Foxley Bistro is new, yet it still has a past. The menu is fresh, but not without its own unique history. Foodies all over Toronto are excited about it, but somehow still a bit skeptical.
So why the double edged sword? Why the odd sense of unease? Well here's the story kids: Foxley's chef and owner Tom Thai has already made a reputation in this city. He started at Cafe Asia, then moved to Youki where he worked under chefs Camilo Costales and Andrew Chase, who have been highly respected for bringing real Asian fusion to Toronto.
Then later on, he started doing sushi at Canoe, then much of the same (though quite a bit more creatively) at the highly regarded Tempo (now renamed Mini-Market by Tempo). And now finally, after a year spent travelling in search of inspiration, Tom Thai has returned with Foxley Bistro.
Why must I always choose dimly lit restaurants to review? Does that say something about me psychologically? ANYWAY, please excuse the graininess of the photos. I'll make my best effort to make up for it in pure writing awesomeness.
First up, lamb and duck proscuitto dumplings. This is a winner for sure. Meaty and rich on the inside, crispy on he outside, with a nice vinegary Japanese dipping sauce to even everything out. A perfect start to the meal.
Up next was one of my favorites for sure: sea bream ceviche with yuzu and shiso leaf. Historically, Thai has always been more known for his raw dishes, so this was a no brainer for me. Clean and fresh with a nice hit of citrus from the yuzu and some strong herbal aromatics from the shiso (sorry if that sounded a little pretentious... I just LOVE yuzu and shiso... reminds me of Japan). After this dish, I almost wish I'd tried the other two ceviche items on the menu, but for a first visit we decided to take the more eclectic route.
I don't really remember ordering this one, but it turned out to be a great little salad of blue crab and avocado. This one probably screamed "Thai" the most out of all our orders through the addition of a number of prominent and spicy sauces fighting on top of the melow crab and avocado. This one had some really interesting "bites" to it, and I really love dishes like that. Each would change based on how you'd scoop it, and where all the ingredients would dispense themselves.
This might have been the most disappointing of all the dishes: roasted duck breast with umeboshi and a port reduction. This isn't to say that it was a terrible dish by any stretch of the word. It just turned out to be one of those dishes that doesn't at all live up to the words that decribe it on the menu. The duck was very nicely roasted, but when I read "port reduction" and "umeboshi" I'm expecting really big and prominent flavours. What we ended up with was a very mellow and simply unexciting dish. Oh well, can't win them all right?
Here's another one that really brought me back to Japan: grilled Japanese pike mackerel with yuzu-ponzu sauce. Now here's an item that basically promised simplicity and gave just that. Fresh whole fish, grilled, with a nice crisp citrus sauce to lighten things up. Not much else to say except this: fish tastes better grilled whole!
And of course I couldn't forget their spicy frog's legs, with poblano peppers and szechwan spices. I'm actually kind of embarassed to admit that this was my FIRST EVER taste of frog's legs... I know, I know... a sacriledge for a true lover of food to have gone this long without trying them. But I'm glad I chose Foxley as the place to try them. Moist and spicy and crispy on the outside. Just plain delicious.
Another item that we ordered later on (after a few more glasses of wine) was the grilled side ribs with a caramelized shallot glaze. I think the vino might have gotten me a little over-excited though, because I dove right in, completely forgetting to take a photo. Either way, I must tell you that this dish was truly a highlight of the evening.
The ribs on their own were as tender as you could imagine, just jumping off the bone. And the sauce was thick, dark and sweet, and screaming with all sorts of flavours that just left you in amazement trying pinpoint each of them. Is it molasis? Cloves maybe? Pickled ginger? Anise? In the end we gave up and simply remained thankful for the sick and creative individual who was ambitious enough to bring all these flavours together in one dish. Okay, I better stop writing about the ribs now, because I'm this close (picture my thumb and first finger about a millimetre apart) to biking over there right now.
So all in all, yes, I would definitely recommend giving Foxley a try. All items on the menu are meant to be shared (as we gladly did) and they range quite dramatically from around $5.00 to $22.00. So based on some cleverly planned choices, it's actually quite possible to grab a bite with some friends and stay under budget. But if you're one of those lucky few with little to no budget constraints, try their $22 grilled monk fish with basil chimichuri and baby arugula and tell me how it was, would you? Please and thank you.