Given that Sutherland restaurant opens on Monday (Nov. 7), Chef Warren Sutherland looks remarkably calm. The kitchens are ready to go, staff are gathered at the bar going over the menu and drinks, and contractors are finishing last-minute tweaks. “I’m looking forward to it now that we’re almost there, but I will admit that opening my first restaurant — one that’s completely mine — has been very stressful,” says Sutherland. (In the past, he has teamed up with partners for Sweetgrass, Slice & Co., and SmoQue Shack, as well as The Piggy Market deli and take-home shop.)
As he looks around the 60-seat restaurant and bar, Sutherland says he hopes his namesake eatery will become both a neighbourhood hangout and a destination for diners from around the city. With the former in mind, he has included a quieter coffeehouse on one side of the restaurant, picturing neighbours stopping in for coffee and breakfast.
City Bites Insider caught up with Chef Sutherland for a sneak peek of his restaurant — and the menu.
You are obviously crazy-busy. Are you still involved in any of your other food businesses?
I remain a part owner of The Piggy Market.
Tell me about planning Sutherland’s menu.
The idea is that this menu is very “me.” I would call it new North American cuisine. It’s a culmination of all the influences that have shaped my career so far, the Caribbean, obviously [Sutherland is originally from Jamaica], but also Europe — specifically France and Spain. And Asia: China, Japan, India, and Korea. This is my wheelhouse. From there, I use my creativity.
And the themes you’re exploring?
This won’t be another small plates restaurant, but I do plan to have smaller plates, priced accordingly. Minimizing food waste is very important to me. I plan to have a main menu, which will change organically with the seasons.
Give us a few ideas on what might be on the menu for opening night.
We’re working on charcoal chicken, which will be like a lettuce-wrapped taco with radish kimchi, soy vinaigrette, and togarashi. There’s a coconut and kaffir lime game hen with rice and bok choy and preserved red chillies. There will be a fish of the day with corn and crispy lentil succotash and prawn oil citronette. Those are just a few of the items.
Sounds amazing! Is lunch a bit simpler?
Yes, some of the ideas include chicken and waffles with a maple hot sauce. We’ve got a “bowl”, which is a curried chicken with basmati rice, apple chutney, dahl powder, and roti. We’ve got our versions of a burger and a brisket sandwich.
Is the kitchen up and running?
I’ve been hosting dinners for the past few days. We’ve done a couple of staff dinners to test out the menu items, and over the next few days we’ll have a dinner for all the contractors who worked on Sutherland, then a friends and family night, and then an industry invite-only night. Sunday we’ll rest, and Monday we open for business.
I hear there’s a coffeeshop component to Sutherland. Does that mean you plan to be open all day?
We’re open for breakfast, lunch, and, dinner. There’s a late-night bar on Friday and Saturday nights.
But you’re only one man. How is this going to work?
Luckily I have a really great head baker, who will make the baked goods and desserts. And I also have a daytime sous-chef and a night-time sous-chef. I’m a single parent, so when I have my daughter, I’ll stick to a 9-to-5 schedule, but when I’m on my own, I’ll likely be here 24 hours a day! I’ll always be here Friday and Saturday nights.
Tell me a bit more about the setting.
It’s at 222 Beechwood Avenue on the ground floor of the Kavanaugh [a 124-unit condo built by Domicile, which opened in late 2015]. It’s divided into the 60-seat restaurant and bar, as well as quieter 20-seat coffeehouse.
Why this location?
Three reasons. First, the opportunity was presented to me by Domicile and the timing seemed right. Second, I live in this neighbourhood so I know it well. Third, we were driving by The Kavanaugh one day — this was before I had committed to the restaurant — and my daughter suddenly said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if you had a restaurant in that building?” It just all came together.
And the look?
It’s very casual; very bright. A bit industrial. There will be a strong focus on service, which I think has taken a back seat in a lot of restaurants lately. It will be fine dining in terms of the kitchen and the service, but without the fine-dining price tag.
What are you most looking forward to?
Cooking! Cooking food that’s exciting to me — and not being pigeonholed into one type of cuisine. I’m also looking forward to the neighbourhood aspect of Sutherland. I see it becoming a place where lots of neighbours drop in and we get to know one another.