I have labeled Antonio Park as “a romantic restaurant.” Here, on the 51st floor of the Manulife Centre, at our lovely window-table-for-two, the city stretches out before us, glistening in the November rain and snow. Looking around this unusually comfortable space, discreet lighting over divisions of several cozy areas makes the entire room inviting, calm and dare I say: sexy.
“Please, please,” I pray to the gods of gastronomy,” let the food be wonderful.” We are indulging in a Chef’s Tasting Experience menu tonight with wine pairings for each course.A jewel-like amuse bouche of salmon tartare is paired with a flute of 2019 Funambul Cava Brut Nature, making a sincere promise of more to come. Bluefin Tuna Tataki is presented with a flourish. Tender, melting, deep red slices share the plate with a luscious sauce of togarashi oil, aji verde and wild puffed rice that adds a most delicate crunch. It would probably be rude to ask for seconds. This kimchi gyoza, shiny dumplings served in a steamer, pairs with carefully chosen Sho Chiku Bai, a silky mild Nigori Sake that was born for these flavours!
Leading the second course is an arrangement of pretty shrimp tempura maki with a hit of pickled jalapeño tempered with the softness of avocado, a dollop of caviar and aji verde. Wagyu Beef Tataki, tender as a lover’s smile, is enhanced with ginger and yuzu kosho vinaigrette. Crisp slivers of crisp Asian pear and garlic, are enjoyed between sips of chilled 2020 Domaine de Mauperthuis Chablis Goutte de Lune. Clearly, there is an intelligent sommelier at work here.
Hibiscus granita, a brilliant fuchsia palate cleanser, gives us the opportunity to sip the last of our wine.
The main course is the choice of the Chef. Omakase sashimi and nigiri are arranged like jewels on the plate with AP sauces, a marble of fresh wasabi, and crisp pickled ginger. Each morsel is its own little flavour trip. Strips of tender wagyu skirt steak are spread on the plate with a luscious glaze of sesame and Japanese peppercorn sauce. Lush and smooth 2019 Hess Estate Shirtail Ranches Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine that I’ve made a note of in my little black book.
Dessert? Absolutely. We will have both. Who could possibly say no to exotic Pavlova, a confection named after the famed ballerina. This rendition, a medley of tapioca coconut pudding, white chocolate Chantilly, mango sorbet, passionfruit and pineapple is worthy of her name. And Tout Chocolat fulfills the promise of its name with an explosion of chocolate: brownie, salted caramel, chocolate mousse, chocolate sorbet, pecans and almonds.
We could leave now, happily wined and dined, but wait. There is a final glass: Taylor Fladgate 20-year-old Tawny Port gives the evening its happy ending.
Sara Waxman, OOnt, is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.