Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Citizen

The Citizen opened in 2014, which means it took me roughly two years to visit... but heck, I made it! Located at the former Brant House space, The Citizen (Instagram: @thecitizen_to, Facebook: The Citizen) is King West's version of a casual sports bar.

Inspired by the restaurant-bars of the early 1900's, The Citizen's space gives off an old school rec hall atmosphere. Patrons can catch sports games from the eight flatscreens mounted above the wraparound bar.

In a nod to Toronto’s heritage, you'll also find numerous vintage accents, including original floating beams from the historic Gooderham and Worts distillery.

Retractable screens printed with vintage photos separate the large restaurant, allowing for private parties and gatherings.

Co-chefs Binh An Ngyuyen (left) and Jonny O'Callaghan (right) in The Citizen kitchen.

Bombay Sapphire East + St. Germain infused with elderberry + lemon juice + soda
Lot 40 Whiskey + smoked tobacco syrup + Angostura bitters

I made it to The Citizen just in time for the launch of their new winter menu, which is divided into five sections: snacks, appetizers, salads, mains and sides. Here's a look at what I had:

Fried cauliflower + chili honey + sesame seeds + scallions
Crunchy and coated with a luscious sweet and spicy sauce, this General Tso Cauliflower is saucy-meets-sticky-meets-crunchy. It's a party in your mouth! The appetizer also comes with a side of fortune cookie :)

Shaved brussels sprouts + anchovy caesar dressing + grana padano + bacon
The light and thinly shaved brussels sprouts have a distinguishable flavour that stands up to and complements the savouriness of the anchovy, bacon and the grana padano. The dressing is strong yet just right when paired with the brussels sprouts. A squeeze of lemon gives the salad a nice tart finish.

Chili honey glaze + scallions + sesame seeds + pickled ginger aioli
Soft and tender pork ribs that's packed with flavour, the chili honey glaze is what tops it off here. The pickled ginger aioli, plus actual slivers of pickled ginger and finely chopped scallions, make these ribs extra appetizing and is an ideal snacks to start your meal at The Citizen.

Beef meatballs + rapini + crushed chilies + pecorino
This is not your ordinary meatball pasta. Though it looks rich and heavy, this tagliatelle is actually very light and delicate. Wide fluffy noodles, bite sized meatballs and rapini keeps the dish fresh, and I love the mild heat - it's subtle, but it's there. I wish the pasta was cooked a bit more al dente as they were on the softer side that evening.

7 oz house-ground dry-aged beef striploin + secret sauce + house-made american cheese + fries
What can I say? The Citizen Cheeseburger is essentially an amped-up Big Mac, not that I'm complaining. The juicy 7oz striploin patty and all the necessary fixins' made this the best "Big Mac" I've ever had. I want a bottle of that secret sauce a.k.a. Big Mac sauce....

Brioche + salted dulce de lèches + candied walnuts + molasses butter + cream cheese filling + apple 
This colossal cinnamon bun was unreal. Slathered with dulce de leche, the brioche is super cinnamon-y and ooey-gooey without tasting like it's under-baked inside, with a caramelized exterior that's slightly crunchy. The cream cheese filling is unbelievably creamy and decadent, too. Chunks of fresh apple and candied walnuts give the dessert a nice texture contrast. Everything about this cinnamon bun is perfect - I wouldn't change a thing.

Co-chefs Nguyen and O'Callaghan are elevating familiar dishes at The Citizen by giving them a much welcomed boost in ingredients, flavour, and presentation. The duo is re-interpreting and updating classic plates with twists of their own, and they work. The menu is fun and innovative, without sacrificing on taste or technique. It's comfort food that I would want to go back again and again for. After a brief chat with the chefs that evening, it was obvious to me that they work really well as a team, and the new winter menu clearly reflects this.

The Citizen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato