The Best Charcuterie Plates in Toronto
The charcuterie craze overtook Toronto restaurants less than five years ago, when an interest in local food and traditional methods drove chefs into back rooms to start making their own prosciutto, salami, bresaola, sopressata and sausage. In essence it's an expression of the cult of the pig, which began thriving when chefs sourced their own Berkshire, Yorkshire, Hampshire and Saddleback hogs, carefully finished with acorns, whey and grains. To most people, though, it's a plate of cold cuts and pickles.
Chefs are competitive by nature, and the result has seen the humble pig joined by duck, horse and bison on the wooden charcuterie boards of restaurants, as kitchens try to outdo each other with ever more distinct flavours. It's also a celebration of fat, in thick rinds and ivory veins full of smoke and spice and salt, but it tends to scare away those who would eat to stay thin but not happy.
Ten years ago you probably couldn't have scared up a half dozen charcuterie plates across the length and breadth of the city. Today, there's a richness of choice that will probably grow as chefs try to nudge each other in the ribs with the quality of their wild boar prosciutto and venison salami.
Here's a look at 12 of Toronto's best:
Chef and co-owner Grant van Gameren has garnered the respect of his peers in less than a year at this wildly popular Dundas West restaurant that advertises its charcuterie and serves up a constantly revolving selection of in-house specialties. What’s amazing is that Black Hoof has made its name selling such a challenging selection of charcuterie, from the horse bresaola and baby goat salami to tongue, pig’s ear, and brain tortelli. Van Gameren’s long board also comes loaded with more simply satisfying cuts, like the bison and blueberry salami and his sopressata, with its big, creamy chunks of fat. More »
Cava’s austere platter comes with a generous side of bread and pickles, and features a chorizo loaded with hefty spice and a duck bresaola that’s hung to dry for almost two months. There’s a lot going on in the pork and duck terrine – a complex slice of fowl mixed with Berkshire pig that will reward you for the trip to midtown. More »
This Harbord eatery’s charcuterie plate is the most summery, from the dense chicken liver parfait to the sweet pickled beets and the jam-like maple and tarragon mustard, but the star is the buttery, alabaster-white layer of fat capping the pork shoulder rillette. No two chefs make their speck – an alpine cured ham – the same way, and Loire’s is a particularly subtle version, but chef Jean-Charles Dupoire says that theirs will be giving way to a house-made prosciutto by the fall at the earliest. More »
Charcuterie often seems like a butch culinary pursuit, but the Harbord Room boldly offers a remarkably dainty selection of flavours, centred around a scoop of impeccably light, ice-cream-like chicken liver parfait. They break the mold even more with an olive-oil poached fried egg, and a pig’s head terrine with delicate trumpet mushrooms, and a few morsels of currant compote with a Riesling jelly that they really should consider bottling for sale. More »
It’s appropriate that this barn board-lined space should serve such a rustic plate of cured meats, featuring a hand-cut and pressed farmer’s sausage from local Mennonites and a cured pork loin with some impressive spicy heat. The wild boar and black truffle dried sausage is more reserved, and the chicken liver and Grand Marnier pate is positively aristocratic in this context. More »
The charcuterie plate at this Bay Street fixture is a very civilized affair indeed, from the perfect Parma ham to the sweet salami and the spicy sopressata, neither of which stray too far into extremes. There’s a big dollop of grainy mustard and a little pile of fleur de sel to help you season everything according to your own tastes, as befits any lion or lioness of commerce. More »
It was a Queen St. fixture when it was a derelict storefront, and its presence hasn’t diminished as an eatery, thanks to high standards such as those that produced the frothy but intense chicken liver mousse with Chinese five spice to the duck breast cured with juniper berries, with its lovely rind of flavourful fat. Everything is made in house, with an emphasis on dry-cured meat, such as the paper-thin bresaola and the emphatic wild boar prosciutto. More »
The Drake is a hip place, but there’s nothing coy about their charcuterie plate, which aims to please in size alone. The emphasis is on dry-cured meats – two kinds of prosciutto and an intense bundnerfleisch lead the way – along with forthright flavours like the spicy horse salami and the thick slab of maple smoked bacon that I could taste for days. Extra points for the big slices of grilled corn bread. More »
The meats are outsourced at this Broadview Village eatery, but they hail from points east – Bulgaria to be precise, and they have names like spekov, selski, deboya and chabi, and taste darkly of salt and smoke, mustard and paprika. PicNic keeps a large selection which you order a la carte. The spicy selski is assertive, but it’s the milder salamis and sausages that have more complex flavours, and go very nicely with the sweet fig goat cheese. More »