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A Little Dream of a Restaurant in Toronto

I almost never walk into a restaurant and think, “I’d like to work here.”  But that’s exactly what I thought last night at Canis, a small dream of a restaurant in Toronto.

There are only 30 seats, but the eight people in the kitchen and dining room work with such quiet pleasure, you long to join them.  There’s a sense of easy camaraderie, confidence – and pure pride in the food they’re serving.

With good reason. Chef Jeff Kang has his own way with ingredients, layering flavors with originality and assurance. I get the sense he tastes in his mind, knows exactly what he’s going for, wanting each dish to offer up a surprise. I found myself eating slowly, savoring the way the flavors ricocheted around each other.  There was not a single time I said, “I wish this had more….”

The restaurant is small, spare, restful.  The wines are all organic, and thoughtfully chosen. Every object seems carefully chosen. (Just look at those butter knives!)

The menu is seasonal, and changes regularly. But last night I began with a little amuse bouche, a tartare tartlet laced with cured egg.

The bread was dense, chewy, full of character, and the spreads made me keep coming back for more.

But it was with the first dish that I really began to take notice of how fine the food here is. Swordfish arrived looking like a limp orchid, sliced into delicate pearly petals.  Served in a black bowl, it was cradling sliced cucumbers (the texture echoed the swordfish), and crunchy black radish laced with sharp little sparks of salmon roe.  Tying it all together was  a clear, gentle beef broth, a kind of garum made of meat.

Albacore tuna was fish in a completely different mood.  Dense instead of silky, the tender fish was gently smoked, and served with an astonishing array of sweet and salty components. Little leaves of artichoke – the tender white bits close to the heart – fluttered across the top, along with tiny pickled grapes. Underlining it all was a base of alliums,  cooked down and charged with spice so there was both sweet and heat.  It was a remarkable dish, the flavors changing with each bite.

These are the grapes – immature – and pickled like capers:

One of the especially pleasant aspects of Canis is the the way the staff interacts with the diners. At some point every one of the cooks left the open kitchen to deliver a dish he’d made, as if he wanted the pleasure of watching you experience it.  I couldn’t help smiling as I ate this roasted squash – almost meaty – with its ruffle of charred kale. The sauce?  Peanut miso.  The contrast?  Caramelized whey.


Meat – it might be lamb or duck, or in my case the richest chunk of meat, a short rib with the texture of velvet. On the side, roasted Jerusalem artichokes and white chanterelles.

“Do you prefer sweet or savory dishes?” Jeff asked as the meal started coming to a close.

“Not a sweet person,” I said.  And so he served me that milk sorbet above with its brilliant crimson crown of fermented grape ice.  It’ was a lovely way to finish a meal, especially interspersed with bites of this hibiscus financier.

So often at the end of dinner, late at night, you glance into the kitchen and see the cooks rushing to clean up, buzzed with adrenaline and eager to get out.  Not at Canis; there was an almost meditative pace as the evening ended, and  I looked up to see Jeff and his sous chefs standing around the counter in the kitchen as if reluctant to leave.

I got the feeling they couldn’t wait to come back tomorrow.

I certainly understood.


Written by Ruth Reichl

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Douglas Renall Interview

Douglas Renall

Douglas Renall, author of 100 Great New Zealand Winerieshas walked the vineyards, searched the cellars and talked with winemakers and vineyard managers in New Zealand to gather fascinating insights about their viticulture methods, oenology practices and the people who work long days in the vineyards and equally long nights in the cellars. 

He collated his experiences in his latest book, 100 Great New Zealand Wineries, choosing wineries not only for the quality of the wine produced, but also for their history, cellar-door atmosphere, awards won and the impact the winery has had at home and abroad.

Find out more about Douglas’ latest book and his love with wine in our latest Q&A:

When and why did you fall in love with wine?
My love for wine was more gradual than an instant moment. My affection for wine started while
growing up in west Auckland where vineyards and wineries are in plenty. My grandparents lived on a vineyard and I would go to visit them on weekends with my family and play amongst the vines.

Years later I felt the tug towards the wine industry in my early 20’s after travelling around Europe
where I was introduced to the cultures of Germany, Italy and France. At the age of 24 on a
summer’s evening in Sweden, I was tasting a range of European red wines and right then and
there I knew I would someday become a winemaker and work in the wine industry around the

If you were a wine, what wine would you be?
I would say a Saint Julien or Margaux Bordeaux blend. A wine that is made for ageing. A late
bloomer. A wine that shines years down the track when all the elements of the wine come together in harmony.

Which wine are you saving for a special occasion?
The wine is actually in barrel! the wine is Chateau Leoville Barton Vintage 2017 – the vintage was great and the wine will always be one I will save for that special occasion.

Douglas Renall

Douglas Renall

Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with?
My grandfather who loved wine and who passed away before I went on my winemaking journey.
My ever patient and loving mum and my caring girlfriend.

Share a fact about yourself that only a few know
I was once an adventure junkie – I jumped off the sky tower, did the bungy jump off Kawarau
Bridge in Queenstown and jumped out of a plane in quick succession.

What’s your favourite New Zealand wine region?
I think each wine region in New Zealand has its own unique charisma but if I was to pick one it
would have to be Hawke’s Bay.

Hawke’s Bay has it all in my opinion – top Bordeaux reds, Burgundy whites, Rhone reds, a great food scene, beaches and countryside. I was fortunate enough to study and work there for 6 years.

Advice visiting wineries
Don’t try to visit too many wineries at once. Pick a few each day and stay a while. Walk the
vineyards, feel the soil, try the cuisine and taste the wines slowly.

100 Great NZ Wineries

What’s your motivation behind 100 Great New Zealand Wineries?
My motivation behind the book was to see all of New Zealand’s wine regions and visit the top
producers New Zealand has to offer. I wanted to see why they were the best wineries in the
country and meet the people who have shaped our wine industry. All this I wanted to share with the rest of New Zealand as well as for visitors to our beautiful country.

I believe the book is designed to stir feelings of wanderlust in people. If you are looking for
guidance and inspiration for a memorable wine trip around New Zealand then you need this book.

Douglas Renall’s latest book is now available at selected book stores or online (RRP $59.99).

Visit to find out more about him and the 100 Great New Zealand Wineries book. And make sure you follow him on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram and Delectable.


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