Origin a ‘solid’ Toronto restaurant — and it could be a brand

Claudio Aprile at Origin

Claudio Aprile says Origin's menu is designed for short attention spans.

When I asked Claudio Aprile if the eclectic, tapas-style dishes served at Origin marks the way dining will be in the future, he said no. Origin is about now.

“It’s designed for short attention spans. That’s what our society is about,” said the chef who also operates Colborne Lane, long considered among the best restaurants in Toronto.

I’d been meaning to get to Origin, which is at King and Church, since it opened last year and finally made it there twice in a four-day period this month thanks to media events. The food came at us fast, in one satisfying wave after another. Taste is a personal thing and Aprile’s cuisine — which is innovative, sophisticated and often brave — agrees with me. So I wanted to find what others thought of the experience at Origin: of the taste, the price, the portion sizes.

The most repeated word was “solid.” My fellow diners on both nights thought the food lived up to the hype and in some instances surpassed the expectations.

The tostones (smashed and fried plantains, $7) were a big winner thanks to the guacamole, which is worth a stop at Origin if you love Mexican and lament the lack of it in Toronto. Smoked cod croquettes and saffron aioli ($6) and the Chinois duck wrap ($14) are inventive dishes that work with Origin’s emphasis on small plates from diverse parts of the world. The Calamari ($16) was the one downer, with the peanut sauce, mixed with pineapple, tasting too sweet.

On the first visit, a group of five men couldn’t finish the 11 dishes ordered. The total bill, including tax and drinks, worked out to about $60 each. The verdict was Origin was worth repeat visits, even if it was just for the bar scene. A dark, intimate space, Origin has a similar ambience to Colborne Lane but with a more casual, less affluent crowd. Whenever the weather gets around to warming up, the patio on Church Street will open, giving the restaurant some more breathing room.

The second group I dined with felt much the same as the first, although the smorgasbord of flavours seemed to be too much for the pickier eaters.

“The restaurant is a reflection of all the food that has resonated with me,” Aprile said, commenting on how Toronto has influenced his menu.

He also said he hopes to focus on building the Origin brand. That’s terrific news if he can successfully spread this distinctive cuisine to other parts of the city and avoid the pitfalls chefs tend to encounter when they try to replicate a good thing.

No matter what he decides, foodies are eager for his next move. With Colborne Lane still enjoying recognition as one of the most innovative places to dine in Toronto and Origin further establishing Aprile’s reputation, he’s got a growing base willing to give whatever he turns out a try.

ORIGIN: 107 King Street East, 416-603-8009; tapas-style share plates with two per person recommended; total without drinks per diner in the $25-$30 range.

Next on the list: Forte and North 44

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