Alder is Ace Hotel Toronto's in-house restaurant that specializes in wood-fired cooking and coastal Mediterranean flavours with a menu designed by chef Patrick Kriss.
A Torontonian at heart, Kriss has trained abroad at Michelin-recognized restaurants starting in New York at Restaurant Daniel under chef Daniel Boulud and in France at Régis Marcon and La Maison Troisgros.
Located on the ground level of the Ace Hotel, Alder is tucked below the Lobby Bar. Clad in varying shades of wood, the open structure is filled with wood details including dining tables and cocktail bar tops that are made from Sapele. The restaurant's furnishings were designed by Atelier Ace and include a series of reupholstered vintage pieces that give the space a slight retro feel.
The room has three giant concrete columns on the east side of the restaurant and an airy space above the tables. On the opposite side, double-height windows draw in natural light during the day.
You can really appreciate Alder's warm atmosphere at night between the glow of custom light fixtures made by architecture firm Shim-Sutcliffe and those chosen by Atelier Ace.
At the far end of the restaurant, a copper-coated black wood bar top caters to guests who wish to grab a quick bite and a cocktail.
For drinks, I recommend the Iceberg Fiction ($18). Made from Select Aperitivo, jalapeno-infused Blanco tequila, and fresh citrus, the drink has notes of almond from orgeat and hits you first with mild heat before setting into a punchy tequila sour.
While the menu is built by Kriss, Ace Hotel Toronto's executive chef Devin Murphy runs the everyday show from Alder's wood-fire grill. The latter sits in the middle of the open kitchen and is where most of the traditional Mediterranean-inspired dishes - with flavours from Spain, Greece, Morocco, and Italy - are prepared.
You can see and hear the chefs chop, sear, sauté, and even answer "yes, chef" from the open kitchen.
I tried the Cucumber and Melon salad ($20) which I found balanced and tasty.
There are the savoury flavours from the Serrano ham, sweetness from the Santa Claus Melon, jalapeno spice, plus a cooling sensation from both the mint and yogurt sauce.
The Roasted Red Pepper Carpaccio ($16) is Alder's take on a Macedonian pepper salad. Here, red peppers are marinated in olive oil and salt, then lightly grilled in the wood-fired oven.
Dressed with tangy anchovy dressing, the dish is finished with chilli, fried parsley, garlic chips, and black olives.
The highlight for me was the Suckling Pig ($32). The kitchen roasts whole pigs in a large wood-fired oven before breaking them down into juicy, melt-in-your-mouth pieces.
Bits of crispy pork skin add contrasting textures to the supple meat which is covered in a sauce made from the bones. The dish comes with a side of charred corn relish that's seasoned with herbs and lime juice.
The Grilled Sea Bream ($38) features an incredibly fresh piece of gilt-head bream that's been de-boned, flattened, and cured to dry out the skin.
Cooked in the wood-fired oven, its skin is slightly charred to create a crispy texture that's a pleasant contrast to the tender flesh. The fish sits on a vibrant pool of saffron vinegarette which I found added a nice pop of colour to the plate.
The Half Grilled Chicken ($34) is another one of my favourite dishes. It's roasted for a couple hours over the fire.
Juicy chicken thigh, breast and wing are dressed in harissa jus that gives the meat enough heat to please spice lovers without overwhelming those intolerant to it.
There are drop peppers which add sweetness to the dish, but I enjoy spreading the house-made harissa on the chicken.
Alder is located on the side of Brant Street near Adelaide Street West. You can take a peek of the lower level dining room from the street.