A Little Smokehouse Goes a Long Way

Despite its enormous size, we swear it’s often hard to find something unique to eat in this city. Want a taco? Cause we know about 30 places off the top of our head. A gourmet burger, perhaps? Just walk four blocks in any direction and we’re sure you’ll find one. Which is why when we came across Karelia Kitchen, a Nordic Smokehouse and Cafe, we knew we had to try it. Not only did it look and sound like an experience we were yet to discover in Toronto, it also happens to be in Bloordale – an area we’ve already told you we feel is well worth the visit

It’s not your fault that when you think of Scandinavian food you think of meatballs (it’s IKEA’s), and of course Karelia Kitchen has them too. But if you think that’s all this smokehouse has up its sleeve, you’d be sadly mistaken. In their warm and inviting space we were greeted by a display case featuring a bevy of homemade pastries and desserts. As we continued toward our table we passed a second display case containing Karelia Kitchen’s drool-inducing collection of smørrebroød – Scandinavian open-faced sandwiches layered with such mouthwatering toppings as smoked pork loin, beetroot rosti, and duck egg and matjes herring. Once seated, we kicked off the evening with a bowl of fresh, perfectly steamed mussels featuring green peppercorn, fresh dill, and diced tomato. From there we moved on to a second first course (what, you only have one?) in the form of Brie wrapped and melting inside a potato pancake topped with plums in a port reduction. We know… they had us at Brie, too.

Obviously we couldn’t hit up a smokehouse without getting something that had been close to the flame. Since all of Karelia Kitchen’s smoking is done in-house (in a smoker big enough to get lost in) you really can’t go wrong. And we didn’t. The House Smoked Hunter’s Sausage served with sauerkraut, hasselback potatoes, dried empire apples, and crunchy mustard was paired perfectly with a bottle of Beau’s B-side brew, Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale. As good as it was and as full as we were already starting to get, we certainly weren’t about to stop anytime soon. Not when the food was this good. Our Rainbow Trout with Lapland sauce (shallots, wine, cream, dill, parsley) was borderline addictive, and the Roast Hen with herb dumplings and lemon tarragon sauce left our mouths begging for more. If our stomachs could have handled any more, we probably would have stayed all night.

Already having been named one of the 25 Hottest Restaurants in the city by NOW, we suggest you book a table before space runs out completely. Trust us, Karelia Kitchen’s brilliant use of local food to create simple, unique, and healthy dishes that can make your mouth swoon isn’t something you’ll be forgetting anytime soon.