Stepping into the open and sleek dining room of Ricarda’s, we knew we were in for a treat. As one of Toronto’s newest hotspots for those seeking a top-notch meal, situated conveniently in the heart of the entertainment district, the feeling of excitement as we were seated was palpable. An hour and a half later, we were thankful to learn that the excitement was justified, as we’d just had a dining experience that won’t soon be forgotten.
Ricarda’s is a new, high-end restaurant that aims to bring the taste of the Mediterranean to Torontonians’ tastebuds, and succeeds on every single count. Aside from the food, which we’ll of course get to shortly, everything about this new establishment screams perfection. Whether it’s the beautifully designed modern dining room with an open kitchen and floor to ceiling windows, or the impeccable service thanks to a team of staff who just can’t do enough for you, eating at Ricarda’s is a true treat.
One of the first things that stuck out to me upon being seated was the menu that we were presented with. While there were a number of items on there that had been carefully created by Chef Sam Girgis, a large part of the menu was also made up of create-your-own dishes. Be it pasta, salads or flatbreads, Ricarda’s gives you the chance to craft your own culinary experience, mixing and matching options to your heart’s content. It’s a refreshing thing to see on a menu, as a lot of restaurants of similar nature don’t offer such a thing, and it was definitely something that we planned to try out.
Before ordering, however, an in-house sommelier arrived at our table to brief us on their drinks/wine menu, which was extensive and impressive. Along with our waiter, he provided a thorough overview of their offerings and made sure that we were well aware of everything the restaurant had to offer, giving us suggestions and advice on what to eat and drink based on what we told them about our tastes. Suffice to say, the service was exquisite.
After ordering our drinks (two Mojitos, which were amongst the best we’ve ever had), it was time to dig into the food itself, and here’s what we indulged in….
Grape Leaf Wrapped Smoked Octopus (with yellow tomato, squid ink, sorrel): A tender, succulent tentacle is the star of this exquisite dish, cooked to perfection and served with a wonderful mixture of yellow tomato puree and squid ink aioli, making for an excellent combination of flavors that could not have been any better.
Aegan Pasta (with octopus, rock crab, sea asparagus, confit tomato, shellfish and sea urchin butter): Continuing to impress us with their excellent seafood, Ricarda’s really hit a home run with this dish. While not the best thing we ate all night (we’ll get to that in a second), the Aegan Pasta was a fantastic, Mediterranean-inspired dish boasting a generous portion of fresh and tasty seafood in a light, sea urchin butter sauce that complimented it perfectly. A couple more vegetables or herbs might have helped kick things up just a bit, but aside from that, we’ve got absolutely no complaints about this one.
Cardamom Honey Glazed Muscovy Duck Breast (with cherry, hibiscus, pistachio): Hands down, this might just be the best duck in all of Toronto. Soft, juicy and spiced beautifully, without any grease to be found, this was the highlight of the night. Though not the biggest piece of meat, the flavor was mouth-watering and the meat cooked superbly, leaving us mightily impressed.
Flatbread (with pesto, arugula, fresh tomato, chèvre and prosciutto): A big part of the Ricarda’s experience is customization, and it was with the flatbread that we decided to try that aspect of their menu out. With numerous sauces, cheeses, vegetables and proteins to choose from, the options are plentiful, allowing each and every customer to make their own perfect appetizer. What we had was superb, with the fresh vegetables, creamy, soft cheese, flavorful pesto sauce and thinly sliced prosciutto all cooked perfectly into the well seasoned bread, culminating in an exciting experience for our tastebuds.
Charcuterie (with a daily selection of cured meats, pickles, preserves, house-made mustards): Though the charcuterie board was quite large and a bit on the pricey side, it was certainly something we’re happy we ordered. With fresh meats galore, there was plenty to dig into here, and everything tasted fantastic. The house-made mustards were a nice touch as well, pairing perfectly with everything on the board and delighting us upon each and every bite.
In case you can’t tell, Ricarda’s blew us away. From the top-notch service to the mouth-watering meal and everything in between, it was a very memorable dining experience and one that left us eager to head back for another meal at some point in the future.
The Toronto dining scene is a tough one to break into, with so many well established restaurants that serve consistently fantastic meals. That Ricarda‘s has been able to carve out a name for itself in such a short time is a testament to the excellent team running things behind the scenes. Truly impressive in every sense of the word, this is one restaurant that we simply cannot wait to visit again.
All photos by Matt Joseph unless otherwise noted.