Hoof Raw Bar is Black Hoof’s seafood sister restaurant, conveniently located next door. Having a greater preference for seafood than offal, we were eager to try Raw Bar, hopefully before the hype drew ridiculous line-ups. Thankfully there was no wait when we went on the Wednesday evening, despite the narrow restaurant being consistently full.
Cured Fish Board 22 (better photo here)
We started with the cured fish board, a sashimi-meets-charcuterie dish that contained four types of cured fish (mackerel, albacore tuna, black cod, and branzino) with a standout chorizo scallop.
Raw Scallops 13
The raw scallops were topped with cubes of apple, sprinkles of fried potato and circled with curried apple cider reduction. Although quite tasty, these weren’t as memorable as the chorizo scallop.
I was most excited to try the chawanmushi, a Japanese egg custard. At Raw Bar, the chawanmushi is served cold, and topped with salmon roe, kale chips, and very thinly sliced button mushrooms and water chestnut. The silky custard, crunchy kale and salty roe are an amazing combination of textures and flavour that surpasses the classic chawanmushi.
Fish Snacks 9
Next up were the fish snacks – a deep fried trio of fried whitebait, smelt, and shrimp heads with spicy tomato sauce. Reminiscent of carnival food, the fish snacks were presented in red & white paper lined mini Chinese take-out boxes. This dish was definitely the most fun, especially watching others try to determine how to politely eat the whitebait and shrimp heads.
Shrimp & Toast 16
Shrimp & Toast, to me, has always been the strange deep fried open-faced sandwich of shrimp/shrimp paste and bread popular in Chinese cha chaan teng. However, Hoof Raw Bar’s deconstructed version consists of shrimp, croutons, sous-vide egg with black sesame, cilantro, jicama cubes and chili pepper. Momentarily baffled by the elegant presentation, we carefully balanced each component into a forkful, and were surprised with the very familiar taste of… wonton noodles!
Clam Chowder 11
Another dish I was eagerly anticipating was the clam chowder, which arrived with micro-gnocchi in place of potatoes, and topped with strings of fried leek. Sufficiently full of clam flavour and free of gloop, this chowder was delicious, but on the pricier side.
Baby Octopus 15
Our last dish consisted of baby octopus topped with smoked hazelnuts and red pepper puree. The octopi were tender and delicious, and their presentation instantly convinced a neighbouring table to add the dish to their order.
The dessert had thin ribbons of rhubarb, freeze dried caramel bits, and mini orange slices over a variety of creams, purées and jellies. I really enjoyed this dessert despite it not containing any chocolate, maple or nuts!
The Black Hoof’s Raw Bar is definitely worth a visit, for perfectly cooked, creative dishes, that break away from Toronto’s meat obsessed trend. It was also quite impressive that the three (or more?) chefs managed to create all these dishes in a kitchen the size of an average office cubicle!