Tundra restaurant Toronto: A Canadian experience

Tundra opened in the Hilton hotel Toronto in 2000. In that time it’s won a number of awards. In 2009 it won Diners Choice Award by Open Table, in 2010 the VQA Restaurant Award of Excellence, in 2011 it was voted Best Hotel Dining Award by the Readers of Where Magazine and it’s been the recipient of the CAA/AAA Four Diamond Award for seven consecutive years. Still, even award-winners need to stay fresh and last week it reopened after a big renovation. Canadian-inspired, it is both a design lover’s and a food lover’s dream.

The design

Designed by Montreal-based design firm Lemaymichaud, the goal was to make the experience authentically Canadian by incorporating into the restaurant as many inspiring elements of the landscape as possible.

The entrance of the restaurant holds a large intricate sphere carved from one piece of Vancouver Island redwood, by west-coast artist Brent Comber.

The horseshoe-shaped bar with its three enormous etched-glass panels displays a satellite view of Ungava Bay in Northern Quebec and serves as the centerpiece of the restaurant.

Lead designer Louise Dupont wanted to incorporate the elements of fire, earth, wood and metal into the setting. Walls, two of which are constructed of mahogany paneling, have been subtly backlit with a tangerine-coloured hue to evoke the Northern Lights.

Canadian suppliers were enlisted to create everything from furniture to art and even the twig-motif fabric. To heighten the feeling of a natural environment, plants and floral elements have been specially devised to conjure the limitless horizons of the north.

When I was there last week, tables were covered in twigs, spruce tips, wood chips and stones to evoke the Canadian wilderness.

The food

Hilton Toronto Executive Chef Kevin Prendergast has been with the Hilton since 2006, having cooked at hotels in New York before that. Of Tundra’s menu, he says “it’s all about creativity and making something original, unexpected…. We regard our dishes as Canadian cuisine that is internationally inspired.”

It shows. With a menu that changes each season, the restaurant utilizes ingredients that are locally sourced and from sustainable suppliers. Comparing the summer and autumn dinner menus I see the seasons reflected and find the autumn menu is cozier, heartier. The summer menu’s House-Cured Gravlax with rye bagel crisp, preserved ramps, mustard cream cheese, dill and radish has been swapped for House-Cured Arctic Char with white salad, parsley coulis, rye rusks. Summer Salad of dried blueberries, tarragon crème fraîche, savory pecans and blueberry vinaigrette is replaced by Autumn Greens with pickled squash, shaved carrots, pumpkin seeds and roasted pear dressing. The autumn menu has a Pain D’épice crusted, seared foie gras with golden raisin chutney, raisin walnut French toast, vanilla calvados jus.

These are just the small plates. The Large Plates for the fall include venison, wild rabbit and roasted heirloom carrots. The summer had lamb. Both summer and fall menus have some form of duck breast (autumn’s made with toasted pine nut puree, poached pear, roasted mushrooms and baby green oak) and pork (the summer’s wild sour cherry lacquered pork tenderloin, autumn’s horseradish-crusted loin with baby beets, leeks, cabage and lavender tea jus) but summer’s has cornish hen instead of chicken.

The menu reminds me of the menu I enjoyed at The Inn on the Twenty in Jordan at the end of February.

The launch event I was at last week mostly had summer menu items. I think I need to go back to try some autumn menu items.

If it’s not in season, it’s preserved in season to be used out of season.
Some fellow food bloggers and I had a Twitter conversation earlier that day about fiddleheads (see some aggregated #TundraTO tweets at Storify). Ken asked if fiddleheads are still in season. Alexa answered, “Sadly it’s way too late in the season for fresh fiddleheads…” But I found fiddleheads in the Buffalo mozzarella: petit pois, charred leeks, pea shoots, pickled fiddleheads, pine nut shards ($16 on the summer menu). The next day one of the PR reps emailed the three of us to say that she’d seen our tweets and that “chef pickles his fresh fiddleheads so we can enjoy them through many seasons”.

buffalo mozzarella

The lobster mac ‘n’ cheese made with cold water lobster ($23 on the “chow” menu) was a favourite according to those I spoke to and the tweets I read. I liked it. It had just enough kick and when I got a morsel of lobster is was packed with flavour.

The seared scallop, which Ken called “perfectly cooked” and “beautiful”, is one of my favourites. A starter on the summer dinner menu, the scallops are served with saffron wheat berries, sautéed watercress and carrot coconut emulsion. I like the way that wheat berries pop in my mouth. I don’t cook with them enough.

A bison burger ($20 for the full plate but we got the sample size) hit the spot but it was the steak tartare that really made my mouth happy.

Their menu doesn’t list a “soup of the day”, it lists a “soup of the moment”. This is more poetic, I think.

Nearly in a food and drink coma, we visited the top floor Executive Lounge for a sugar rush-inducing buffet that included chocolate ganache squares, macarons, and croquembouche, which people seemed to fear breaking into until Alexa and I broke into it. I wish I’d gotten some good photos of the top-floor views and the views from the glass elevator. You might be allowed to ride up for free but access to the Lounge is for executive customers only.

Tundra has lunch and dinner menus as well as a breakfast menu, a “Chow” menu (11:30am-midnight), a “nibbles” menu (4pm – midnight), breakfast menu (eggs, griddle cakes, French toast, breakfast bar of oatmeal, cereal, breads, oatmeal risotto), a kids’ menu and group menus for your business needs.

Reservations can be made via OpenTable.com, by emailing the restaurant directly at tundra.toronto@hilton.com or by calling (416) 860-6800.

Tundra website.

Related articles ‘n’ such

2 Responses to “Tundra restaurant Toronto: A Canadian experience”

  1. September 10, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    Oh wow, that looks so amazingly delicious!
    I’ll have to go visit 🙂

    • Andrea
      September 10, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

      Thanks! You should. I want to go back for the breakfast and also the autumn dinner menu, which hasn’t started yet.

Leave a Reply