Top Chef Canada victor Carl Heinrich and Marben butcher Ryan Donovan are set to open the doors to their first restaurant, Richmond Station (1 Richmond St. W. at Yonge), for dinner this Thursday.
With the interiors largely completed at the deceptively spacious former home of Yulla (a Korean restaurant), the staff is doing one last test dinner this Wednesday night. Surprisingly, this hole-in-the-wall—located beside a parking garage in the shadow of The Bay—seats 80.
“The menu is going to have four directions: shared snacks, appetizers, main courses, and desserts,” says Heinrich. “We encourage guests to start with a few sharing plates like oysters, charcuterie, or a lobster cocktail. We’re not fine dining. We serve food on wooden blocks and there are no linens, but we’re going to make sure the technique and service is there.”
The 27-year-old former Marben chef also says there will be a spin on the dish that helped him secure the Top Chef win: elk with homemade barbecue sauce and grilled eggplant. (He’ll be using wild boar at the restaurant.) For now, the place is just taking reservations for dinner but it will open for lunch later on with a similar menu that will also include pastas, sandwiches, and soups.
As the name implies, the decor is inspired by transit, as seen in the white subway tiles that line the dining room, the giant black-and-white photographs of the neighbourhood from the city archives, and the vintage TTC streetcar ads in the washrooms. A private dining room in the back also doubles as the kitchen pantry.
Heinrich and Donovan have talked about opening a restaurant together since attending Stratford Chefs School back in 2003. “We had the same kind of values and appreciated the same kind of food, but we had a lot to learn,” says Heinrich. After the two left Marben in February (Heinrich had already secretly won Top Chef), they immediately started looking for a space. “We had a focus just like any chef six months ago: on the west end between Queen and Dundas, Bathurst and Roncesvalles,” Heinrich admits. “But when this place came up, we both liked it and got the keys on July 20. It makes sense, because we can get a strong lunch and dinner crowd, and a drinks crowd as well.”
In keeping with the cooking for which Heinrich is best known, there will be strong focus on farm-to-table, ingredient-driven cuisine on menus that will change monthly. “My introduction to farm-to-table is heavily influenced by Ryan. When I learned to butcher and use the whole animal, and learned about soil and feed, it opened my eyes to a lot of cooking. While I was cooking in New York and Vancouver, Ryan was running The Healthy Butcher and out meeting farmers and being more aware of what’s available in Ontario. For as long as Richmond Station is open—and if I ever open another restaurant—the food will always be ingredient-focused.” —Karon Liu
Photos: Karon Liu/The Grid