When we first visited AP restaurant shortly after its opening at the end of 2022, it shocked our senses. The sweeping views of the city's twinkling skyscrapers from high up on the 51st floor of the Manulife Centre immediately drew our attention, eyes boggling. When we finally peeled them away from the large windows encasing the dimly-lit restaurant, we noticed the parasols hanging from the ceiling, floral banquettes and marbled tables. The flavours of chef Antonio Park's Japanese cuisine with Latin flair also took us by surprise. The dishes are familiar, yet unlike anything we'd tasted before.
Now, just over a year later, we return to AP restaurant to try out the new Chef's Tasting Experience, and find out if it still lives up to our memory of it being one of the best restaurants in Toronto, with one of the city's best bar programs, to boot.
AP Restaurant: The vibe
Stepping out of the elevator into the beautiful space is just as captivating as the first time, and the views are just as dramatic. This time, we're seated on the north side of the restaurant. At first, I'm missing all the twinkling buildings and the CN Tower that are visible from the south view. Then, we start to notice the landscape. We spy the Summerhill LCBO with its iconic tower from the old C.P.R. North Toronto Station, and Casa Loma all lit up in the night. It's a more nuanced, but just as breathtaking scene.
AP Restaurant: The drink menu
There is an option to add a wine and sake pairing to the Chef's Tasting Experience, but we go for cocktails instead, and every one we try is flawless. Fresh, herbaceous and slightly fruity, the Hana Spritz sees sweet pear mingle with dry prosecco. The foamy Raichi Sour is also on the sweeter side with lychee and sake.
On the other end of the spectrum, the booze-forward Kanzan Martini (Toki whisky, gin, sweet vermouth) is a smooth, round sipper with a hint of sweetness.
AP Restaurant: The Chef's Tasting Experience
Rather than a tasting menu where the chef selects everything and diners don't know what they're getting, AP's Chef's Tasting Experience is more like a prix-fixe menu. Guests start with an amuse bouche, the only mystery item on the menu. Then, they get to choose a first and second course, a main and a dessert. The sixth item is a palate cleanser of hibiscus granita in the middle.
My partner and I make a pact to each pick different dishes so that we can maximize the flavours we get to try. We're delighted to see that some of our favourites from last time have made it onto the tasting menu, and we can't help but order them again.
Our amuse bouche that night is a super crispy croquette topped with caviar that has a pleasantly fishy taste. For our first course, we opt for an old favourite: the bluefin tuna tataki, which still holds up as one of the best dishes I've had in this city. Seared on the outside, raw on the inside and soaked in togarashi oil, aji verde and a ginger emulsion, the flavours are deep and delicious. Crunchy wild puffed rice and hints of spice are juxtaposed against the tender tuna. The kimchi gyoza are soft, spicy and pleasing to the palate.
Wagyu beef tataki tempts us on the second course, but it's similar to the salmon tataki and we've had it before. Instead, the hamachi crudo sings in a delicious ponzu and garlic oil sauce with a kick from jalapeños.
Maki rolls often end up having a mushy consistency, but in this one, crunchy shrimp tempura stands out from the creamy avocado which cools the slight heat from jalapeños.
Small portions up to this point make us wonder if we'll still be hungry afterwards, but when the mains arrive, we realize we'll be stuffed by the time we finish dessert. The Omakase Sashimi & Nigiri features a great selection of delicate, fresh fish, enhanced with AP's sauces and accoutrements like roe and caviar. When we take our first bites of the wagyu skirt steak, all conversation grinds to a halt. We're stunned by the incredibly tender texture and the incomparable flavour of the marbled meat.
Sweet and packed with different textures, the Exotic Pavlova is a trip to the tropics in a cup, with tapioca coconut pudding, white chocolate chantilly, mango sorbet, passionfruit and pineapple. And the decadent Tout Chocolat, a brownie with salted caramel and chocolate mousse, is the perfect way to cap off this beautiful evening.
After two visits a year apart, AP restaurant still lives up to the hype. Its casual service style is sans traditional fine-dining formalities; for diners splurging on a special occasion meal, it can feel like a comfortable experience. And with its exceptional food and ambience, AP is well worthy of being a go-to spot for those celebratory outings.
Chef's Tasting Menu, $95 per person, aprestaurants.com