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Restaurants

Luma

Posted by Derek Flack / Reviewed on September 6, 2010 / review policy

Luma TorontoLuma isn't officially open yet -- that'll come on September 12 -- so let's call this a first look rather than an actual review (i.e. general impressions and no comments on prices or service). But, quite the first look it was. Although the menu is still being tweaked, the dishes that I tried left me with little doubt that film festival goers will be pleased with what's on offer.

Located directly above O & B Canteen, Luma is Oliver & Bonacini's upscale offering at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Under the guidance of Executive Chef Jason Bangerter (formerly at Auberge du Pommier), the restaurant will seat around 130 and an additional 100 at the soon-to-be-finished lounge area, both of which feature floor-to-ceiling windows that face King Street just west of John. There will also be an event space called Malaparte (a clever reference to Godard's Contempt, which includes a number of scenes set at Casa Malaparte), but it won't open until sometime next year.

With the sophisticated and understated decor -- lots of mirrors, wood and leather -- Luma will be a natural destination for celebrity and corporate types during the festival and beyond. During my stay, I spotted TIFF Director and CEO Piers Handling and his co-director Cameron Bailey taking in the new space, which one can imagine will be very busy in about a week.

Luma TorontoAlthough the menu my party ordered from lacked extensive descriptions of each dish -- the beef tenderloin, for instance, was labeled as just that, nothing more -- I did get a chance to sample quite a bit of food. I started with tuna tartare, which was served with a delicate tomato water and just the right amount of ginger, vaguely hinting at an Asian influence, but without allowing it to overpower the dish. The gentle acidity keeps things light, while the tuna is just hefty enough -- unlike, say, salmon -- to recall the more beefy origins of the dish.

Recalling the superb Caesar salad at Biff's, my companion orders Luma's version and is not disappointed, calling the dressing the best that she's had. The presentation is elegant -- sadly, I don't have a photo -- featuring a head of romaine lettuce sliced horizontally (at around the halfway point) along with a quail's egg, thin shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano, lardon, and a few croutons. The one bite I'm offered turns into three, as I'm more than a little impressed by the creamy, garlicky goodness that is the dressing.

I also try the raw scallop ceviche (served as an amuse bouche rather than an appetizer), which rivals the tuna for its delicacy and subtle acidity. The scallop is served rolled out (for lack of a better description), and offers the most wonderful little hint of celery courtesy of a few tiny leaves sprinkled over top. Equally refreshing is the cold melon soup my partner enjoys, its fresh mint flavours rubbing up against the sweetness of the fruit.

Luma TorontoI play it conservative with my main, ordering a beef tenderloin dish that's quite similar to the one on the menu at Auberge (perhaps not surprising given Bangerter's time there). Served atop a bed of mushrooms and a few morsels of braised beef -- I would guess cheek or rib -- with a Bordelaise sauce, it's executed flawlessly. And, at roughly two inches thick, the beef is even more buttery-tender than I expect.

Luma TorontoThe boneless rack of lamb, which I do not try, I'm told is equally impressive. Indeed, all the folks at the table are delighted with their mains, which include a baked salmon, ricotta gnocchi in a tomato sauce, and a generous (out of the shell) lobster dish. I'll aim to provide more information about these dishes once the restaurant officially opens.

Luma TorontoDessert, which I rarely partake in, is a pleasant surprise. Much of the table orders the Opera Cake, the accompaniments of which reference the cinema-oriented surroundings. Along with the cake, one receives pop corn-flavoured ice cream served on a bed of chocolate Pop Rocks and a small serving of homemade caramel corn. It's a playful dish, and the Pop Rocks and ice cream create a reaction in my mouth that puts a smile on my face.

Come to think of it, pretty much everything else I tried did that too. Luma, I suspect, will quickly win over the TIFF crowds upon its opening.

Photography by Andrew Norman.

Discussion

9 Comments

Opus / September 7, 2010 at 10:10 am
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Good review. I think that Lightbox is a great addition to the city. I have eaten brunch at the main floor restaurant. The omelette was exceptional.
snowy / September 7, 2010 at 10:22 am
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Looks nice, the photos of the lamb and dessert are making me hungry at 10am. Did KPMB design the restaurant interiors too? Also, how much for a dinner for two with wine/coffee? (I really wish reviewers would include that info on every post).
Derek replying to a comment from snowy / September 7, 2010 at 10:27 am
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Given that the restaurant is yet to open, pricing information isn't available at this time. The best that I can offer is that it looks like Luma will sit in between Canoe/Auberge and Biff's on the O & B spectrum.

When pricing does become available, I'll add that info to the post.
Le Corton / September 7, 2010 at 11:37 am
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Yes KPMB did the design for the space as well and what a fantastic job they did!
neonshaun / September 7, 2010 at 11:49 am
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looks like turtles.
i liked turtles.
JoJo / September 9, 2010 at 12:03 pm
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What about the cocktails? Obviously this is going to be a go-to fabulous night spot. Canoe and Aunberge have great drinks' lists. Is the same mixologist on board with Luma? JJ
MexinTo / September 16, 2010 at 01:20 pm
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I attended their lunch dry run invited by Richard Arnold, the GM. Imagine tasting around 18 dishes, was just one of the best experiences ever. Their tuna appetizer was just exquisite, was served on a bed of curried chickpeas. I’ve also tried their Caesar salad, absolutely divine. They also served a tomatoes/watermelon gazpacho that wasn’t that great. I’ve also tried a burrata appetizer with beats, that was my favorite. As for mains, the steak and frits were a delight, their duck omelet was Smokey and surprisingly creamy. As far as desserts, the opera cake was amazing, but by far their lemon tart was my favorite. They also served a champagne jelly with berries that was very refreshing. I really enjoyed trying their lunch menu and I can’t wait to go there for dinner.
Sonny / October 20, 2010 at 04:28 pm
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I went last week. I had the soup of the day (mushroom truffle bisque) and the omelette. The food was good but not great, though the service was excellent. The place is definitely lacking any kind of atmosphere or vibe, at least during lunch. It feels too big and soulless.
roland luma / January 18, 2011 at 09:07 am
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hello luma actually my last name is luma hehhe...ur restaurant is very nice..

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