By Bryan Dearsley
Guests at Toronto’s Cosmopolitan Hotel – and food fans across this great city, for that matter – have a lot to thank restaurateur Jody Ness for. Not only has Ness opened up his second Wildfire Steakhouse & Wine Bar in the very heart of the city, at the Cosmopolitan on Colborne Street just seconds away from Yonge Street and Toronto’s financial and tourist districts, but he’s brought with him the same superb recipes and flavours the North York original has become famous for.
“It’s very much urban chic,” says Ness of the new location superb décor. “It adds to the whole experience for our guests, and truly does compliment the food we serve. We ’re thrilled to share everything we’ve created in North York in this excellent new Cosmo location.”
To ensure a smooth transition, Chef Josh Lauder heads the Cosmopolitan team after 12 years at the North York restaurant, bringing with him a flare that definitely sets Wildfire apart from traditional steakhouses.
“We’re very careful to ensure nothing but the best quality produce is served,” says Chef Lauder. “All our meat is prepared in house, as are all our seasonings. It adds a very unique flavour to the steak and fish dishes we specialize in.”
And after sampling Wildfire’s menu, it’s easy to see that Lauder truly does possess a passion for the meals he and his team produce. Favourite starters included a superb roasted zucchini soup, escargot Provencal, and the table’s top-pick, the calamari, served in a warm tomato salsa with capers, black olives, red onions and a salsa verde.
“You won’t find calamari like this anywhere else in Toronto,” boasts Lauder, and rightfully so. “Most restaurants tend to overcook it so it’s chewy. It should be soft and succulent, almost melting in the mouth.”
It’s this attention to detail that truly sets Lauder’s dishes apart. Take the entrées. While the guys went for the New York Striploin and the superb Filet Mignon, both served with garlic mashed potatoes and seasonal (and well seasoned) vegetables, the ladies in our party were a little bolder. Their preferences extended to the tenderloin fettuccini, served with wild mushrooms, asparagus, creamy chipotle sauce and grana padano (one of Italy’s most popular cheeses); and the piri piri half chicken churrasco, served with rosemary roasted new potatoes and seasonal vegetables (and, it so happens, Chef Lauder’s personal favourite).
And if that wasn’t enough to fill you (we had enough to take home!), there’ the superb desserts, all prepared in house by Chef Lauder and his team. Topping the list for chocolate fans was the decadent chocolate torte, while the crème brulee made with Madagascar vanilla beans went down a treat, too (both dishes are gluten free).
Other highlights of this superb new location include a huge inventory of wines, a superb private dining room, and a variety of unique events designed to provide new guests with a taste for Wildfire, all the while appealing to existing fans. These include special cocktail hours from Monday-Friday (4pm-7pm) where wines, martinis and tapas are offered at just $7 a pop; and participation in the excellent Summerlicious program, a Toronto-wide culinary celebration offering lunches for just $25 and dinners for $45.
Bryan Dearsley is a Muskoka-based Writer and Editor.