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By Colleen Isherwood, editor
TORONTO—Wildfire Steakhouse and Wine Bar has been a neighbourhood fixture on Yonge Street between Lawrence and York Mills for 12 years, and now owner Jody Ness has brought his well-known eatery to the downtown Cosmopolitan Hotel on Colborne Street. Next on his agenda is to spread Wildfire to Oshawa, ON, this summer, and Barrie by the end of the year.
Wildfire Cosmopolitan took shape quickly, Sarah Lieberman, Ness’ executive assistant, told CLN.
“The restaurant used to be called Eight. We took over ownership in January, and had a fast turnaround including everything from floors to walls. The renovations were done in 12 days—the only thing that wasn’t renovated was the bartop,” she said.
The restaurant had its soft opening on Feb. 2, and grand opening on April 3.
There are many similarities between the North York and downtown locations—both serve steak and lobster, signature ribs and piri piri Portuguese inspired chicken.
But, Lieberman pointed out, the original location is much larger, with 220 seats as opposed to just 90 at the Cosmopolitan.
“It has a different feel,” she said of the Cosmopolitan location. “At the original location there is more dark cherry wood; it’s more traditional. This one is more rustic urban chic with barnboard.”
While there is a live lobster tank at the North York location, there’s no space for one at the smaller Cosmopolitan location.
Lobster, ribs and piri piri chicken
Specialities at both places include double bacon wrapped filet with Cuban lobster tail for $64 (8 oz.) or $69 (10 oz.), and Wildfire back ribs with hand cut fries and seasonal vegetables ($34). Another favourite, piri piri half chicken churrasco with garlic mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables, costs $27.
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Ness is the executive chef for Wildfire, coming up with the original recipes. He has hired Josh Lauder as kitchen manager at the Cosmopolitan location.
Asked about the most popular dishes, Lauder mentions the top cut sirloin, short ribs and rib-eye. “We have the ability to bring in a tomahawk—a rib steak up to 56 oz. with a giant bone attached. It’s a showpiece—generally you share it. There’s more demand than you’d think,” he added.
Lauder has come up with seven different items as bar nibbles for the after-work crowd at Wildfire’s Cosmopolitan location.
One of the most notable is his meat loaf cupcakes—a grilled vegetable and ground tenderloin meatball served with a chipotle carrot puree. Lauder dabs a little lime chipotle ketchup on top of the meatball and finishes it off with piped cumin mashed potato, beef demi-glaze and bacon bits.
“They’re adorable—they look like little cupcakes when they’re done,” says Lieberman.
Another favourite is mushroom ragout—a mushroom combination done with fine herbs and garlic and reduced in whipping cream. Lauder uses sweet hen-of-the-wood mushrooms and oyster shiitake mushrooms.
Ness, who hosts and produces Wine Portfolio, a wine, food and lifestyle show on CNBC World, has a passion for wine. At the North York location, he has 900 selections on the wine list and 6,000 bottles in stock.
“Here, there’s a selection of about 100 wines, including wines by the glass,” said Lieberman. “There are more beer drinkers here.”
A look at the wine list shows seven whites, 10 reds and one sparkling wine by the glass, at prices ranging from $9 to $19.
Mixed drinks include the Five Star Cosmo, consisting of Pravda Vodka, Grand Marnier, cranberry juice and lime for $12; and Toronto Vice which includes Ice Vodka, icewine, ginger and mango nectar. A Wildfire Signature Caesar contains spices, steakhouse sauce, garlic, clamato, tiger shrimp, olive, hot pepper and a pearl onion.
Working with Cosmo
“Working here in the financial district, we’re looking to build our lunch business—to have guests bring clients here to stop in for a brief lunch,” noted Lieberman.
The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Wildfire Steakhouse and Bar are two completely separate businesses, but they work together well, she adds.
“If we grow, they grow. We work together to market each other—we’re both on each other’s websites, and we’re included in a lot of e-blasts. There are joint VIP specials at the hotel and restaurant,” Lieberman noted.
8 Colborne St., Toronto, 416-350-8188, www.wildfiresteakhouse.com, @wildfiretoronto.