The top 8 food trends in Toronto for 2012
The top food trends for 2012 reflect a diverse and eclectic restaurant scene drawing from many cultural influences. While previous years' trends such as nose-to-tail dining, locavore-focused menus, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, rustic Italian, Canadiana, gluten-free foods, cupcakes and whoopie pies are mostly still going strong, we're thankful for a new batch of food trends ready to mix things up this summer and beyond.
Here's a list of 8 food trends ready to take on Toronto.
Street food has arrived in Toronto in a big way in recent months. Loosely connected to the Food Truck movement but distinct in its own right, street food in Toronto has expanded beyond Indian and Pakistani eats to include a wide range of cultural influences and cuisines. Most notable are Avo (Portuguese street eats) and Kim's a La Cart (Korean), both part of the expanding vendor line-up at 214 Augusta. There's also Hawker Bar on Ossington, the just-opened restaurant that sells Singaporean street food and TUM vendors including ESE that cooks up LA style Mexican Food. This summer will also see the return of the Live Local Marketplace at Scadding Court. Cheap, tasty eats? This is a food trend I can get behind. (See also: The Street Food Block Party happening in May)
Can seafood really be a food trend? Its prevalence in the caveman diet is testament to the fact it's nothing new, but the wealth of seafood-focused restaurants that have recently opened in Toronto suggests our city is having a fish moment. Hopgood's Foodliner has introduced Roncesvalles locals to how Nova Scotians do things (the right way) and then there's Catch, a fish-heavy sister restaurant to the Rushton on St. Clair. Add to the mix Diana's Seafood Oyster Bar, Fishbar and a seafood heavy menu at Acadia and there's suddenly a seafood landscape in this city where not all roads lead to Rodney's.
Japanese pub food
Following in the obscenely successful footsteps of Guu and its Annex sibling Guu Sakabar, restaurateurs have taken notice that there's an appetite for Japanese food in Toronto beyond Dragon rolls. After a wave of wanna-be izakayas like Kokoni, Izakaya on College St and Fin, the Japanese pub food scene is set to soon rival Vancouver's with a number of west coast eateries scoping out Hogtown locations. 2012 has also seen the opening of Don Don Izakaya near Dundas and Bay and Masaru Ogasawara told us that Guu number 3 should be open by next winter.
To the surprise of the preternaturally shy, communal dining will really hit its stride in 2012. While communal (or long) tables have been surfacing for a while now at Toronto restaurants like the now-shuttered OddFellows or newbies like Ursa, this social experience is being amplified by outfits such as Dishcrawl, The Social Feed and soon-to-launch Foodies on Foot. It's enough for me to think that communal dining is the new dating site. LavaLife, you've been served notice.
Capitulating on the idea that transience builds desire, pop-up restaurants seem to have moved from fad to trend in recent months. The Secret Kitchen, a monthly pop-up evening showcasing innovative, several-course meals is just one of the many case studies here along with the increasingly ubiquitous Fidel Gastro. Long-time darling of the scene, La Carnita, has been selling tacos (er, art) for almost a year now but is rumoured to be settling in to a permanent kitchen soon.
The focus on natural foods shows no signs of waning, and given the war against chemical-laden pops, a move toward home-made sodas was inevitable. This year, look for more establishments to serve hand-made, all-natural artisan pops such as Cheesewerks' mix of simple syrup, fruit and carbonated water and Hey Meatball!'s fruit and veggie sodas or ginger ale (complete with bits of ginger). Not to be overlooked is The Federal Reserve's original takes on pop classics such as root beer, cream soda and cola. I might never drink Fanta again.
Food in jars
As any Dwell reader will attest to, now is the moment of the mason jar. These rustic-looking canning canisters are increasingly being used as serving dishes for food and drink around Toronto, and while it may seem to be a purely aesthetic trend, think of how it affects the dish as a whole. Yours Truly's whipped potato concoction releases wafts of cream and potato upon being opened, while Grand Electric's key lime vasos is perfectly suited to its mini-mason jar. Even at mini-chain Mercatto, I recently spied a conveyor belt of mason jars being prepped for dishes. Are plates passe?
Say what? Yes, Thai food's ugly sister will be surfacing in Toronto in a big way in 2012. You'll be tasting a lot more Filipino food thanks to Kanto from Tita Flips and Lamesa, a new Filipino kitchen opening soon in the old Rosebud space. Helmed by chef Rudy Boquila, the restaurant promises a full menu of richly spiced stews and other traditional Filipino eats. Now, we're just waiting for Max's Restaurant to open locations in Toronto proper.