Down to Earth


TORONTO — In the fall of 2008, as many in Toronto’s restaurant scene were scaling back operations and clutching on  to whatever money they had to survive what promised to be a prolonged downturn, restaurateur and former investment maven, Ed Ho (Globe Bistro), took a page out of his old playbook and began thinking about opening a second restaurant.

“I wasn’t daunted by the recession at all,” said Ho on Tuesday evening, surrounded by a room full of family, friends, associates and media at a sneak preview of his new restaurant, Earth, in Rosedale. “I come from an investment background, and I know the best time to make an investment is during a downturn.”

Deciding to open his new boîte during the recession allowed him to secure a better lease, said Ho, as well as find great deals on equipment and furniture and generally save more money than if he waited for the downturn to pass. He wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s been easier to source talent, stating that good hospitality workers are always a little leery when they hear a new place is opening, with most wanting to see if it actually comes together before thinking about jumping ship.

Earth, which soft opens for dinner today, is located at 1055 Yonge St., an address familiar to many in the Toronto restaurant community. “When my friend (and real estate agent) told me to come and take a look at this place, I told him to forget it,” said Ho, laughing. “I thought it was cursed.”

Indeed, 1055 Yonge, the location of the popular Cibo in the 1980s, has seen a slew of failed concepts over the years, which is puzzling considering its great bones. With prominent frontage and a large patio in a great neighbourhood (Yonge, just north of Roxborough Road), another spacious courtyard patio inside, a generous bar area and a huge kitchen with a chef-friendly wood-fired oven, it’s got everything a budding resto needs.

But the key to any successful restaurant is having the right person or team behind it. That’s where Ho expects his experiences at Globe to pay off. As one of the premier spots on the Danforth strip, Globe Bistro has been busy since it opened in 2006, serving some of the best seasonal, regional cuisine in the city. The previous chefs to man the stoves at Globe are well known, respected gastronomists — Mark Cutrara, Ben Heaton — and current Globe chef, the talented Kevin McKenna, is planning a similar, slow-food inspired menu at Earth. Some 90 per cent of all ingredients used will be local.

Throughout the wine-soaked affair, flat-bread pizzas emerged from the wood-fired oven non-stop, topped with local goodies like Cumbrae Farms bacon, lake trout, flavourful cheese and fresh veg. There were also lake bass canapés, a cheese table set up by the Cheese Boutique and an oyster bar.

“The only thing we’re serving tonight that’s not local is the lobster rolls,” said McKenna, as he readied to carve a beautifully charred, wood-oven roasted, whole suckling pig, sourced from a farm in Perth County by the chef’s good friends at 100km Foods. The little porker was even paraded out with a candle in his back, as everyone sang happy birthday to commemorate Ho’s 40th.

In these circles, cake is for kids.

Photo by Signe Langford

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