Walking into Pangaea, one of the most noticeable things is how open the space feels, complimented by beautiful art adorning the walls. Like most fine dining establishments, the tables are covered with classic white linens. The restaurant, located in the heart of Toronto’s Yorkville district, opened its doors in 1996 led by co-owners, Executive Chef, Martin Kouprie and partner, Peter Geary. Geary is responsible for ensuring front house operations run smoothly.
Kouprie is one of the early pioneers, sourcing and building relationships with local farmers, foragers, and ingredient suppliers.
The name Pangaea, taken from the hypothetical landmass that existed when all continents were joined, from about 200 to 300 million years ago [Wikipedia], is in keeping with Kouprie’s philosophy where everything is connected in the circle of food – farm to table, Eco-conscious and harmonious. Kouprie is, in fact, one of the early adopters of sourcing and building relationships with local farmers, foragers, and ingredient suppliers. Kouprie’s goal is to create cuisine from every food group that has regional and sustainable roots. Also on the advisory board for Ocean Wise and Humber College he teaches emerging trends to up-and-coming culinary students.
Visiting the restaurant in March with friend and seafood lover, Marla Slavner, we were taken on a personal tour of Pangaea’s kitchen. We were treated to a viewing of the kitchen’s set-up, where everything is made fresh, daily, The fresh ingredients that day included Dungeness crabs from BC, Black Perigord truffles, and huge amounts of halibut, cleaned and ready to be cooked. Kouprie mentioned the kitchen goes through 35 lbs of fish every day or two. He also pointed out the “Immersion Thermal Circulators ” he uses to cook many foods “sous-vide.” In fact, the crabs were prepared with this technique, ready to be made into succulent crab cakes.
One thing you learn quickly about Kouprie is that he is still very hands-on in the kitchen, which is not common for many Executive Chefs in Toronto.
On The Menu
We started our meal by first tasting the daily soup of Sweet Potato and Ginger ($10). It was simply delicious — its one of the dishes Pangaea does extremely well. The second tasting was of the Pigs Head Torchon served with a side of caper tartar sauce. This is one of Kouprie’s specialties. I must admit, I was a bit squeamish at first, but after digging in — it was crispy and tender with the tartar sauce adding additional flavour. The fun part is mixing your own tartar sauce in a mortar dish.
Wine is bottled poetry –Robert Louis Stevenson
Sommelier, John Le Bihan, cares for the wine list and cellar at Pangaea. Pangaea has won numerous Wine Spectator Awards. The wine list is exhaustive with many old and new world wines with many available by the glass. Le Bihan joined the restaurant in 2013, previously practicing his skills in London, England before love and life brought him to Canada. He’s enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable about how wine will match and augment the flavour of a food. In our case, he had us trying wines that normally we would bypass.
Grilled Calamari with Anchovies ($15), capers, Gaeta olives, onions, roasted garlic, lemon, beurre noisette – matched with an Alsatian 2011 Leon Bayer Pinot Gris – fresh and fruity.
Roasted Chèvre & Beet Salad ($16) with candied ginger, white balsamic dressing – matched with a 2010 Bernard Moreau Bourgogne Rouge Pinot Noir. The wine compliments the salad nicely with its deep, full-bodied flavour with a fine core of fruit. The beets are thinly sliced like perfect wafers and adorn the plate artistically.
Scallop Risotto ($36) Spinach risotto, sautéed day-boat scallops, torn bread, mint crème fraîche – matched with a Meiomi Pinot Noir from California. Creamy and seafood flavour with risotto cooked just right.
Beef Striploin, Ontario ($35) Grilled, wild mushrooms, seasonal vegetables, ﬁngerling potatoes, red wine reduction – matched with Bogle Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. The vegetables grace the place like a spring garden, almost too beautiful to eat.
Dessert — Pièce de résistance
Dessert is paired with 2002 Cave Springs Riesling Ice Wine. Perfect accompaniment to a sweet finish.
Warm Citrus Doughnuts ($10) With ricotta, rolled in sugar, with orange-cardamom shake, Arrack poached oranges.
Rhubarb Turnover ($10) Puff pastry, vanilla baked hothouse rhubarb, white chocolate cream, rhubarb sorbet. Perfect marriage of tart and sweet flavours.
Being my second visit to Pangaea, I can safely conclude that the best in food, service and atmosphere is alive and well! It’s definitely on the top of my list for a return visit.
NOTE: Our visit to Pangaea was hosted by the restaurant. The opinions expressed in this article are my own.