On The Plate
Brava, Burlington, Brava
There’s a lot of upside to writing restaurant reviews. You get to eat good food (obv.). You see trends develop. Your friends and family solicit your opinion as an expert. But there are downsides too. Sometimes the food isn’t good. Not all trends are worthy. And, most annoyingly after a while, even in a city as food-diverse as Toronto, the menus become a little repetitive.
So when it came time to pick a restaurant to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, we didn’t just want the “same old, same old”. And after a recommendation from a “foodie acquaintance” we found ourselves very much off the beaten path…in an alley off of a strip mall in Burlington, to be precise.
Blacktree is owned and operated by Chef Matteo Paonessa. He’s got a solid pedigree, having cut his teeth at such GTA stalwarts as Centro, The Fifth, Susur, Eigensinn Farm, and as sous chef at Oro. He wanted quality of life, so he left Toronto to pursue his dream of owning his own restaurant in Burlington.
This is an “occasion” restaurant, not a neighbourhood bistro. Once you come in from the alley, you find yourself in a showy modern room. The service is intimate and professional. There is pride in the food which is complicated and precise. The prix fixe meal ($80 per person) is composed of a series of six small courses, plus some amuse bouches and palate cleansers (and the option to include a foie gras course for $20).
Only three of the courses offer choices, and it is an either/or proposition. I can’t do the food proper justice by describing the dishes, each of which are meticulously prepared and consist of a multitude of unique ingredients. The compositions look like the dishes you see if watching Top Chef on the Food Network. The cooking is fussy, employing some molecular gastronomy techniques, yet in an approachable way. While the portions are small, we were not left hungry. The food tasted great and was truly unique. Blacktree is a treat for the culinarily adventurous.
So, the elephant on the page – Burlington. We live in the centre of Toronto. On a Saturday night it takes us approximately 20 minutes to drive downtown to Little Portugal, Parkdale etc. (much longer to Leslieville) to get to where the new Toronto restaurants are opening. It took us 40 minutes door to door to drive to Blacktree. I think it’s well worth the drive. But for the expense, you might want to consider taking a limo or Uber to get there so you can partake in the recommended wine pairings, order off the well-priced list and partake in the complimentary post-meal Limoncello. 3029 New St. & Guelph Line (Burlington) for more information: blacktreerestaurant.com