Softwood panelling on the far wall makes this place feel like a stripped-down cabin somewhere in northern Ontario. But Jeff Kang’s lake house is located on Queen Street West, and its pantry is stocked with hazelnut miso, lilac vinegar and pickled fir combs along with Chinese forbidden rice and Comté cheese. The soft-spoken chef describes his cooking as quintessentially Canadian, and he’s right: He’s defining a cuisine that’s cool and cosmopolitan, the natural outcome of open culinary borders.
To launch this chill 30-seater, Kang brought some of his former crew from Bosk at the Shangri-La to put down new roots. A novel dish of raw and pickled carrots channels the vegetable’s Technicolor flavours. The base of fermented carrot juice, laced with creamy burrata and threads of fresh dill, sets my mind flashing to my own Ukrainian forebears, who arrived in Canada with a family recipe for borscht in tow.
The food at Canis is thoughtful, but it’s also fun. A pretty white tangle of Humboldt squid, sliced and blanched to resemble slippery udon noodles, sits in a jet-black ceramic bowl. GM Adam Ashukian, outfitted in a grey apron and decidedly unhip white leather high-tops, grins as he delivers instructions to mix it before digging in. Surprise: The squid-ink romesco, sweet and gritty with pulverized almond, turns the noodles the same colour as the bowl. Take a moment to appreciate Kang’s dark humour before plunging a fork blindly into the deep.
The simplest pleasure on the set menu is dessert. Sure, the toasted barley that flavours the koji ice cream has been inoculated with the same fungus used in Japan to ferment soy sauce, and the Ontario cherries have been preserved in Campari. No need to over-analyze it: Everybody in the world loves a bowl of ice cream.