The Black Hoof
928 Dundas St West
Toronto, ON M6J 1W3
The Black Hoof is probably one of the best restaurants in Toronto. The place itself garners a bit of praise from almost anyone who's tried it. Despite it's simple decor and hidden appearance (the front doesn't have signage anywhere except for a simple phrase showing "charcuterie"). And that's what this place is. It's become breeding grounds for lots of other popular restaurants that have sprung from it. But here stands the original.
The place is tiny and they do not take reservations. Repeat. They DO NOT take reservations, so be sure to come in a timely manner or be prepared to wait. The place inside is dimly lit, intimate, and is not intended for large groups. The menu is written in chalk and can be found on the walls along with specials.
The Black Hoof is famous for lots of items, but their charcuterie is probably the quintessential standard of which they lay their fame. The charcuterie plate ($19) comes assembled with an assorted array of house meats that range from duck terrine to horse sausage to an array of pork goodness.
Dishes like the Horse Tartar kind of make you feel bad for horses everywhere, until you actually bite in. It is one of the best tartars I've had. The meat is soft with an almost buttery texture, and you can taste all the seasonings that make the dish killer.
Their Tongue on Brioche is just as it sounds. Sliced tongue served between two thick cut slices of brioche bread. The bread is buttered and crisp, and tastes good despite being a rather difficult vessel for eating the tongue. I had to eat them separately, as eating it whole proved difficult, but still enjoyed the meatiness of the tongue. If you want pure cow flavor, you go for the tongue.
Fried Sweetbreads are easily the best sweetbreads I've eaten. Though I can't claim much experience as I've only sampled sweetbreads a handful of times in my life, I can say that most of those experiences have been negative. The chewy organs are often pungent and grimy, but the sweetbreads, by sheer virtue of being tolerable, make it good. There is a subtle sweetness through the sauce they use and much of the sponginess is counter-balanced with a crisp exterior.
Cochinitas Tacos are exceptional. The meat is so good and comes with a small lime and crisp pork rind to accompany the taco. The sauce that is used on the pork meat is savory and is perfect with the lime too. Pork Jowl was OK. I wasn't the biggest fan as I found it mushy and not very tasty, but my friend completely disagreed and thought it to be his favorite dish. Opinions will always vary with dishes here.
For dessert, you may want to try the Foie Berry Shortcake or Foie Pancake. They have had both options before, and sometimes it changes, but foie gras appears to be consistent. The foie gras was decadent and even though I thought it wouldn't work as a dessert, I thought it was fine.
The chefs at Black Hoof are said to change on occasion, but despite all of that, many of the staple dishes remain intact. I've been here on several visits and sometimes the dishes are plated differently or are amended slightly, but the taste and experience isn't diminished. Simply put...the Black Hoof is a gem in the heart of Little Italy, Toronto.
Ambience: A- | Service: B+ | Price: B | Food: A-