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Top marks to this South Asian-inspired bistro that was among the flag bearers for what is now a most vivacious stretch of Toronto dining — the Ossington Ave. restaurant row — for so faithfully keeping the beat. That, trumpet its many devotees, is because those with an eye on the food also never took their eye off the ball. A steady march of consistently prepared dishes makes its way from kitchen to table here, always earning praise for spot-on execution, presentation and pricing. Standouts include the ever-reliable Arctic char ceviche, the ever-surprising fried lamb and duck prosciutto dumplings, and the ever-scrumptuous Thai chili fried chicken....
Top marks to this South Asian-inspired bistro that was among the flag bearers for what is now a most vivacious stretch of Toronto dining — the Ossington Ave. restaurant row — for so faithfully keeping the beat. That, trumpet its many devotees, is because those with an eye on the food also never took their eye off the ball. A steady march of consistently prepared dishes makes its way from kitchen to table here, always earning praise for spot-on execution, presentation and pricing. Standouts include the ever-reliable Arctic char ceviche, the ever-surprising fried lamb and duck prosciutto dumplings, and the ever-scrumptuous Thai chili fried chicken.
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Foxley Bistro and Bar The Menu
The Menu

Review: Foxley makes sumptuous delights

 
By Stephanie Dickison, reviewed on December 03, 2007

Sometimes a chef's popularity can precede their latest establishment. We've seen this happen with Mark McEwan, Jamie Kennedy and Greg Couillard.

Well now people will have to forget about Tom Thai's spectacular sushi from his days at Tempo (the first...

Sometimes a chef's popularity can precede their latest establishment. We've seen this happen with Mark McEwan, Jamie Kennedy and Greg Couillard.

Well now people will have to forget about Tom Thai's spectacular sushi from his days at Tempo (the first non-Italian restaurant on College) and Youki. Sure he was a master, but he's onto new things now and he is excited about them.

But people can't just forget and let go. They continue to ask him if sushi will be added to the menu. **

As for the new 40-seat restaurant Foxley with high ceiling and a brick wall, newly built kitchen and a place just to call his own, Tom Thai, an elegantly slim man with inky black hair peppered with gray, and warm eyes, says, "It's been quite overwhelming. Aside from coming up with the menu, every day selecting the wine, cooking, it's a lot more than I thought."

In fact, soon after the opening, the response was so intense that it was Tom cleaning the floor and washrooms.

And this attention to detail extends to everything he does, especially when it comes to quality of ingredients.

Tom insists on using particular fish - sustainable fish like catfish and tilapia.

"I try to offer some local, aside from other fish." He tells me that some "are not really eco-friendly," and that "I can't keep using them consciously."

He is an interactive chef who likes to change the menu upon his mood and availability of ingredients. As well, he says, "I want to make it interesting for people to look forward to the next time the menu changes.

His menu is Pan-Asian but it has a lot of Latin American and Mediterranean influences, like his fish en papillote, his use of sherry and port and his love of vine leaves, chimichuri and ceviche. In his own words, "The cooking technique is French, the ingredients - Asian."

But for Tom, it's all about the feeling.

"I think people are missing the connection. A chef that evokes happiness (will make good food.) It's that connections that makes it all worth it."

And this connection even extends to his ingredients.

"When I see beautiful fish, I have feelings for it."

He talks about nature's sacred bounty and how he creates dishes around the ingredients he feels most connected with.

His reverence for his food does indeed show up on your plate. He waits until the last moment to cook your fish and keeps the skin on when he can to optimize the juiciness.

Sometimes, he says, that translates to a longer than usual wait for dishes.

But I don't think you'll mind. After all, not only is the food incredibly fresh and inventively prepared, but it's all so healthy - most dishes are steamed and when needed, only a little olive oil is imparted (There is no deep fryer in this kitchen) - so you go home feeling full and satisfied, but not stuffed and bloated.

He is as adept at choosing wines as his ingredients and changes the list often. There is no ego for brands that are getting attention, though.

"If I like it, I get it," Tom shrugs.

Simple as that.

Tom doesn't do reservations, but you can have a drink at the bar across the street and they'll call you when a table becomes available.

But you probably won't mind after you've tried his food.

His food is sumptuous and elegant and you'll want to try a bunch of dishes - they're served tapas style so this is easy to do. I have:

Sea Bream Ceviche ($14) with yuzu and shiso leaf
Malpeque Oysters ($3.50 each or $18 a half dozen) with chili lime salsa
Marlin Ceviche ($14) with crispy shallots and mango salsa
Spice and Tea Smoked Jumbo Quail ($12) with green papaya and fresh herb salad
Frog's Legs ($11) sautéed with poblano pepper and Szechwan spices
Oven Steamed Pacific Halibut ($23) with shitake, baby bok choy and white truffle oil
One thing about Tom's menu that really stands out is that everything is prepared so differently that your taste buds travel on a rollercoaster ride that is simply intoxicating.

Some dishes require tackling with a knife and fork, but most people here are adept enough to manage with chopsticks alone. I too, use only the white plastic chopsticks.

The Sea Bream is soft and has a lemony bite. The shredded green onion and crisp shallots add crunch. And if you are still uncertain about ceviches, try Tom's. You'll be forever transformed.

The oysters have heat, but great taste - you can distinguish ginger and peppers. You just might want to get the half dozen.

The interplay of flavours - salty, sweet, peppery and sour - and textures make the meaty Marlin ceviche sing.

The quail, though it is jumbo, is such a delicate little thing, but Tom has taken great care. The spice and tea smoking has infused it with a complex scent and comforting flavour suitable enough for Thanksgiving dinner.

Presented in an aluminum foil tagine, the Oven Steamed Pacific Halibut arrives, and catches the eye of the table on my right. They have just been to New York and are in the restaurant biz. I let them have a whiff of it after I've opened the top and they immediately ask the waitress for one. They watch me eat it, waiting for a sign.

I flash a contented smile their way.

It's aromatic and buttery. There is about an inch of broth and a solid white block of Halibut that falls apart upon contact.

The frog's legs have ground fava bean, chilies, peppercorns and smoked paprika and are sexy, smoky, salty and spicy. You'll never want chicken wings in the same way again.

Look, I know I'm gushing. But it was simply fantastic and I'm just being honest.

My only complaints? Ossington and Dundas is so far away, and I didn't get a chance to try the Lamb and Duck Prosciutto Dumplings, the Braised Beef Cheek in green curry or the Grilled Japanese Pike Mackerel with yuzu-ponzu sauce.

** Not when I talked to him

Reviews are meant to describe a dining out experience at a given period in time and are the personal opinion of the writer.
All meals are paid for, including all taxes and gratuities. All reservations are made under assumed names. Menu items, prices and individuals mentioned in this review may not be up to date. Dine.TO encourages its users to share their feedback.

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