.
The Smoked Oysters with chicarrón are served with pickled daikon and vinaigrette and the mesquite, tart and sweet elements come together really well.
For mains, the Angus Beef Ribeye with Asian chimichurri, scallions, Romesco, fingerlings, oyster mushrooms and sweet corn gives me a taste of what to expect when I return with my posse to experience the Chef’s Last Meal (which I am now even more convinced to do). The steak is seared to a perfect medium rare and the sweetness of the corn cuts some of the richness inherent in a steak.
On the lighter side of things, the Swordfish with bacon, pearl onions, parsley and egg which draw inspiration from traditional Spanish/Portuguese cod dishes. The bacon added great flavour to the dish.
Desserts feature items such as Pastel de Huevo; a sponge cake topped with almond cream which is a light way to end the evening. The only dilemma we have is trying to scrape off every bit of the sponge cake without eating the parchment paper that it so stubbornly clings to.
The Torrija is also a favourite of mine; caramelized brioche with whipped cream and sweet milk. At first glance, they look like pan seared scallops which gives me an idea for my next April Fool’s Day menu!
The dream team that sees Andino as entertaining host and Marteleira as tummy pleaser is definitely a win in my books. If you want to experience full-flavoured food and have a good time, then DYNE is the place to go.
“Ibericó ham is good, but when it costs $800 a leg and you have to charge for it…” says Andino and when “paying $40 for charcuterie and a glass of wine isn’t Toronto,” says Marteleira as we discuss why things like the famed Ibericó ham are not on the menu. DYNE’s philosophy is simply to cook good food and to make sure everyone has a good time. At the end of our discussion we all agree – good food is good food. You start with quality (not necessarily expensive) ingredients and it will do all the talking on the plate.