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The Little Canadian Restaurant That's Fast Becoming One of the World's Best

July 21, 2014

Michael Caballo and Tobey Nemeth, owners of Toronto’s Edulis restaurant (Photo: Edulis)

Keep going south after the crayon-red Fu Sien Tong Buddhist Temple, fronted by a posse of stone carvings: That’s how insiders will tell you to find Edulis restaurant, located on a leafy side street in downtown Toronto. Latin in name, French and Spanish in tone, the 32-seater opened in 2012 and has only grown in lore since, becoming a locus for culinary pilgrims from around the globe.

Ruth Reichl lingered there for four hours. Martha Stewart arrived in leather pants and live-tweeted her own go-‘round. Superstar chef René Redzepi, from Noma, made it his maiden meal when he arrived in town.  

Related: Inside the Kitchen at Noma, Voted the World’s Best Restaurant — Again

A dish at Edulis restaurant (Photo: Edulis)

Plying “the gulf between refined and rusticated” is how Canada’s leading restaurant critic, Chris Nuttall-Smith, of the Globe and Mail, described the place, which is the love child of chef Michael Caballo and his front-of-the-house wife, Tobey Nemeth. Visiting the restaurant for the second time after his initial review in 2012, Nuttall-Smith pronounced that the restaurant had only grown more distinct, more thrilling, giving the spot an almost unheard-of four stars.

My two cents (even though Canada abolished the penny recently): It’s a restaurant where there is ambition but no bluster. Any swagger is the stealth kind. Many of its standards — a hay-roasted chicken, lobster blanquette, an octopus paella — are the sorts of things lifted from an M.F.K. Fisher sense-poem. Its herring in oil with carrots is good enough to convert even a herring atheist.

One of the cozier experiences at Edulis comes via its $40 set-price, stay-as-long-as-you-want Sunday afternoon lunch, with wines all half-price. The whole scene is the very definition of languorous.

Related: This Is Where All the Cool Kids Eat and Shop in Toronto

A table setting at Edulis restaurant (Photo: Edulis)

Celebrities have found the place, unsurprisingly. The killer-curved Christina Hendricks, from “Mad Men,” lolled long enough to try the baba au rhum: a white cake with sweet Chantilly cream, prickled with brown grappa.

The trick to the place is that there’s no trick: While it has mammoth standards, it retains the heart of a small operation. Reichl gave the highest gourmand compliment possible in her write-up of Edulis, when she singled out co-owner Nemeth. “Tobey,” she announced, “may be the best front person I’ve ever met — the perfect hostess. Loving. Proud of her restaurant. And utterly restrained. She made me feel so safe.”

Related: Ruth Reichl’s Perfect Snacking Tour of New York

Meanwhile, Nemeth and her husband have made a pledge that’s got the town talking (this in a town that has seen the arrival of restaurants from David Chang and Daniel Boulud). The couple promised that on nights they personally couldn’t be at Edulis, the restaurant would not open. “We love it,” Nemeth has said. “Our touch is on everything because this is what we do.”

Shinan Govani is Canada’s best-known social columnist and people-watcher. Formerly with the National Post, where he was a columnist for 12 years, he currently writes regular dispatches for Hello! Canada magazine. The author of the novel “Boldface Names,” he has also written for such publications as Vanity Fair.

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