When it comes to restaurant options, there’s no question that Toronto’s culinary offerings are diverse. In enRoute magazine’s article on the best new Canadian restaurants of 2012, six of the ten selected were Toronto-based, providing a snapshot of the city’s culinary depth and range. But when it comes to a focus on sustainable seafood, Toronto restaurants are just starting to shine, and Red Fish and Catch are two leaders in this market.
Catch Restaurant opened on St. Clair at Bathurst at the beginning of 2012. The first time I visited the restaurant, it was during mid-construction, with a busy Chef Nigel Finley in the thick of the dust planning his seafood sourcing most thoughtfully, selecting small artisanal fisheries and farms in Ontario and the East and West coasts for his ever-changing menu line-up. For example – if your group is large enough, you can order a six-pound Ocean Wise halibut (raised in a closed-system facility in P.E.I.) to share. On my visit, I opted for the two-and-a-half-pound Ocean Wise Arctic char for our party (raised in a closed-system facility in Nova Scotia). It arrived cooked to absolute perfection, covered with an impeccable sauce featuring candied dates, and the farm it was sourced from was listed directly on the menu. The restaurant exuded a sense of community and responsibility, and I felt just plain satisfaction.
Red Fish opened on College Street this past September. Chef David Friedman was trained at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, and learned about the Ocean Wise program as part of his culinary training. You won’t find ever-popular options such as salmon or halibut on this menu; Chef Friedman is showing us that there are so many other options that can shine. For example, with salt cod gaining popularity in Toronto (normally made with Atlantic cod, a notorious victim of overfishing and invasive fishing techniques), the chef tells me that Ocean Wise line-caught ling cod from Northern B.C. works beautifully. Friedman also features his “Chef’s Bored” (intentional spelling) to let seasonal fish shine on their own. The fact that fish have seasons and that there are many lesser-known fish that are delicious options is reinforced at this great little spot.
Toronto is a city far away from the sea; yet, these chefs from Catch and Red Fish are two examples of partners who thoughtfully and ethically source seafood while educating discerning Toronto food-lovers to think carefully about seafood choices. They also show us that sustainability does not have to sacrifice flavour, and can enhance the dining experience. They utilize the Ocean Wise network of suppliers, and display Ocean Wise logos to promote the good choices they are making for their customers. We’d recommend you put both on your Toronto restaurant hit list.
Ocean Wise is Vancouver Aquarium’s national sustainable seafood initiative. Look for the Ocean Wise symbol next to a seafood item for Vancouver Aquarium’s assurance of an ocean-friendly seafood choice. Visit oceanwise.ca to learn more, or download the Ocean Wise iPhone app.
By Robin Poirier, Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise Account Representative, Eastern Canada