After Hours: Big Names and Big Flavours Come Together at Alder

By Jessica Huras

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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Combine an iconic international hotel brand with a renowned local chef and the results are bound to impress. At Ace Hotel’s first Canadian location, the brand’s stylish aesthetic meets the culinary talents of chef Patrick Kriss, whose acclaimed restaurant Alo was recently recognized with a one-star rating in Toronto’s first Michelin guide.

A gleaming stainless steel open kitchen with a wood-fired hearth and grill is the focal point of the menu and the dining space at the hotel’s main restaurant, Alder. This hearth was Kriss’ starting point for developing a menu of delicately fire-kissed flavours.

As with Kriss’ other restaurants, the food at Alder isn’t heavily concept-driven. “We basically start cooking and talking and tasting,” says Kriss of the menu development. Alder draws loosely on Mediterranean culinary influences, but seasonal, high-quality ingredients are the backbone of the menu.

Alder sits below the Ace’s lobby, but an open staircase and huge windows that extend down from the main floor make the restaurant feel like anything but a basement space. The design blends seamlessly with the rest of the hotel, with an earthy colour scheme and plenty of natural wood – including a rustic stack of logs to fuel the kitchen hearth – giving the restaurant an inviting yet modern look.

While Alder offers a small line-up of riffs on staple cocktails, wine is the showpiece of the drink menu. “An array of established and up-and-coming producers allow guests to experience something unique or enjoy a classic they recognize,” says Ace Hotel Toronto’s food & beverage director, Amy Mullet.

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As if Kriss and Ace Hotel weren’t enough of a powerhouse pairing, the restaurant partnered with celebrated Niagara winery Pearl Morissette to blend and bottle its house red and white wines.

“Pearl Morissette’s authentic and natural approach to winemaking always seemed like the perfect collaboration for Alder,” says Mullet. Both the restaurant and the winery emphasise minimal, deceptively simple methods that allow their exceptional ingredients to shine.

“I like chardonnay and I like what they do with it,” says Kriss of Alder’s white blend, adding that Pearl Morissette’s winemakers coax great depth of flavour out of what is often considered to be a more neutral grape.

To pair with the Alder chardonnay, Kriss recommends the baked clams, which are cooked in brown butter with bread crumbs and ‘nduja. “They’re smoky, spicy and crunchy,” says Kriss. The light salinity of the wine is a natural match for the marine brininess of the clams. Kriss says this dish is a popular starting point for diners before they dig deeper into the menu.

Kriss notes that Alder’s food menu can easily be ordered as appetisers or mains for a more formal dining experience or as a series of shareable dishes to create a more relaxed, intimate meal.

“It’s a fun restaurant,” says Kriss. “If you’re bringing someone who you’re trying to get to know, it can help break the ice a bit. There’s a vibe and an energy to it.”

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