Brassaii was a hot-spot for international celebrities during TIFF earlier this month, with the likes of Natalie Portman, Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Jeremy Renner, John Legend and Mireille Enos, walking down their very own cobble-stoned carpet, leading to the Mediterranean restaurant. This sophisticated joint also doubles up as a nightclub during downtown’s liveliest hours.
The restaurant, named after August Hallux Brasaï, mirrors the photographer’s taboo ideologies by creating recipes that are refined yet edgy. With a recent menu revamp, we dived into some of Executive Chef Marcus Monteiro’s favourite dishes.
The first course served was a one-of-kind, salad; a sous-vide octopus that has been brined for 3 days. Each ingredient is infused with a different flavour; the potato is whipped in duck fat, paper-thin guanciale crisps have a cinnamon flavour, and the Warner’s greens are dressed with balsamic vinegar. A butternut squash purée decorates the base, toning down the vinegar’s acidity on the palate.
Octopus salad ($22) Mediterranean brined octopus, olives, duck fat confit potatoes, crispy guanciale (jowl)
The caviar, cod and corn is an intricate appetizer where every bite has a fresh, yet salty pop to it. One can play around with the presentation by collecting the berry pickled grilled corn, seedlings, greek yogurt, and the accented red pepper together onto the slices of squid-ink cured fish.
Caviar, cod, & corn ($18) Sturgeon caviar cured black cod, berry pickled grilled & creamed corn, greek yogurt, seedlings
In contrast to the latter dish, the forager’s toast is an all-round burst of flavour. Lavished with chanterelle mushrooms, black truffle shavings, goat’s butter, crumbled goat’s cheese, thyme, and a touch of truffle oil, this toasted brioche will leave you foraging for it long after the meal.
One of the lighter mains is the Wild Salmon; a medium-cooked coho fillet that falls apart tenderly on a bed of roasted lemon potatoes. It is complemented with a lemon vinaigrette seedling salad and a sun-dried tomato purée providing tartness.
One of the chef’s favourite protein dishes is the Venison Tenderloin, which is hidden within crispy kale chips, and plated over a creamed corn purée. The components look simple, but the complexity of the tastes from the sweet viscous maple & squid glaze and potato gnocchi are phenomenal.
The King crab legs stand tall over a creamy lemon butter risotto in the King Crab Risotto dish. The crab was fork tender in contrast to the al dente pasta, and is garnished with Grana Padano cheese – one that tastes similar to parmesan – and chives.
Much to my surprise, my favourite main course was the Chicken. The smooth creamy fregola couscous is a texture that mixes well with the Italian sausages, peppers, and smoked ham hock. If the executive chef has this on the regular, you know it’s good.
Chicken – ($26) Italian sausage, smoked ham hock, creamy fregola, heirloom carrot
Their menu items are truly manifestations of the fruits of their labour; their compotes and charcuterie meats are made in-house, the cheeses are aged in the kitchen, and many of the ingredients are locally foraged.
Dessert is carefully curated by none other than Pastry Chef Mark Cheese, a Pastry Chef Instructor at both George Brown and Humber College. Not only aesthetically pleasing, but also pleasant to taste, a great amount of emphasis on the details is put to each boozy masterpiece. Each ingredient is tweaked with a unique flavour and gives off varying textures to satisfy the sweet tooth. Our top two picks are the Chocolate Mille Feuille and the Lemon Rosemary Macarons. The white chocolate ice cream is to die for!
Hazelia Cheesecake ($14) Warm gingered apple sticks, hazelnut crumble, cognac ice cream
Chocolate Mille Feuille ($15) Café au lait semi freddo, caramelized oranges, marscapone marsala cream
Chocolate Raspberry Cake ($15) Dark chocolate cake, Chambord ganache, beetroot-raspberry ice cream, crunchy caramel white chocolate base, cream cheese sauce
Lemon Rosemary Macarons ($16) Three-chocolate icecream, black cherry sauce
Even their cocktail menu is well-thought out by Mixologist and General Manager Orlando Carreira, where each drink has a multitude of dimensions. A deserving mention goes to one of their newest cocktails called Valley Girl, in conjunction with the American Airlines and Hollywood Reporter. Based off of Los Angeles, the recipe for this watermelon and mango concoction took the longest in perfecting. It is essentially a vibrant mango that deepens the alcoholic taste paired with a watermelon shrub – a syrupy version of the fruit.
My Crooked Heart ($16) Revel stoke spiced whisky, rumchata, barolo chinato, egg white, angostura hearts
Valley Girl ($17) (Los Angeles) Bacardi maestro de ron, ancho reyes, watermelon shrub, mango nectar, lime, salt and pink peppercorn rim
Heathrow Express ($17) (London Airport) Bombay sapphire gin, clarified lemon juice, lavender syrup, house botanical fizz
Flight of the Concordes ($19) (New Zealand plane) Grey goose le citron, villa marla lightly sparkling wine, clarified lemon, kiwi, sage, basil
Brassaii, in a word, is innovation. Refined aesthetics. Daring flavours. Simply put, an “avant-garde” dining experience.
Photos by Nick Lee