This content is also available in: Vietnamese
Foxley restaurant is a highlight along Toronto’s Ossington Avenue. A street that used to house rows of Vietnamese karaoke bars now hosts some of the most enterprising and creative food emporiums in the city. In a twist on the adage ‘what goes around comes around,’ one of the street’s most flavorful establishments is Vietnamese owned.
Chef Tom Thai’s menu is Pan-Asian but it is also infused with Latin American and Mediterranean influences. The cooking technique is French but the ingredients are distinctly Asian. Food at Foxley is meant for sharing and chopsticks.
Thai immigrated to Canada from Vietnam in 1978. He began his career at Toronto’s Cafe Asia, then moved to Youki where he worked under chefs Camilo Costales and Andrew Chase. Later, he made spectacular sushi at upscale restaurants Canoe and Tempo. Thai then spent many years traveling to find inspiration. He returned to his old stomping ground on Ossington and Foxley was born. Nine years later it remains a highly regarded restaurant.
When I arrived the compact space was filling quickly. Thai was busy cooking in his small but functional kitchen flanked by an entourage comprising his son, his best friend and his brother-in-law. The ambience was laid back. Simple décor featured a chalkboard menu hanging on a wall and pendant lamps illuminating the bar island at the back. Bottles of wine and glasses served as the back splash. My favorite spot was the little slanted nook covered with photos near the cash register was. Sparse but warmly lit, the room was an intimate hipster haven, ideal for dinner and conversation.
My first dish was arctic char ceviche with green apple and ginger. Chunky slices of char were topped with sesame seeds, scallions, bird’s eye chili and pickled ginger. Generous layers of thinly sliced green apple complimented the citrus/sour flavors of olive oil, lime and coriander. Shocking to the palate at first, the citrus bite was softened by sweet hints of spice.
I opted for a main of grilled hanger steak with chimichurri. Medium rare, it was served with a reduction sauce reminiscent of Vietnamese thit co. The sweetness soothed my palate after the ceviche and the meat was ridiculously tender. The chimichurri gave it a kick and finesse.
My companion’s fried lamb and duck prosciutto dumplings were interesting, filled with a fragrant mixture of lamb and cured duck breast and served with a secret dipping sauce. We also tried the frog legs, a delicacy in Vietnam. Thai’s frog’s legs sautéed with poblano pepper and Szechwan spices was addictive.
We could not leave without trying the hefty spare ribs coated in a dark, sticky, sweet and sour sauce and sprinkled with caramelized shallots. The meat was moist and fell effortlessly from the bone. The sauce was Asian finger-licking good.
Thai integrated flavors spectacularly in every bite. His ability to combine spices, sweetness and salty tastes with different food textures was genius. With a wave, he snuck out of the kitchen and came to say hello. He was shy and humble as we complimented his culinary skills and told him he was a Vietnamese star on one of Toronto’s most competitive restaurant strips.