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Restaurant Comings & Goings

Taken June 2

Some interesting commentary from Grant van Gameren:

“COVID was hard for me, man. Laying off 400 staff, fighting with landlords, selling my house in Toronto. To be honest, coming back has taken years,” says van Gameren, whose eleven revenue streams include luminary hot spots Bar Raval, Bar Isabel, Quetzal and El Rey, three Harry’s locations and an Airbnb on his vegetable farm in Prince Edward County.

Alongside Jen Agg, van Gameren was responsible for launching the Black Hoof on Dundas Street in 2008, and his roller-coaster ride through commerce and cooking has produced some of the city’s best bites, biggest fallouts and legendary nights on the town. You don’t need to watch The Bear to know the restaurant business is dicey — big egos, huge overhead, tight margins, and that’s during usual times. The pandemic was unusual times and though everyone was affected, few businesses dissolved overnight like restaurants, and Grant van Gameren owned or co-owned nearly a dozen of them (and a catering company too). Talented, irascible, famous, the 42-year-old dad says he’s opening Martine’s in the old Woodlot space on Palmerston because he believes dining in Toronto could use a course correction.

“I’m old. I’ve done this dozens of times, but food has become so complicated over the years — this is is the opposite,” says van Gameren, who opened Martine’s in the building he also rents for Bar Raval, has chef Luke Haines in charge of both kitchens and his partner, Hailey Burke, managing both rooms.

“Luke is chef de cuisine at Bar Raval and extremely talented, but I told him, ‘If I give you an ingredient and it takes you more than three minutes to come up with a dish, you’re probably overthinking it,” says van Gameren, who grows the vegetables for Martine’s at his home garden in Prince Edward County, sometimes going from ground to plate in a day. “From the Black Hoof to everything I’ve done, food is only one part of what we’re selling. The experience has to be awesome, and if we get accolades like a Best New Restaurants’ list or a Michelin star, amazing — but it ain’t paying our bills.”

Oyster mushrooms with razor clams and wild leeks is the Martine’s dish that has tongues wagging. And the after-party for Canada’s Top 100 Restaurants, “reminded me of the Black Hoof days,” says van Gameren. When chefs crowded into his tight new space, it was an affirmation that Toronto’s original cooking influencer still has support from inside the biz.

“It’s never been about the money. It’s about: what do we want to do? We can make economical sense of it later,” van Gameren says.

We sampled his branzino, tuna butter with turnip and radishes and skate wing in an amatriciana sauce that was tangy, crisp, simple and sweet.

“What’s important is that we’re doing food that we like and understand and can evolve frequently so people will come back and, because of it, keep us in business.”
I visited Sammi at Danforth & Jones last weekend. It's a new Hong Kong-inspired brunch restaurant at the site of the former Motorama. Very creative menu that got rave reviews from our table of five.

To kick off my walk in today's beautiful weather, I made my way to a place I never go to eat! The non-descript, (I'm being charitable) College Park food court.

I had heard about a place there called BHK Roll which is helmed by a former resto chef and does Indian cuisine. '

Let me tell you all something...............for an unassuming food-court style kiosk, in a unassuming food court..................outstanding Chicken Biryani! Just great! Best I've had in more than a decade.

Exceedingly generous portion, you really should be able to get 2 meals out if if you're not a teenage boy.

Beautiful spicing, layered, just the right amount of cumulative heat, 2 large pieces of chicken, on the bone (leg); and 1 large potato, halved, 1 hard boiled egg, halved (I could have done w/o that...) ; but just great for only $14 plus tax.

I didn't get a drink or any sides, I have to say they do scratch Parathas there that look quite good for $4.

This is their website:

From the above:


Very unassuming..........

The Biryani, in the pot, from their Insta:


Direct link to their Menu:

I can only speak directly to the Biryani as that's all I tried, but I give it my highest recommendation for flavour and value. If the rest of their menu is as good, this has to be some of the best value going in town!
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New restaurant taking over the old Pawsway on the waterfront.

I am surprised they got approval to tear down the north wall completely.

New restaurant taking over the old Pawsway on the waterfront.

800 seats...............

Not a low cost or low risk play.

Great location.

But when you lose money with 200 guests in the house........

I am surprised they got approval to tear down the north wall completely.


I was surprised too, then I looked............the building is neither listed, nor designated heritage, so no restrictions.
New restaurant taking over the old Pawsway on the waterfront.

2 sets of permits appear for this address that appear to reference the same project.

One set "issuance pending", meaning 'pay the bill and the permits are yours'


But then there's a newer set that some distance from being granted:


Hmmm 🤨