The Reveal - FIGO
The Gist: "Clean. Fresh. Exciting." These are the words that co-owner Hanif Harji chose for the new restaurant where everything – food, décor, fonts and cabinet handle – had to go through these three filters.
This restaurant is not your typical trattoria. It’s Italian-inspired, with their own take and interpretation of Italian cooking, so while there is pasta and pizza, it’s not everything here. Food is fresh and very ingredient driven with a precision not often seen outside of fine dining restaurant.
Instead of the usual dark wood and Edison bulbs, the open room is bright, light and modern, but still exudes warmth. FIGO means cool or gorgeous, depending on the context. Both apply here.
Grub: Chef Anna Chen had "not led a kitchen before, but dazzled me with her food," says Harji. The Hakka-Chinese chef took her inspiration from that food that she grew up with, "peasant style with simple ingredients, but flavorful and dynamic. It’s my biggest influence."
Working over the last decade with Susur, Buca Yorkville and Scaramouche here in Toronto and then with Angela Harnett at Zucca, and Murano in the UK, Chen has worked alongside some of the best chefs, learning the ins and outs of making pasta("It’s in my blood. I love it."). She moved to London with the sole intention of getting a job at Murano. It only took her two days to land the gig.
Focused and detail oriented, she is striving for simplicity, for the food not to hide behind ingredients. "It’s really tricky, but it’s the forefront of the kind of food I'm trying to do here."
Libations: Bar Manager Jonathan Crosson is obsessed with cocktails. His goal here was to create drinks with "interesting, light, fresh flavors". Wanting to make drinks "as pretty as the room," and move away from the trend of bitter, boozy and brown tipples, he’s created lighter, more approachable drinks in hues of yellow and pink. But the complexity of flavours remain.
The arrival of the Punch Americano decanter ($15 gls/$60 decanter for 4) means your evening is off to the right start. Made with Cocchi Americano, Cocchi Rosa, Bacardi Superior, vino bianco, white cranberry, fresh lemon, Peychauds, and Angostura.
Sei Troppo Figo ($14) with Ketel One vodka, capo capo, thyme syrup and fresh lemon, is "gender neutral" according to Crosson.
The Queen’s Park Cocktail ($15) is a modern take on a Bellini with sorrel, prosecco, peach nectar and fresh lemon.
Refreshing drinks need not to be relegated to just summer months. The Pimms Up ($13) with Pimms, Tanqueray Gin, celery bitters and fresh lemon is a true thirst quencher.
GM Derek Grandpre is also a sommelier and has created a list currently featuring lighter reds and interesting whites from across across Italy, USA and Canada. "People are really enjoying light reds right now versus big Cabernets" he says.
Psst, from 5 to 7pm, Apertivo cocktails are $8 during the week.
'Hood: Entertainment District
Deets: Restaurant industry veteran Terry Tsianos, a partner of Harji, was the catalyst behind getting the space. He started working on this spot two year ago, though only took the space in June.
FIGO is open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, with room for 105 inside (13 at the bar) and 100 on the patio for next spring/summer.
Fixtures & Fittings: Interior design firm Studio Munge has done it again with a dreamy mix of grey, pink and white. From the polished concrete floor to the stunning floral graphic on the ceiling (which took three days to install), the room is oh-so-pretty.
And of course, it being an ICON and INK Entertainment restaurant, Hanif, Charles and their team have carefully considered everything from the silverware to the textured paper for the menus, and all furniture has been custom made.
Off the Menu: The food is simple, but with genius touches, thanks to Chen’s deft skills.
If you want something light and creamy, try the House Ricotta ($9) with truffle honey, black pepper and house baked crostini (made from 100-year-old recipe for fresh ricotta), and Burrata Salad ($19) with compressed cantaloupe, huckleberry, olive oil and crostini.
The delicate pile of Zucchini Fritti ($11) with lemon, crème fraîche and honey is as addictive as sour cream and onion chips.
The starters continue to keep things light with the intriguing Rainbow Trout Crudo ($14) with sea buckthorn and purple peppercorn.
Puccia is a wood oven fired sandwich, with choice of arugula salad or herb potatoes, available only at lunch. The Chicken ($16) with pancetta, preserved tomato, slaw and mustard aioli is the size of an Escalade, so expect a desk snooze to happen around 2pm.
Chef Chen knows how to make a great pizza. Mushroom Pizza ($19) with mixed mushrooms, caramelized onion, cacciocavalo, potato, watercress dressed with truffle oil, features a light but chewy crust and toppings that have been cooked through. Dressing the greens is a brilliant touch.
Enticing Bucatini ($19) with Wild Boar Ragu is one of those dishes you’ll come to rely on this winter. But don’t blame FIGO if you can’t get into your skinny jeans by spring.
Grilled Whole Branzino ($36) with lemon, olive oil and sea salt is so soft and yet bursting with flavour. One of the best whole fish in the city.
Tender Veal ($26) 12oz bone-in chop is wood oven roasted, served with charred cherry tomatoes and basil. At first glance, you’ll wonder how you’ll get through something this big. But it’s easy when done like this.
How Cool is This?! The Nona who shared her 100-year-old recipe for homemade ricotta came to the restaurant and cooked with the team in her slippers!
At the Stove: Anna Chen, Executive Chef & Carlo Lazzarino, Head Baker
FOH: Derek Grandpre, General Manager
Head Honchos: Hanif Harji, CEO, Icon Legacy Hospitality, and Charles Khabouth, CEO, INK Entertainment, Christina Kuypers, Director of Operations, Icon Legacy Hospitality
Visiting Hours: Mon to Sat - 11:30am to late
Sunday – Brunch from 10:30am
Map It: 295 Adelaide St. W. (at John)
Phone It In: (647) 748-3446
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