Tucked inside a pretty Yorkville courtyard is a new destination for those who keep tabs on the pulse of the city. An acronym of her two children's names and a passion for cocoa, MoRoCo, Kelly Kimel's new labour of love, is Toronto's new indulgence. Hip and romantic, this former art gallery has never been more artfully tended. Every nuance, every accoutrement of the French inspired decor, has been ardently created with no expense spared.
A clean white boutique displaying decorative chocolate
confections serves as both foyer and homage to the sweet tooth. All the chocolates are handmade in house using Valrhona cocoa and a potpourri of flavour infusions. As an added temptation, a countertop fountain of melted chocolate flows hypnotically. All that can pry us away is the lure of free style jazz emanating from the lounge beyond.
The servers are genuinely warm and charming. They lead us to our cozy seating, and we are immediately made to feel like welcome VIP's. In his booth, a DJ matches the cool ambience of the deep purple and grey crushed velvet, grand mirrors, and fire place with ambiant beats. While sipping a luscious MoRoCo Martini ($14) of Belvedere vodka, guava, and orange juice with a chilli pepper spicy almond rim, and a chocolate glazed orange peel, we unfold the menu. A catalogue of possibilities we are eager to try; it is indeed a menu after my own heart-listing the desserts first!
Yorkville has hungered for a high tea menu, and at long last it is here. A colourful selection of artisanal loose leaf teas can be sparkled with champagne, and served with delightful in-house-made pastries and tea sandwiches like aged cheddar, crisp apple, and fennel. Sipping Chocolate is also offered in dark cocoa, milk chocolate with chai, or white orange vanilla. We want it all.
"To Share" items are bite sized yummies like the light and crunchy Goat Cheese Bites ($12) each wrapped in phyllo pastry, topped with onion confit, a tangy raspberry balsamic and a fresh raspberry. Prosciutto wrapped caramelized figs in a blackberry balsamic reduction ($14), composed of one soft and sweet raw morsel, and one toasted, crispy and savoury, represent a theme here: a balance between the sweet and the savoury. Indeed the original idea was the chocolate boutique, but a demand for more, resulted in a restaurant of enormous charm.
The kitchen flows from lunch to dinner without pause, and there seems a desire to accommodate the craving of every guest. "We want MoRoCo to be the 'go to' place" says director of operations, Craig Hudson. Whether for drinks, hot chocolate, high tea, desserts, or entrees; it seems to be exactly that. This is indeed a destination place-a place where the only rules are the cravings of our appetites. Lunch at mid-afternoon? No problem. All their bases are covered, and there is an ease of service that is both smooth and attentive.
Simple food done well is a challenge for many chefs. Chef Roy Mahaffy meets that challenge and smacks it down. He allows his ingredients to speak for themselves rather than drown in sauce. The 6oz Steak MoRoCo ($24) is a mouth-watering stand-alone. Accompanied by a fresh mound of green leaves drizzled with a thick and sweet balsamic reduction, and a wedge of stacked scalloped potatoes topped by a crunchy layer of cheese, this is a winner. Porcini Mushroom Risotto ($20) is a wholesome and generous medley of earthy chanterelle mushrooms, fresh herbs, and aged grana padano that satisfies on a wintery day. Butternut Squash Agnolotti ($16) harmonizes both colour and flavour. Glazed with a subtle brown butter balsamic, sprinkled with toasted pumpkin seeds and fried sage leaves, and sauced with a tomato concasse. Light and fluffy, the Woolwich Goat Cheese Soufflé ($16) with lemon thyme and chives is presented with a crackling tuille of cheddar, and a Chef's Salad held together as a fresh bouquet of greens by a slender roll of cucumber. There is no repetition of flavour here; only variety, even within every dish. Creative without being intimidating, we know we are on the receiving end of a courtship that succeeds in winning every palette.
Pastry chef Iris Roteliuk creates edible whimsies with lots of wow. Desserts are inventive, fun, and ambrosial. The smile inducing MoRoCo Burger and Fries ($16) is an all mousse chocolate patty with lemon Jelly on a vanilla-poppy seed bun, served with shortbread cookie "fries" and a raspberry "ketchup" sauce. Spring Rolls ($18) are crisp, scrumptious rolls filled with warm dark chocolate, banana and peanut butter. Dark Valrhona chocolate chopsticks, two dipping sauces of raspberry and caramel, and a cool mango salad complete the look and taste experience. One bite of the Chocolate Sticky Toffee ($14) and we're in heaven. Warm chocolate pudding in a salted caramel sauce leverages a snappy stick of gingerbread. A dollop of caramel toffee mouse completes this divine trio.
Decadent sins abound: fondues, and s'mores which, accompanied by faux campfires are also enticing reasons to return...perhaps even later the same day.