Hoof Raw Bar 647.346.9356 http://theblackhoof.com/ tues to sat 530pm-midnight, closed sun & mon
The charm of all good restaurants is the easy coexistence of the casual and the romantic, and Jen Agg’s latest venture maintains this balance with a terrific, mainly raw menu. The open kitchen is tiny; however, the dishes created inside are unbelievably tasty. And the aromas filling the room are rich and comforting, so much so it’s even hypnotizing. Tables are side by side, almost communal. Hoof Raw Bar is to seafood as the Black Hoof is to meat.
Champagne goes best with seafood, and so we ordered a reasonably priced Zero Brut Tarlant from France ($88-750ml). Fine bubbles open to an elegant bouquet of crunchy fresh fruit that, later on, bring notes of fresh butter and brioche. To start, it must be the cured fish board; fatty, earthy gravlox, campfire-smoky pickerel, satisfying vinegary mackerel, chili-spiced buttery smoked scallops and lovely pickled fennel and delicate pearl onions. Next, raw scallops and apples are wonderful, especially the contrast of the crisp green diced apples with the firm butteriness of the raw scallops and curry reduction.
Today the daily crudo is cuttlefish plated with red pepper and a delightful tapioca crisp. This dish looks like a work of art, tastes like a day at the playground. Bream sashimi, soybean embolus, sautéed cucumber beans, wasabi noodles and soy butter is a dream. At first its buttery sweet, then, after a minute or two a hit of wasabi-like heat envelops the mouth.
Ocean trout Carpaccio is simply the best in the city. The outstanding fish has a browned butter flavour to it, layered with tart-tasting red onion jelly and finished with briny salmon roe. A winning combination of grainy sugary plantains sided with flaky curried halibut and coleslaw are a standout on the menu. Smoked octopus and grits looks and tastes like nothing in the city; the aromas of the squid remind me of Polish smoked kielbasa – so tender in the mouth.