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With the TIFF-kissed blessing of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, this upscale Trinity Bellwoods joint is firmly cemented as the hippest of the hip purveyors of contemporary American eats. The Hudson invites guests to a unique adventure in dining that, swoons the restaurant, “takes you through the comforting streets of Europe, past the hustle and bustle of Madison Avenue and into the art studio of Jackson Pollock.” A meal here is always an encounter with new experiences, whether it be the classic American fare that’s the subject of a fresh innovation, the smashing interior artwork that enhances food on plate or the whimsical cocktail program that seals the deal. The menu is limited to a handful of consistently special dishes at the Hudson. Presentation is always of the highest order. The space itself is actually made of up of three separate dining areas and a 45-seat, street-facing patio.
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Review: Hankering for Hudson

By Alan A. Vernon, reviewed on October 17, 2013

Anyone who decides to open a restaurant just in time for TIFF must be a masochist. It's hard enough to swing the doors open fast enough so you can start paying back that ridiculously large loan ASAP. Add to that cooking for the pampered Hollywood elite and Toronto's...

Anyone who decides to open a restaurant just in time for TIFF must be a masochist. It's hard enough to swing the doors open fast enough so you can start paying back that ridiculously large loan ASAP. Add to that cooking for the pampered Hollywood elite and Toronto's A-list wannabes as your dry run, and that's pressure enough to send any restaurateur to the emergency room for an ECG.

But Hudson Kitchen, a collaboration between Brassaii owners Vince Antonacci and Borys Chabursky, with exec chef Robbie Hojilla (Ursa, Woodlot, Centro, Thuet) and sous chef Benny Chateau (Centro, Sassafraz), isn't most restaurants. It's rare enough to find a five-star calibre restaurant in this town; what's even rarer is finding one as near-damn perfect as Hudson Kitchen that's only been open a few weeks.

Situated in an unassuming, century-old building at the corner of Dundas West and Palmerston, Hudson Kitchen is quietly elegant, seductively drawing you in with its understatement. Where these guys could have spent a small fortune to turn this corner into a new King West, they were smart enough to be true to their new nook of a neighbourhood and merely provide a comfortable bistro-like backdrop for the real showstopper: the food. Oh, and the flawless service. Pinch moi, am I dreaming?

"‹A well thought-out cocktail list is de rigueur these days, but this one goes a few extra steps to deliver boissons you just can't find anywhere else. The Covert Slim ($11) might be mistaken for a cappuccino, but this frothy concoction blends a Montenegro Amaro with Aperol, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, Angostura bitters, fresh mint leaves and albumin, all neatly tied up with a scotch rinse. As ridiculously labour intensive as it sounds, I'm surprised it didn't take longer to arrive at the table, or even cost a heckuva lot more (Shhh, I didn't say that).

The menu is as refreshing as the signature drinks. Chef Hojilla has created an incredibly small and focused, but fascinating menu that combines seasonal ingredients in the expected combinations, but with some very unexpected and intriguing flavours and pretty surprising results. And while many restaurants have taken a wrong turn and stopped providing bread before your meal, Hojilla firmly believes, bless his heart, that we could all use a little more carbs in our lives. His perfectly salted, homemade mini buns rest somewhere between a brioche and a croissant, with a density that never feels heavy. Homemade breadsticks are thin, delicate strands with enough strength to use as a scoop for the caviar-coloured charred eggplant spread and schmaltz, the Yiddish word for chicken fat that will make you wonder why you've been using butter all these years. "‹

Even a late summer harvest salad ($14) is a "‹dreamy, delicious stroll in a fairy woodland. And I mean that literally. When was the last time you saw a salad of delicate greens served on a piece of tree stump? Walnut brittle adds an autumnal sweetness while a champagne vinaigrette balances it out nicely with an aged acidity, a romesco grounding the combo with a nice nuttiness.

Pork terrine ($14) is a tried and true favourite. But don't dare put this seared version in the same category as the peasant staple. Just having it described by our server has us slobbering uncontrollably like a dog smelling bacon. They may look like two Snickers bars on the plate but believe me when I say this is cuisine at its haut-est: the spread has a light, almost whipped texture with bits of celery for crunch. So satisfying, finished with lettuce, preserved egg yolk and a lime vinaigrette, it should be appearing on the brunch menu soon enough.

"‹A wild mushroom broth ($16) needs body to make it satisfying. And, of course, I don't mean a thickness. I instead refer to a certain umami quality that delivers depth of flavour with some added texture. This breathtaking broth is poured table side"‹ into a deep bowl with a melange of mushrooms (enoki, oyster, etc.) and other delights such as rye berries and watercress. While this deep brown sea may be a bit timid to the taste, it's a vegan nirvana. (And apparently Brad Pitt loved it too, so you must.)

There really is nothing better than a homemade tagliatelle ($22). Surprisingly, as simple as this egg pasta is to make, it is often one of the most flawed in execution. But this kitchen nails these ribbon-edged noodles, providing your jaw with the perfect chew. This alone with some melted butter would be just perfect. But chef surpasses all expectations with the addition of zucchini slivers, fresh preserved lemon and delicate shavings of parmesan. How can something so freaking simple be so spectacular?

Chicken adobo ($26) ensues with a high-end presentation for Portugal Village, an area known more for its auto-parts garages up until now. Everything on this plate is done with maximum precision: Brussels sprouts have been sheared into delicate petals worthy of any fussy floral arrangement; green beans are gently pickled; eggplant, garlic, black quinoa and a chicken-skin tuille combine with a lovely vinegary jus that will have your fingers sneaking a few licks. But such a beautiful composition doesn't deserve chicken that's even just a tich dry. It can happen to the best of 'em, so a minor letdown. But that is not the problem with a veal pot-au-feu ($27). An immensely soft and bouncy brisket, and tender tongue entice, but a tough piece of sweetbread sits asleep in a broth. A beautiful looking dish? Definitely, with gorgeously gossamer slices of purple carrot and shavings of fried fingerlings. But Hojilla has set his bar so high that at times he can't even reach it.

Desserts ($10 each), too, are a bit of a teeter totter. A panna cotta parfait is more of a stylized take on the trendy PB&J sandwich. The problem is that a divine house made concord grape jelly"‹ overshadows everything to the point where a thin layer of panna cotta is practically undetectable. And a red wine poached pear may be as deeply ruby red as the jewel, but it's so hard it's like cutting into a raw butternut squash. What saves this dish is a soft gingerbread and an expert meringue that forces you to forgive and forget.

Hudson Kitchen is mostly about fireworks, both inside and outside your mouth. I imagine it will be on everyone's hit list in the very near future. And it should be or you'll be missing out on a splendid evening of culinary art. Remember, this is a report on day two of its official opening. Imagine what it's going to be like on day 30, that is, if you can still get a table.

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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