Dining in Toronto’s Distillery District

One of Toronto’s newest attractions is actually one of its oldest: the buildings of the Distillery Historic District have stood since 1832, but it wasn’t until 2003 that the complex was reinvented as a historic center. This 45-building site was once the home of the Gooderham & Worts Distillery, Canada’s largest distilling company in the 19th century. For much of the 20th century, the buildings sat in ruined splendor, put to use occasionally as a site for film shoots. More recently, the district was restored to its Victorian red-brick glory, and now it contains art galleries, shops, theaters, and restaurants.

I’ve written already about SOMA Chocolatemaker, a particularly delicious chocolate shop in the Distillery Historic District. Other notable spots include the Corkin Gallery, the Sandra Ainsley Gallery, the Deaf Culture Centre, Bergo Designs (cutting-edge housewares), Lileo (clothing for men, women, and children), and Corktown Designs (jewelry). And then there is Perigee.

When I think of places I’ve dined since being diagnosed with celiac disease, few have inspired such confidence as Perigee. This could be because the staff is incredibly well-versed in the gluten-free diet (and considerate of food allergies as well). I didn’t need to explain that not only wheat, barley, and rye were off my particular menu, but so are kamut, semolina, bulgur, and couscous (I have, on several occasions, had well-meaning waiters tell me that couscous is “like rice”; for some reason, it’s commonly mistaken for a gluten-free food). Another part of Perigee’s appeal is the glass-walled kitchen, which sits in the middle of the dining room, allowing diners to watch the chefs at work.

This is an expensive place to dine, but whenever I’ve splurged it’s been worth it. The cooking is classical French with a twist, since ingredients from South America and Asia spice up the plates, too. The restaurant offers several prix fixe menus: one for theater-goers (a great bet if you’re seeing Native Earth Performing Arts or Soulpepper that evening), one for vegetarians, and an extravagant nine-course omakase tasting menu, in which you advise the chef of your dietary issues and food preferences, and put yourself in his capable hands. Of course, you can order à la carte as well, which means you can enjoy grilled yellowfin tuna paired with Japanese diver scallops in a mild green curry sauce, or venison with a leek-and-fennel sauce (but minus the phyllo-wrapped greens that usually accompany it).

Perigee [address] Distillery Historic District, 55 Mill Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada [tel] 416-364-1397 [web] www.perigeerestaurant.com

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