Know that saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Forget that saying. Here are four chefs throwing culinary caution to the wind with their own takes on classic dishes.
1. Salt-cod donuts
The twist here goes both ways—are chef de cuisine Stephen Pynn’s savoury rings a take on classic croquettes, or are they renegade donuts? Made with a choux paste and soaked, poached salt cod, the appetizer is a nod to both Pynn’s Newfoundland roots and to Toronto’s Portuguese and Spanish communities. He also pokes a hole in the croquettes (which are traditionally formed into a ball) to make them that much more Canadian. Try dunking these beignet aberrations in Bannock’s buttermilk-and-dill dressing—not coffee. Definitely not coffee.
$7. 401 Bay St., 416-861-6996.
2. Kentucky fried hen
This Queen West watering hole likes ’em young: They use Cornish hens—a.k.a. immature chickens—for their bar snack. Co-owner Fan Zhang chanced upon this recipe one day when the market was out of fryer chickens, and hens proved to be worthy (and more tender) understudies. The bitty birds are brined for 24 hours, then cooked sous-vide, and finally dipped in buttermilk and a Southern-style dredge before being fried and served with a side of watermelon. The KFH isn’t always available, but don’t get your feathers ruffled—it makes frequent appearances on the rotating menu.
$8. 1168 Queen St. W., 647-748-1599.
3. Spaghetti and beef-tongue meatballs
3030 Dundas West
These particular meatballs come straight from the cow’s taste buds to yours. Chef Adisa Glasgow had “been messing around with tongue for a little bit” (yes, those were his words)—smoking it, pickling it, slicing it for sandwiches—when some overcooked tongue threw a wrench in his plans. Instead of wasting his product, Glasgow blitzed it and made these offal orbs. The result are light and airy bites that, he says, aren’t heavy and chewy like pork meatballs, and instead “fall apart in your mouth.” Find them on the chef’s house-made pasta with tomato sauce.
$12. 3030 Dundas St. W., 416-769-5736.
4. Kale Caesar salad
Parts & Labour
All kale Caesar! These surrogate leafy greens sub for romaine in chef Matty Matheson’s spin on the classic salad. Why? According to Matheson, “Kale is the coolest thing in the world right now,” and, even more to the point, “it sells.” The kitchen finely shreds the kale, then tosses it in a buttermilk, anchovy, and pecorino dressing. Into the bowl go lemon segments, golden raisins, and butter-roasted croutons. The Caesar has never been the healthiest of salads (note the repetition of the word “butter’” in this preparation), but kale is a nutritional powerhouse, so suck it, lettuce!
$10. 1566 Queen St. W., 416-588-7750.