Over the past few years, The Black Hoof has been one of Canada’s most celebrated restaurants. Located a hop, skip and a jump from Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park on Dundas West, this snout to tail inspired kitchen has impressed celebrity chefs Anthony Bordain and Gordon Ramsy as well as thousands of culinary tourists and local food fans.
Now that I have lived in Toronto for over three years and profiled almost 500 restaurants here to date, it often shocks people when I have to sheepishly note that I’ve never stepped into the cities most iconic culinary juggernaut and enjoyed Jen Agg’s signature experience. I’ve received a wide range of follow up commentary: from food critics that actually scold me to local Hoof fans that eagerly encourage me to run it to the top of my to do list. For many of the Toronto food elite you aren’t really a serious commentator on the local culinary scene unless you have dined at The Black Hoof. The comparison is on par with, “you went to South Korea and never tried kimchee?!” I got so used to this shock and awe conversation around my Black Hoof virginity that I feel in many ways I kept holding back, enjoying the dumbfounded responses.
But one only has so many hours and meals in a day…I have an excessively long “Restaurant To Do List,” which still includes Sotto Sotto, Scaramouche, Splendido, Keriwa Cafe, Bymark, Ici Bistro, Auberge du Pommier, and North 44. So as no excuse is due, on reflection I think I’ve just been waiting for a special moment to present itself. My relationship with food is a very romantic one and I didn’t want to just hop in for dinner any old day to tell my story here. Like many of the above mentioned restaurants, The Black Hoof is a special spot in the city we don’t necessarily find ourselves feasting every day. And while I may be playing it a bit old school, I’m still that guy who wants to hold back on the very best and ensure dinner is served with a bit of whimsey and magic.
So on one cool evening in late April I was thrilled to finally pull back the sliding door and walk into Jen’s magical little world. The special occasion was my 28th birthday and I was being treated by my dear friends Erica and Trevor. The restaurant space is everything I imagined it to be: petite, intimate and bustling with the casual. A few wee tables are nestled by the front window overlooking the street while green vintage bar stool chairs allow cocktail aficionados a closer look at the creation of some of the cities most skilled libations. We were seated at the cusp of the dining room, overlooking their wee open kitchen where throughout the meal we heard the joyful whisper “hands please.”
Jen has employed an army of attractive, attentive and knowledge male waiters who are somewhat distracting when trying to read their chalk board menu (it’s the gay in me). Once focussed I opted to start with a Manhattan and sipped slowly while chatting with my dining companions over what items we wanted to adventure through. We started with a fantastic charcuterie board followed by The Hoof’s signature bone marrow. A fresh plate of horse tartare offered a wonderful contrast of textures and flavours. Pork Carnitas Tacos dripped down my chin after a squeeze of fresh lime and squirt of hot sauce. Our celebration of swine continued with with a delightful pork belly and cappuccio plate followed by crispy oxtail croquette and plump scallop. My most memorable 28th birthday feast concluded with a warm hazelnut polenta cake topped with rhubarb segments, blood orange curd and pollen crumble.
Special thanks to Erica and Trevor for this special treat night. To the entire team at The Black Hoof, thank you for challenging peoples notions of what we should be eating on our plates. TBH’s creative cocktails and innovative kitchen have helped put Toronto and Canada on the culinary tourism map.
10 year aged rye, antica formula, sweet vermouth, house bitters
Pork Carnitas Tacos
Pork Belly and Cappuccio
Oxtail and Scallops
Hazelnut Polenta Cake
rhubarb segments, blood orange curd, pollen crumble