Toronto, ON M5V 1K4
Xango (pronounced Chango) is where Latin and Asian flavours meet in the heart of King West. Chef Claudio Aprile (of MasterChef Canada fame) has spearheaded the new project alongside chef du cuisine Ivan Bailey.
The name Xango is a personal nod from chef Aprile to the early days of his career, when he was working with talents like Douglas Rodriguez (from New York City hotspot Patria). The two worked together in the early '90s at another Toronto restaurant, also named Xango.
“That restaurant was 50 to 20 years ahead of its time,” recounts chef Aprile, “I always thought it was such a shame that it never had the opportunity to exist in this city. Restaurants can be a reflection of what’s happening culturally in a city, and now is the perfect time for a restaurant like this.”
At Xango, influences from Peru, Japan, Uruguay, Vietnam, and Thailand come together on the same plate — united by the culinary team’s goal of finding the boldest flavours that a Latin and Asian fusion can produce.
Black tiger prawns are tossed in garlic, Pernod sauce, and fermented chili imported from Peru ($22).
The classic ceviche is a Peruvian restaurant staple, using grouper fish that’s cured in leche de tigre, red onions, aji amarillo and toasted corn ($24).
If you like your ceviche with some added production value, opt instead for the halibut ceviche which is served with sweet potato, rocotto (a pepper native to Peru), and coconut lime in a halved coconut shell on a bed of dry ice ($22).
The roasted hen is based on Latin rotisserie-style chicken. The chicken rests in a 24-hour beer marinade before hitting the charcoal grill and is plated with hand-chopped chimichurri and Yukon gold French fries ($28).
The whole fried branzino is a showstopper and chef du cuisine Ivan Bailey’s favourite co-creation. European seabass is deboned, battered in rice and potato flour, and fried in a wok alongside Tōgarashi spice blend from Japan, ginger, garlic, and cooked plantains. A Colombian pepper sauce with lime, coriander, and garlic is jarred and fermented in-house and tops the finished product ($36).
For dessert, try the chajá and dulce de leche with peach for two. The gorgeous smoking mountain of the classic Uruguayan celebration cake is cut in half to reveal gorgeous compartments of peaches and dulce de leche ($22).
The Full Brazilian includes cachaça, pink guava, passionfruit, lime and egg white. It's finished off with edible flowers ($16).
The Smoke & Sunshine has tequila, mezcal, lime, falernum and spiced pineapple. The drink is finished with a dehydrated pineapple and lime wheel ($18).
The space feels intimate, but it's actually much bigger than meets the eye thanks to the way different areas of the restaurant are portioned off. The main dining room is finished with hanging Edison bulbs and grand chandeliers, and chic velvet bar stools mingle with wooden and blue metal dining chairs. The largest room opens out onto a series of smaller areas that offer different kinds of experiences, including a private dining room and a dimly lit lounge with purple velvet booths and a grand bar. Wood and exposed brick are placed in playful tension with installation art and bold colours throughout the space, and the overall vibe is confident and inviting.
Despite the sophisticated presentation of the space, dishes, and cocktails, chef Aprile is clear on what he thinks Xango is bringing to King West.
"This is not fine dining,” says chef Aprile. “Our food is unapologetic. The flavours are big and bold, the presentation is rustic. I want people to feel a sense of mystery when they try to figure out how we got so much flavour into a dish, to make this a community hub for the area that feels like you’re coming home.”
View this post on Instagram