Jump – Toronto (Canada)

Jump, the first restaurant in the Oliver & Bonacini collaboration, was also the first in Toronto’s Financial District. It’s been around since 1993 and has been offering its globally inspired cuisine ever since. When I lived in Toronto I always worked uptown so many downtown restaurants escaped my attention. Fortunately, this was finally remedied.

The stunning restaurant is located in a glass atrium and boasts a beautiful bar, lighted liquor display, gorgeous lighting and courtyard patio. The décor is classic New York style with modern touches.

I loved the frog statues, surely a nod to the restaurant’s name. The jumping font on the logo and menu is clever too.

It’s also a popular place for special occasions. There was a wedding in a private room on the evening we were there but it did not intrude on our dinner. Service was impeccable and our waiter ensured no one was inconvenienced by the wedding party.

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Pie’za Pizzeria – Niagara-on-the-Lake (Canada)

Pie’za Pizzeria opened a little over a year ago in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a picturesque town and top tourist destination in Ontario. The restaurant was once a house and has been converted for commercial use. It’s a fitting location for a pizzeria that serves homestyle fare, namely Neapolitan pizza.

The Pie’za name is a reflection of this too. Even though it works with pie (as in pizza pie) and ‘za (slang for pizza), it’s really the colloquial pronunciation of paesano (paesà) that truly reflects the pizzeria’s ethos. The definition of paesano is “fellow countryman” but it also means “rustic, homey and genuine”.

This ethos is apparent in Pie’za Pizzeria’s menu as it follows the principles of the Vera Pizza Napoletana (VPN) movement, namely the use of certain types of ingredients, approved equipment and the traditional method of making pizza. Pie’za Pizzeria’s own version of Napoletana pizza includes specific ingredients such as Italian ‘00’ flour, San Marzano tomatoes and fior di latte (mozzarella cheese made from cow’s milk), a custom-made wood-fired oven from Naples and a trained/certified pizzaiolo (pizza chef). The dough is handmade daily using purified mineral water, single variety yeast and sea salt with a 24-hour natural fermentation process.

Photo courtesy of Pie’za Pizzeria

This background is all well and good but Pie’za Pizzeria really delivered on our visit. From the ease of booking through their website to the friendly service, it was a great experience from beginning to end. We sat at a lovely table by the window and took in the ambience with its colourful walls, interesting art, vibrant plates and even traditional good luck charms like the roguish figure Pulcinella and the corno (red horn) to ward off the evil eye. If you look closely at Pie’za Pizzeria’s logo, that little red horn serves as the apostrophe. Other playful details included a poster of Sophia Loren and the staff’s Straight Outta Napoli t-shirts.

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Momofuku – Toronto (Canada)

The Momofuku restaurant phenomenon, founded by Michelin-starrred chef David Chang, made its way to Toronto a few years ago and I finally had the chance to visit. Momofuku is adjacent to the Shangri-La Hotel and sits behind an astounding piece of public art created by celebrated artist Zhang Huan entitled “Rising”, a magnificent sculpture that rises over a reflective pool.

If that’s not impressive enough, Momofuku is located in an architecturally stunning three-storey glass cube. What can only be described as a complex, Momofuku comprises of five different concepts. There’s even a subtle map at the entrance to help find your way inside.

Momofuku boasts three restaurants. The Noodle Bar, with its communal tables and bar overlooking the open kitchen, is located on the ground floor. There’s also Daishō (steakhouse) and Shōtō (multi-course tasting menu) on the top floor.

The second floor is home to Nikai, a bar and lounge with food from the Noodle Bar’s menu. Also located on this floor is the Milk Bar, established by pastry chef Christina Tosi. This dessert shop is housed in a small refrigerated glass room.

We booked the Noodle Bar online through Momofuku’s website but it seemed they couldn’t find our reservation so we were shown to Nikai on the second floor. Actually, I’m not really sure what happened when we arrived as there was very little communication. Whether they had our reservation for the Noodle Bar but preferred to seat us in the bar and lounge or had no record of it, we’ll never know. Although we had a nice view overlooking the Noodle Bar below, we were seated on backless stools in a crowded corner so we immediately asked to change place as the stools would have been torture for Paulo’s chronic back problem. We were moved to the bar where the stools were much more comfortable but we had our backs turned to any kind of view of the surroundings. This was a bit disappointing until I realised that the very nice bartender would also take our food order so all was good. We had a captive audience… plus the cocktails were excellent!

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