In pursuit of perfection: Inside Canada’s ‘best’ restaurant, Alo

Click to play video: 'In pursuit of perfection: Inside Canada’s ‘best’ restaurant, Alo'
In pursuit of perfection: Inside Canada’s ‘best’ restaurant, Alo
WATCH: Alo opened its doors to Global News to show that it's all about a dedication to excellence – Mar 11, 2017

The Canadian restaurant scene is rapidly evolving and elevating, with top international chefs such as Daniel Boulud and David Chang setting up shop north of the border.

But homegrown talent Chef Patrick Kriss of Alo isn’t concerned about making Canada or Toronto an international destination for those craving fine dining. The Scarborough-raised, internationally trained chef’s focus is just making his food that much better, an obsession he describes as “consuming.”

“It’s all hard work. Hard work trumps everything, [it] trumps talent, which is important but if you don’t work hard it’s not going to work out. Hard work is number one in this restaurant,” he said. “Everyone works hard from the top to the bottom.”

WATCH: Extended: Chef Patrick Kriss on what drives him and his team at Alo
Click to play video: 'Extended: Chef Patrick Kriss on what drives him and his team at Alo'
Extended: Chef Patrick Kriss on what drives him and his team at Alo

Alo was recently named Canada’s top restaurant by Canada’s 100 Best, an annual rankings list judged by chefs, critics and industry insiders from across the country. In 2016, less than a year after it had opened, Alo was given the title of Canada’s Best New Restaurant and ranked second overall.

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“It feels incredible. It’s so exciting,” said general manager and co-owner Amanda Bradley. “It’s certainly an honour to be recognized at that level and we’re proud to be where we are and we worked hard to be here and we continue to work hard.”

But the co-owners stress they’re not concerned with awards.

“We didn’t open Alo for accolades,” said Kriss. “I don’t let that stuff influence me. We have a good team here and that’s what I worry about. The other stuff I just say thank you and move on.”

WATCH: Extended: GM Amanda Bradley on why details make Alo special.
Click to play video: 'Extended: GM Amanda Bradley on why details make Alo special'
Extended: GM Amanda Bradley on why details make Alo special

READ MORE: enRoute magazine reveals 35 best Canadian restaurant nominees

The team that they’ve assembled reflects that work ethic.

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“The day we found out we were number one we did a champagne toast with our staff and then it was kind of back to business as usual,” said Bradley.

Their hard work shows. Alo’s dining room is fully booked 60 days in advance (and even more so now after they were named number one).

Bradley said their reservations list has been that long almost since they first opened, especially after restaurant critic Chris Nuttall-Smith wrote a glowing review in the Globe and Mail in October 2015.

Cauliflower, caviar, Meyer lemon, with savage blonde oyster, buttermilk, radish.
Cauliflower, caviar, Meyer lemon. Global News
Cured madai with kimchi, red turnips. Global News
Firefly squid, black sesame, turnip and fermented chili. Global News
Roasted squab, swiss chard, black truffle jus. Global News
Wagyu beef with preserved plum . Global News
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Slow roasted pineapple, Armagnac and long peppercorn. Global News

Nutall-Smith said his first experience at Alo made him go “Wow.”

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“I just had this lovely dinner. It’s such a nice room, the sun was coming in, and the service was just so sharp and so on the ball and at the same time so relaxed. Everything about it was just perfect,” recalled Nuttall-Smith. “And then the food started coming out and the wine pairings started coming out – everything was so smart, so original, so interesting. It made you think but it was a real aesthetic pleasure as well.”

READ MORE: Canada’s list of 100 best restaurants of 2017 revealed

It’s evident that the Alo team strives for perfection. On one March evening, no detail was overlooked. Servers meticulously aligned tables with a rope strung across chairs and once customers started filling in the lounge area, staff pre-emptively lowered the shades before patrons could complain that the setting sun was hurting their eyes. Fully charged mobile power banks were even on hand for customers whose phones needed the extra juice.

Nearly two years after opening their doors, Nuttall-Smith attributes Alo’s success to this pursuit of excellence.

“I don’t think [Kriss] will ever stop sweating how wide the garnish is on the plate. Every single detail matters to him and he’s always pushing to get better,” he said.

“I have a tough time letting things go, so I stew about things. I’m always thinking about some aspect of the restaurant,” admits Kriss.

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And even with the title and prestige that comes with being No. 1, Alo refuses to sit on its laurels.

“We already started changing the menu after we got Top 100 […] just kind of elevating everything,” said Kriss. “[To] keep it fresh for the customers who come back, so I don’t want people to think we’re complacent. [This] makes us want to push even harder.”

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