Yes, Alo is probably the best restaurant in Canada at this moment, says I, who is nobody but a wine and dine enthusiast is constantly broke from splurging on luxurious meals. But perhaps my claim is not entirely unsubstantiated – last time I checked, the top restaurant in Canada is St John’s Newfoundland’s Raymonds (for a few consecutive years) and in comparison to Alo, I found Raymonds’ tasting menu (with wine pairing) is of a lesser quality.

Tucked away in the corner of Queen and Spadina in China Town, the area is slightly worn down and not where one would expect to find a high-end restaurant. In fact, I missed the entrance entirely as I was distracted by the big neon sign of a nearby body piercing shop. The elevator ride up took so long that I was afraid I’d be trapped. So I was caught by surprise to find out how nice and classy both the bar area and dining room looked.

Service was professional yet not pretentious. Both owners (one chef one GM) and the sous-chef collectively boast impressive CVs including well-known Toronto restaurants like Canoe, George, Splendido and Acadia; as well as Daniel and Eleven Madison Park, both Michelin-starred establishments in NYC. From reading a Globe and Mail article, I learned that Alo is the first venture where chef+owner Mr. Patrick Kriss takes full charge of the kitchen. Hats off to him for building an excellent team for the creation of a fantastic tasting menu. I was so impressed that I immediately reserved my next dinner at the end of the evening!

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Alo offers two tasting menus ($89 and $120 – the more expensive menu is served at the chef bar where only 6 seats are available). The following pictures were from two $89 menus, plus one full wine pairing of $65 / 8 glasses, and one smaller wine pairing of $40 / 4 glasses (only accompanied the main courses).

Broccoli, Preserved Lemon, Ginger / Domaine Baud Cremant du Jura ‘Brut Sauvage’ n/v ~ The amuse-bouche encompassed various flavours and textures. The cremant was refreshing with aromas of citrus and minerality. Many hip sommeliers consider Jura as is one of the in-fashion regions. This simple yet precise bubbly is an example of why Jura wine-fetish may be something more permanent rather than just a fad.

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Quebec Foie Gras, Beets, Pear, Greek Yogurt / Marcel Deiss Pinot d’Alsace 2012 ~ Flavourful yet not as heavy and fatty as some other foie gras dishes I had in the past. It was paired with a lighter and off-dry field blend from Alsace. An interesting wine without the searing acidity typically found in Alsatian wines (made with Riesling), yet it shared a similar oily texture and heavier mouth-feel as a gewurtz.

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Aged Beef Ribeye, Bone Marrow, Watercress, Shallots / Domaine Gobelsburg Riesling, Austria 2014 ~ Melt-in-your-mouth ribeye, though this Riesling lacked the wow-factor that some of the other wines had. It was a safe, though somewhat boring pairing.

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Pain au Lait / Bodegas Robles Piedra Luenga Fino Ecologica, Spain n/v ~ Both bread and butter made in-house, paired beautifully with a fino sherry from Montilla-Moriles. I am personally excited to see somewhat of a come-back for sherries because they represent excellent value and quality; and is versatile enough to be paired with both savoury dishes and desserts.

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Burgundy Snails, Parsley, Black Garlic, Pearl Onion / Ochota Barrels “The Green Room” Grenache Syrah Australia 2015 ~ Generous serving of snails, paired with a crisp Australian red where grapes were picked earlier to retain freshness and acidity…a non-complex food wine.

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Pine nuts, Celery Root, Delice de Bourgogne / Punset Dolcetto d’Alba 2014 ~ The only dish that I found to be overly salty, but the wine more than made up for it. My favourite red wine of the night, think of an aged Barolo minus the grippy tannins. Though still a fairly young wine, but as dolcetto is not meant to be aged, this is considered to be the prime of its life, with a precise balance of red cherries and tertiary barnyard leathery aromas. I’d buy it but it comes in a case of 12, any takers on splitting the case with me?

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Kampachi, Fennel, Citrus, Turnip / Aphros Loureiro Vinho Verde 2013 ~ Tender, fresh and flavourful kampachi paired with my favourite white wine of the night, an unexpected single varietal Vinho Verde (and not with its star grape alvarinho either). Delicate peachy, pear and citrus fruit tones but extremely floral, I won’t be surprised to see a comeback on VV if most of them are as delicious as this example.

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Nova Scotia Lobster, Squash, Hazelnuts, Cabbage / Accadia Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi “Cantori” 2013 ~ The lobster dish was as good as one that I recently had in Le Bernadin, a Michelin 3-star restaurant in NYC (see my blog on Le Bernadin). The wine was full-bodied and slightly oaked, it has proven to be a worthy partner with the heavier lobster. Amidst all the cheap Pinot Grigios, Italy is absolutely capable of producing some very serious white wines.

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Provimi Veal Tenderloin, Cauliflower, Swiss Chard / Foradori Teroldego, Italy 2013 ~ Tender piece of veal and impressive cauliflower mousse that gave me a glimpse into how much work has been put into this tasting menu as every bite was a surprise. The wine on the other hand was just mediocre. The sommelier explained that Teroldego is an almost distinct varietal and this producer, Foradori, revived the grape in Trentino, Italy. I have no doubt that there are probably other examples that would showcase Teroldego a bit better, but sadly this is not one of them.

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Muscovy Duck, Treviso, Rutabaga, Prune / Thymiopoulos “Earth & Sky” Xinomavro, Greece 2013 ~ Juicy and tender piece of duck meat and slightly crispy skin, paired with the Greece “Barolo” as Xinomavro resembled Nebbiolo (the grape behind Barolo) in more than one way. This “Earth & Sky”, like many of Greece’s wines, is of very decent quality and good value in comparison to most other European red wines. The Cad $ is not doing very well lately against both USD and the Euro, so it’s even more important to understand the wine you are picking in order to avoid getting ripped off.

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Dulcey, Walnut, Coffee / Monte Faustino Recioto della Valpolicella 2008 ~ Typically I’m not a big fan of dessert wines. But if I must, my go to’s list includes Sauternes, Olorosos, and Tawny Ports. However I was quite impressed by this pairing, as the nuttiness and freshness of the Recioto really brought out the walnut and coffee flavours in this ‘pre-dessert’. Lovely!

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Carrot, Clementine, Lemon Balm / Priorat Natur “Vermut” ~ The best carrot cake I’ve tasted, but that probably doesn’t mean much because I don’t eat a lot of carrot cakes. It was delicious nonetheless. Priorat Natur is like a natural orange wine infused with herbs and spices. Interesting dessert wine; one that I did not know about so I was glad to learn something new.

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Sea Buckthorn, Earl Grey Tea, Bergamot / Azienda Agricola 499 Moscato d’Asti 2015 ~ Earl Grey is my favourite tea, and I extended my partiality to all Earl Grey desserts, though I must say the scent was a bit faint. As I had only ordered the $40 wine pairing, my dessert did not come with the Moscato.

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Whether you are choosing the $89 tasting menu or the $120 chef’s tasting, I would strongly recommend to give the wine pairing a try. I was a bit skeptical at first because the waiter did not have the wine pairing list to show me until I asked for it twice. But in the end it was truly worth-it. To pick the right wine for the right dish and disregarding safe and traditional pairings like foie gras with Sauternes and duck with Pinot Noir, etc., requires knowledge and also some talent. Alo passed the test with flying colours!

Alo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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