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Loka Restaurant


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Now Open: Loka.

Nelson Tam: Writer / Photographer.

For fourteen months, chef Dave Mottershall (Terre Rouge, The Chase) and partner/co-restaurateur Anygelina Brogan ran Loka Snacks out of the back of Riverside’s Hi-Lo Bar with a bare bones setup of portable burners and flattops. During that time, the affable chef honed his vision of the restaurant he wanted while introducing Torontonians to unique items (pork heart tartare, anyone?) and making a load of friends and fans along the way – so many, in fact, that $40,000 was raised on Kickstarter to help open the new Loka on Queen West near Bathurst.

Loka is about expressing what Canadian cuisine is through the use of Canadian ingredients, nose-to-tail cooking, and implementing zero-waste. Having a connection to the source of his food is important to Mottershall and everything is used – whether and ingredient moves from a main to an amuse bouche, a syrup, or simply dehydrated for curing. He respects the animal by using all of its parts. He’ll often work with his meat suppliers (some near his hometown of Port Elgin) to take whatever is available – whether it prime or secondary cuts – and find creative ways to cook with them. This means an ever-changing menu that keeps things exciting for the both staff and customers alike.

Given this approach, the food is a unique combination of ingredients, textures and flavours. An offering of spalla (rolled pork shoulder with a special 6-month cure that nobody else in the country is currently doing) is served with crushed hazelnut and 50-year old balsamic vinegar. Smoked bone marrow is topped with parsley salad and shaved, cured egg yolk that sits in salt for a week before being dehydrated for three days. And there’s also a feast for the eyes. Though the chef has only been plating his own food for the last two years his 39,000+ Instagram (@chef_rouge) followers will tell you he has a knack for putting together a beautiful dish.

Partner Paul Campbell (AFT Bar) helped build a bar menu balancing mostly Canadian – if not Ontario – beer, wine, spirits. There are also a few varieties of Saucy Cider – including a hopped version on tap. “White Velvet” is also available: half Blanche de Chambly, half Saucy Cider Original. There are no cocktails, however, as Mottershall has never had a cocktail elevate a dining experience for him.

Despite the high-level cooking and discerning bar program, the space is decidedly casual. A standing room area and long, ten-seat bar precede the warm 22-seat dining room. Supporters of the Kickstarter campaign have their names on a mural near the front door. On the walls hang photos taken by Mottershall. A chalkboard tells of the bar offerings, snacks, and also what’s in the curing chamber so guests can have something to look forward to. Said chamber (“Salume Rume”) sits at the back of the room, near the open kitchen. Also at the back is a “Chef’s Table,” where diners can enjoy a $100 per-person tasting menu and while watching their meal prepared up close.

Mottershall and Brogan have come a long way from the back of a rock n’ roll bar on the east side. But to them, opening Loka is not even the halfway mark, as the goal is to become one of the top ten restaurants in the country – one plate of crispy braised pig’s head at a time.

Original post can be found here on Toronto.com. Close