Richmond Station is the highly anticipated first restaurant from last season's Top Chef Canada winner, Carl Heinrich and Ryan Donovan of the well-loved West Side Beef. The duo, who both left their respective positions at Marben earlier this year, have refreshingly modest aspirations; to be the neighbourhood restaurant in a neighbourhood that needs one. "This is isn't fine dining" Heinrich tells me, "it's buying good food, cooking it properly and putting it on a plate."
The space, formerly occupied by Asian-fusion restaurant, Yulla looks totally new inside. The dining room is relatively unadorned letting dark woods contrast with prominent white subway tiles and off-white walls that display oversized prints from the Toronto Archives. Upstairs, in the smaller dining room, we claim front row seats at the kitchen-facing chef's rail and have the opportunity to watch the kitchen staff at work and to chat with Heinrich – who is clearly comfortable in front of an audience.
The pantry menu is divided into sharing plates, appetizers and mains consists of only 15 or so dishes, plus an ever changing chalkboard of specials that features the seasonal, ingredient driven plates that Heinrich gained recognition for on TV and as executive chef at Marben.
The Roasted Beet Salad ($13) arrives dressed in a maple vinaigrette, and is perfectly balanced with crunchy, toasted hazelnuts and a delicious creamy, labneh-like, goat cheese.
From tonight's specials, comes the cold Smoked Kolapore Springs Trout ($24, lead photo), served warm atop a dollop of creamy soybean hummus, roasted sunchokes and topped with antipasto and watercress.
For dessert the Iced Hay Terrine ($9) sounds a little weird, but as pastry chef Farzam Fallah suggests, evokes an autumn hayride. It turns out to be exceptionally tasty, featuring an alfalfa hay-steamed semifreddo, caramelized apples, pumpkin and almond "soil" and apple chip garnishes.
Heinrich wants to keep the atmosphere and dining experience easy and fun, he's hoping Richmond Station will become a place to drop in for a quick burger and a beer or a destination for a 3-course meal with cocktails and wine. Currently the restaurant is open for dinner Monday through Saturday with talk of a lunch menu to be launched next month.
Photos by Jesse Milns