In the last couple years, Dundas West has seen a slew of new restaurants open up. Sapori joined the bustling and competitive, but community-oriented neighbourhood in June, 2018. Situated just west of Dufferin near Brock, this new wine bar and restaurant serves natural and organic wines to pair with their versatile menu. Owner and Chef Ryan Sciara (formery Archive, The ROM) and his Chef de Cuisine (CDC) Anthony Alexander, (formerly La Banane and Chantecler), are the sweet men behind a menu of international flavours, stemming from their diverse cooking backgrounds.
The small restaurant is quiet and dimly lit this evening with Anderson Paak crooning through the speakers, followed (perhaps ironically?) by the soundtrack from Jon Favreau’s 2014 film, Chef. Since we pre-ordered many of the items, the dishes come rolling shortly after we settle into our table. The night starts with the very impressive medium charcuterie board, adorned in five different house-cured meats including duck prosciutto, jerk coppa, brown sugar and coffee bresaola, and smoked ham. Our cheeses included epoisses de Bourgogne, château de Bourgogne, chèvre noir, 14 arpents, fior arinco, and tomme aux fleur. Everything is sliced to perfection, and it’s possibly one of the finer charcuterie boards I’ve had in a very long time.
The Crispy Tofu made with roasted eggplant, fromage blanc, crispy garlic, jalapeno, and fried leek, is satisfyingly crispy and soft on the inside. The thinly-sliced fried leek looks like it was a pain to cut with a knife, (but of course, nothing one of the knives carried at Tosho couldn’t handle).
The House Cured Ham plate with clothbound cheddar, brown butter and greens are a bestseller there, and make a great appetizer for sharing.
This was followed by the Pan-Seared Scallops, in an absolutely ethereal presentation. The real star of the evening, however, was the Mahi-Mahi. The pan-seared sunchoke puree alone was a work of art. When the mac-and-cheese pie arrived, Brian encouraged us to dip the macaroni in the aforementioned puree, which to our surprise worked wonderfully well together.
At this point, we’re pretty much stuffed so we order dessert, but unbeknownst to us, Chef Anthony was working on fried chicken to have sent over. The kimchi yoghurt that accompanied it was tastefully done, a brilliant balance of tang and spice. Everyone ate the chicken to the bone. Dessert, which was a house-made Chai Creme Brûlée sprinkled with seasoned pumpkin seeds, passed Brian’s infamous, and at times scathing dessert critique, “dessert at a restaurant will make or break my experience”. It was a delightful, not-too-sweet, last course to send us off with a good taste in our mouths.
INTERVIEW AND TOUR
The last diners take their leave for the evening and Ryan and Anthony join us at our table for a casual interview, which turns into us talking about everything from wildly inaccurate industry movies like Burnt, to cheese smells. We learned that Ryan owns the restaurant with his father who named it Sapori which translates to “to taste” or “flavour” in Italian. Naming the place, according to Ryan, was the hardest part of the process. “When you pick it, that’s it - hope no one makes fun of it,” he says. Sapori is the manifestation of a 10-year-old-dream that he’s been working towards during his time at Archive where he helped develop their charcuterie program. We talk about the importance of feedback from customers, and how hard it is to hear it when you’re working back-of-house. Spending time working front-of-house allowed him to really hear what people have to say about the food. Ryan knows the charcuterie they serve is special. “People started asking if they could buy everything [on the board].” Which they will soon be able to, as Ryan reveals that he plans on opening a commissary to fulfill that very wish. On any given night, Anthony will send out one of his “experiments” to every customer in the room, in order to get feedback to help him in his dish creation process. Not only is it a pleasant surprise for all the guests, but it’s a cool way to make use of what is pretty much a readily available focus group.
Ryan and Anthony lead us on a tour downstairs to the private dining room, where the cellar is also located, displaying an impressive collection of organic and natural wines. As a wine lover, I am all heart-eyes. Chef Anthony confesses that he decided he wanted to work here the moment he laid eyes on that dining room. The prep-kitchen is also downstairs which includes a pasta room. Currently the ravioli has been taken off the menu; Anthony coyly says with the flick of a wrist, “the pasta roller wasn’t working for me.”, but they assure us it’ll be back. Back upstairs by the pass, we talk knives a bit, and at last say our goodbyes. Ryan and Anthony are such lovely people and talented chefs, and I’m excited for the success of this new restaurant. If you’re ever in the Dundas West area and want either the wine-bar-snack experience, or a full-on dinner, give Sapori a visit and let these two take care of you.