With the whispers of change ruminating over the city’s restaurant scene, and new cultural cuisines starting to permeate our ‘same-old-same-old’ culinary landscape, we should be in for quite the edibly eclectic summer. An early start comes next week by way of the Storys building, and an authentically-themed Spanish pop-up restaurant sure to dazzle diners and amuse the bouches of the city’s tastemakers and foodies alike.
The Storys building, a by-product of trendsetter Hanif Harji (Icon Legacy Hospitality) and scene alumni Charles Khabouth (INK Entertainment), launched its event spaces late last year, using the building’s original brick-and-mortar interior with exposed beams and Victorian windows as a chic and sexy backdrop that rivals its chic and sexy party-goers. An haute tavern and cocktail parlour are planned for later in the year on the building’s first and second floors, respectively, but in the interim, Hanif and team are bringing the flavours of Spain to the latter’s level for a three-day pop-up restaurant next Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
“I’ve been obsessed with Spanish food and wine for awhile. Then last summer I spent three weeks there, just eating my way through Northern Spain and gaining a real appreciation for Spanish food and wine, loving how its ingredients are treated similarly to rustic Italian,” says Hanif of part of the driving force behind the concept. He and Chef Stuart Cameron have been exploring authentic Spanish ingredients and crafting the menu and direction.
Along for the cultural ride is Andrew Hanna – one of the prodigies referred to in wine merchant John Hanna & Sons’ moniker – who, along with Wine Specialist Andrew Shaw, has helped to develop the list of wines for the temporary restaurant (“none of which will be over $7,” Hanif asserts), and Storys’ Director of Spirits, Elan Marks, who has crafted some cocktails to pair alongside the Spanish-inspired cuisine. “Spain has some of the best growing regions for great value wines, and the city needs to experience its wine and food more.”
The main attraction of the “Experiencia de Tapas Auténticos” is, of course, the Spanish food prepared by Chef Cameron. With ingredients like imported Spanish iberico de bellota ham, fresh seafood that will hit ‘la plancha’, and cheeses and sardines from the coastal country, the dishes will stun. Plates like patatas bravas (potatoes with a sofrito sauce), serrano ham or grilled leek croquettes, and pan con tomate (a beautiful house-made bread rubbed with the highest-quality ripe tomatoes) will mostly be priced under the $10 mark. “It’ll be kind of cheap and affordable…This isn’t a money-grab. It’s purely a passion pop-up to give a hip and real culinary experience to our guests.”
This may very well be a prelude to a hip Spanish restaurant that will likely be “in my near future,” says restaurateur Hanif. He sees Spanish cuisine as the “next big thing” to hit Toronto’s culinary scene. It’s very likely: After all, Hanif helped bring restaurants like Blowfish, Nyood, Kultura, and Colborne Lane to prominence. If the past is any indicator, so says Hanif, so goes Toronto’s scene.
The Spanish pop-up restaurant will run May 3rd through 5th from 6pm to 10pm, on a first-come, first-serve basis. Be prepared to wait in line…with a Spanish cocktail at the bar, of course.