Takeout Diaries: Where Aburi Hana chef Ryusake Nakagawa gets to-go garlic coco bread, Beef Wellington and pad Thai
It may be November but it feels like March all over again—our numbers are going up, it’s cold and grey outside and, once again, we can’t eat inside restaurants. But there’s always takeout or delivery. In this new series, we’re asking Toronto chefs to name their go-to takeout spots from throughout the pandemic.
Yorkville’s Aburi Hana opened just before the pandemic hit. It has since adapted to offer a delivery and takeout program featuring meticulously prepared and packaged sushi, sashimi and nigiri, bento boxes, and signature dishes like a foie gras sandwich with black truffle sauce and house-baked matcha bread.
Executive chef Ryusuke Nakagawa has studied under two master chefs of the Kyoto-style cuisine he serves at Aburi Hana, including Murata Yoshihiro, the third-generation owner and chef of three-Michelin-star Kikunoi. But Nakagawa says that he’s been getting a lot of takeout during the pandemic as a way of supporting the restaurant industry. “We are all facing the same challenges and every little bit helps,” he said. Here are some of his favourites.
Chef Craig Wong’s new seafood and natural wine bar on top of its sister spot, Patois, offers curbside pickup.
Go-to item: Heat-and-serve meals for two
Tasting notes: Recent dinners have included garlic coco bread with crab-dip stuffing, umami shrimp and cilantro Caesar salad with jerk butter croutons, and sweet soy-braised boneless short ribs. “These Bar Mignonette meals have been a go-to. The menu is always changing, but I really enjoyed the boneless short ribs—they hit the spot after working in the kitchen all day—and the portions are quite generous.” The multi-course meals come fully cooked, with easy to follow instructions for oven and microwave reheating.
Enigma Fine Dining
This modern-European restaurant opened earlier this fall, right before indoor dining was restricted for the second time this year. Intended to be a tasting menu restaurant serving French-inspired afternoon tea, it is currently offering at-home packages for pickup.
Go-to item: The Enigma Home Meal
Tasting notes: With a choice of main, side and dessert, each customizable dinner can be supplemented with add-on options. The premium meal kit might include a slow-roasted tomato soup with aged-parmesan croutons, truffle butter chicken and dauphinoise potato with rosemary and garlic cream. “It’s something I wouldn’t normally cook for myself,” he says of the potato dish, “so it’s a nice treat and it’s very comforting.”
Pai Northern Thai Kitchen
This northern Thai restaurant downtown has been acknowledged by the government of Thailand with a Thai Select Premium designation. “I’m a big fan of chef Nuit Regular,” Nakagawa says. (He’s not alone.)
Go-to item 1: Chef Nuit’s pad Thai
Tasting notes: “The pad Thai is one of my favourites because it’s quick, tasty, comforting and cooked with skill and care,” Nakagawa says. Pai’s version of the stir-fried rice noodle dish is made with beef, chicken, tofu, vegetables or shrimp in a house-made tamarind sauce.
Go-to item 2: Gaeng massaman
Tasting notes: A peanut, coconut milk and tamarind curry with potatoes, pearl onions, shrimp paste, crispy shallots and choice of protein with steamed jasmine rice. “I love this curry. I like that it’s totally different and more complex from my childhood comfort food of Japanese curry rice. I enjoy both kinds, but I like having that variety.”
Go-to item 3: Shrimp fresh rolls
Tasting notes: Served with peanut and tamarind sauce, the rice paper rolls are filled with shrimp, rice noodles, lettuce, mint, carrot, mango, bell pepper and Thai basil. “They make great snacks when I feel like something light.”