Buca

604 King Street WToronto, ON M5V 1M6 Canada • (416) 865-1600 • buca.ca/king.html
 

I hadn’t been to Toronto in over a decade, but I remember having some great meals there. In fact, if you ever read my review of Mercer Kitchen, then you will know that it was the sushi pizza from Toronto that is somewhat responsible for finding my wife. So, it probably goes without saying that I didn’t really need another reason to love the Toronto food scene more than I already do, but then Buca happened.

An epic love story all its own, spanning across eleven rapturous dishes. It was like a scene out of Gone With the Wind- me running into the arms of antipasti, secondi and dolci… and antipasti, secondi and dolci all running into my mouth.

To start, Buca is a massive, industrial space right across the street from another strong Italian option, Gusto 101. That said, Buca is a cut above by all measures, including price tag. But I’ll be damned if it isn’t worth every last loonie.

From the get go, Buca served up more wow’s than Sam and the Firefly, starting with their salmon crudo with goat yogurt, zucchini blossoms, capers, cipollini and dill. Quickly followed delectable, little, warm rosemary, garlic and olive oil bread knots and a strong charcuterie board loaded with assorted cheeses and salumi.

And then Buca stopped playing around and brought the heat. Showing off in the most unlikely of places like a salad of mustard greens filled with berries from a local farm, dressed with goat yogurt and an olive oil of the gods.

This was then chased by a simple, beautiful buratta pizza. But all of this matters not, because the bigoli, aka duck egg pasta with duck offal ragu, venetian spices and mascarpone came in like the second coming and stuck the landing like Mary Lou Retton, crossbred with a cat wearing spikes on its feet.

The prime rib might’ve been the most mortal of the dishes we had or perhaps it was more a dimension of comparison, because it was served back to back with the branzino which stole the show.

For the final act, the dolci, Buca reimagined a Tiramisu with espresso soaked tapioca biscuits, mascarpone and chocolate mousse all layered deep in glass I wish was a yard in hindsight. And while the gelato was no slouch either, after that Tiramisu I could’ve just curled up in a ball and died happy.

Easily among the best Italian restaurants in the world, including Italy.

Maialino

2 Lexington Ave. New York, NY 10010(212) 777-2410maialinonyc.com

malfatti-al-maialino

The bread alone is worth 3  knives. In fact, you have to be very disciplined not to scarf down so much that you can’t enjoy the rest of the menu.

That said, if you manage to exercise some restraint and make it to the menu, the antipasti options we had were all good. The fried artichokes being great. The octopus being solid. And the mushrooms being WOW! Fungus never tasted so good.

As for the pastas, we did a little menage-a-sharesy between the suckling pig, carbonara and the amatriciana. The clear winner was the carbonara, follow by the pig. The amatricana was just so-so.

And for dessert, we all split the olive oil cake with mascarpone. Good-ish, but not amazing.

Decor while casual, has its charms and the location can’t be beat. Also, while the decor itself is far from fancy, there is a distinct high-end vibe to the place so it feels special without feeling ostentatious. And the service matches, friendly and very accommodating.

Looking forward to going back.

4 teeth

 

The Ultimate Mac ‘n Cheese

Bub City_Baby Back Mac_Credit Justin Saper_0

Mizuna – Denver, CO

By now every place and their grandmother has lobster mac and cheese, which will make this review seem like a big “me too,” but as far as I’m concerned, this is the only place to ever get it right. I mean, just think about the dish fundamentally. Cheese and seafood? Not a frequent culinary combo (except maybe on a Filet-O-Fish at Mickey D’s) and for good reason. It’s why most people don’t get grated parm over linguini and clams. So, whoever had the idea of putting it on lobster was a bit of a loon in my opinion. Well, that is until I ate at Mizuna. You see, what makes Mizuna’s work and the others fail is the choice of cheese. A remarkably creamy mascarpone that teeters on being a sauce as opposed to melted cheddar. And as we all know, sauce and seafood go swimmingly together (sorry).

 

Virgil’s – New York, NY

The only way I can think to describe Virgil’s Mac & Cheese would be to call it “dirty.” Not as in unclean, but rather unrefined, visceral, crave-inducing naughtiness. For example, the spice alone puts this way up there for me, but it’s no secret. Just a healthy dose of black pepper. Yet it gives it this incredible hit that no other mac seems to grasp. The other thing they do is ever so slightly overcook it. Purposefully, to get that slight burnt crunch on the outer clumps of cheese, while still maintaining a glorious creamy blend of cheeses beneath that crusty epidermis. And that’s really it. Nothing more. But trust me, it is the Mac Daddy.