Glowbal Restaurant Group, owner of Vancouver’s iconic Black + Blue steakhouse, is heading east with the opening of Black + Blue Toronto. In the former home of the Toronto Stock Exchange in the city’s Financial District, the new location marks a homecoming for Glowbal founder and CEO Emad Yacoub, who came to Toronto from Egypt at 18 before heading west. It’s fitting that he makes his triumphant return to the city with Black + Blue, a concept that, while iconic on the Vancouver food scene, feels better suited to Toronto, a city with a big appetite for hearty, old-school fare.
Entered via the Exchange Tower’s lobby, the 9,000-square-foot two-storey space is marked by an imposing, wraparound bar (for both drinks and sushi), spacious mezzanine, and Himalayan-salt-lined meat locker wall, which holds the restaurant’s prime cuts sourced from Canada, Japan, and the United States. While the space includes typical, brooding steakhouse design features such as wood panelling and marble floors, ingenious flourishes include a mural of fighting bulls made from steak knives plunged into the wall and an open library-esque wine cellar complete with sliding ladder.
Executive chef Morgan Bellis (formerly of Constantine and Flor de Sal) leads the way in the kitchen that impressively executes many of the staple dishes from the restaurant’s Vancouver counterpart while also creating plates available exclusively at the Toronto location. But, as expected of a heralded steakhouse, nicely cooked cuts of meat reign supreme. Throughout the evening, busy waiters bustle between tables with tomahawks, tenderloins, and New York strips for diners to inspect before the meat is thrown on the grill, the scent lingering throughout.
The sushi is a nice start. Funnily, given that Vancouver’s affinity for all things raw fish, Black + Blue Toronto’s raw bar is a main differentiator between it and its sister restaurant. Playing on the traditional steakhouse seafood tower (which is also available), the nigiri platter is a great way to warm the palate. Alternatively, another steakhouse favourite, tableside Caesar salad, awaits those who like to the classics. But not content sticking to the status quo, Black + Blue Toronto gives diners the option to make theirs spicy with a dash of Tabasco sauce added to the dressing, satisfying those who generally prefer their Caesars in a glass.
Naturally, Black + Blue Toronto’s cellar is filled to the brim with hearty reds to accompany the steak, but there are also a good number of vibrant whites, rosés, and bubbles, the last of which feels necessary given the well-heeled clientele that will no doubt saunter over from Bay Street. Of particular note is the British Columbian section of the wine list, where standout steakhouse-ready wines from the likes of Mission Hill and Martin’s Lane remind diners that while Yacoub sees Black + Blue Toronto as a homecoming of sorts, he still bleeds B.C.