Joni invokes a certain Yorkville cachet, both of the famous singer in Yorkville’s hippy heydays, and now the chic new restaurant in Toronto’s iconic Park Hyatt. Channelling that energy into a welcome and warm space befitting of the star herself was no small feat, and with years in the making and many local residents and tourists to impress, the expectations were sky-high.
Energetic Design Details
Like unearthing a time capsule, the careful details layered by the hotel elude to not only the historic past but a clear mark toward a modern and inviting future. Studio Munge‘s hands were on almost every aspect of the atrium-esque space, with glass display cases dotting the airy room from nearby Gardiner Museum that act as both an injection of texture and colour and as an enclosure from the bustling lobby.
Sous Chef Jonathan Williams worked in the UK under Heston Blumenthal‘s careful gaze before being lured to Canada. With a previous stint at nearby Richmond Station, Jonathan is well-versed in local produce and our quirky Canadian preferences. Joining Jonathan is Sarah Tsai who was leading a kitchen before coming to Joni as a Pastry Chef. Executive Chef Antonio Soriano was drawn to Toronto by way of Buenos Aires and oversees this dynamic team. After debuting in France and opening his own restaurant, Astor Manduque Porteño, Chef Antonio was approached to open a Buenos Aires restaurant, the Palachio Duhau, which is an actual palace and part of the Park Hyatt portfolio.
Upon his arrival in Toronto, Antonio clearly found fell hard for his new home. “It’s the most underrated city I’ve ever been to. There are things that Torontonians complain about- the weather, and traffic, move to Argentina and you’ll see what traffic is,” quipped the Chef. Multiculturalism is a major factor in why Antonio came to the city. “Being who you are isn’t a problem here, whereas in many cities even in the US, that isn’t possible. Born in Lima, growing up in Paris, but moving back to Argentina and living there, I never was a part of anything, I’m not Peruvian because I speak Spanish like an Argentinian, and I’m too tall!! I’m French, but my name isn’t Jean-Claude. Since I wasn’t born in Argentina, I don’t have papers there either. Here, nobody is from here, everyone has a history of coming from somewhere else.”
Moving to Toronto on November 30th of 2019 was a challenge, but one that Antonio embraces, especially after his family joined him in February 2020, narrowly making it to Toronto before borders shut for over a year. Clearly a strange time to move to a new city, but there was no turning back, not that Antonio had any doubts. The energy of the city is eclectic so Joni’s concept had to be unique. Careful consideration of community and neighbourhood values were a clear directive, which is exactly why the upstairs Writers Room Bar boasts a no-reservation policy.
Eclectic Menu with Heart
What Toronto is at heart, on a plate, is a tribute to Ontario’s sensational array of seasonal products and producers. Teaming up with Chef favourites like Tamarack Farms ensure a steady flow of premium proteins, but vegetables are a more than just a meaningful side dish, here they are a focal point, with a showy whole Roasted Cauliflower ($29) and Sweet Potato ($18) acting as welcome beacons for those looking for more plant-based plates.
Meatier mains are proudly plated with what Chef describes as a “complete freedom of style and techniques,” which is evident with every effort from the team. Seeking out quality purveyors of the city’s finest, whether it be foraging, produce or farming, ingredient selection is crucial to the execution of all their menus, from breakfast to dessert. Sustainability and respect for the ingredients is a pledge the kitchen takes seriously and is on display with many of the dishes, including the Ontario Lamb Duo ($45), which features coffee kombucha, cleverly rescuing leftover grinds to create a flavourful and impactful dish.
Using everything up they possibly can is a nod to Park Hyatt sustainability pledge, one that puts the results ahead of the process, unconventional and unexpected are key components to each dish, including desserts that are delicate, and feature unexpected nuances like made in-house koji barley ice cream for the Apple ($15) dessert, or fluffy sponge cake for the Chocolate ($17) with delicate leaves that reveal lemon ice cream.
The Park Hyatt brand is built on two pillars: gastronomy and art, here that vision truly pays off. The once legendary corner has seen a welcome revival, keeping in check with the influence and energy that Yorkville is synonymous with. With the Writers Room Bar setting the stage for an unforgettable after-dinner drink, the bar has quite literally been set high at this majestic property.
Thank you to Joni and Park Hyatt for hosting. While the meal was complementary, all views and opinions are of course earnest and honest.
All images by Libby Roach.
Visit Joni seven days a week from 7am to 10pm.