Alo Restaurant is on the third floor of the building that houses Hero Burger at the southeast corner of Spadina and Queen. It's the newest endeavour from chef Patrick Kriss (ex- Acadia ) and general manager, Amanda Bradley (ex- George ) and it's intent on reviving long, lingering multi-course meals.
Formerly a dress shop and modelling agency, the newly built restaurant was designed by Commute Home and Biography. Upon exiting the elevator (or stairwell), the 20-seat bar greets guests.
It's here, against a backdrop of bottles on brass shelves, that bar manager John Bunner mixes up classic cocktails like Tilting at Windmills ($15), a frothy blend of Tanqueray, Bols Genever, Seville orange and lemon.
Those with commitment issues can cobble together a meal at the bar where the list of small plates includes savoury and sweet selections like crudites ($8), epi pretzel with wildflower honey ($8), and pate choux with chantilly cream ($3 each).
Further inside, past the open kitchen, there's an intimate dining room with seating for just 36 at eleven tables. Its a luxe atmosphere swathed in cool greys and blues and accented with warm woods and brass light fixtures.
Set aside at least two hours for the multi-course tasting menu priced at $89 person. There are four savoury courses and dessert, but guests should expect a few surprises from the kitchen along the way.
Less rigid than most tasting menus, diners will find that the experience plays out like a "choose your own adventure." Tables are bare upon arrival and it's not until diners select between two options offered per course that flatware and linens are laid out on the table.
Without spoiling all the delightful surprises let me touch on a few highlights starting with the tangy buttermilk sorbet served with fresh peas (per the season), presented freshly shucked, puréed and dehydrated.
Somewhere around the second course, there's a luscious veal trotter broth with cured cockscomb and king oyster mushrooms. It's covered with shaved wisps of cured and frozen Quebec foie gras and is deliciously captivating. I fully have a moment with this dish - it commands my full attention and I find myself closing my eyes as I lose track of the conversation around me.
The final savoury course features braised lamb topped with a brunoise of preserved lemon and pickled ramp stems, which are paired with yogurt and a bright medley of raw veg including turnip, treviso and peas. A swoosh of anchovy and garlic purée finishes the dish for final hit of umami.
On the way to dessert, we're treated to a white asparagus sorbet with a sprinkle of nutty, peppery amaranth and an ultra thin caramel tuile.
Then to finish, there's a strawberry crème bavaroise with compressed berries paired with the distinct herbal flavours of celery and hibiscus.
Service is attentive and Sommelier Anjana Viswanatha is ever present to assist with wine selections. Vegetarians will find themselves well looked after too with a dedicated tasting menu, while vegans can be accommodated with 24 hours notice. Reservations are advised.
Photos by Jesse Milns