Thursday, May 24, 2012

Delux on Ossington: Mozo's French-Cuban Cuisine

One of the newer additions to the über-trendy Ossington strip is Delux, an understated yet stylish French-Cuban restaurant by Montreal-born owner and chef Corinna Mozo. Once the home of Sparrow Restaurant, the restaurant's been totally refurbished and now features compact leathers booths, cool lighting fixtures and a menu of brasserie delights, such as duck confit, house made terrine, Wellington County steak-frites and of course, Mozo's famous pressed Cubano sandwich filled with molasses-cured pork shoulder, ham, gruyère, onion and grainy mustard, all in perfect balance. 

The A-frame sign outside advertises Mozo's Franco-Cuban-inspired Bistro-style cuisine

A Montrealer with French-Canadian and Cuban roots, Mozo trained at the Stratford Chefs School before moving to the Boston to begin her career working for chefs like Lydia Shire and Susan Regis at Biba Restaurant. She later became chef at Chez Henri, which was named one of the top restaurants from both Esquire and Gourmet magazines, then opened Truc in Boston's historic South End. But she wanted her children to grow up in Canada, and Toronto seemed to meet both family and career requirements. For years, her brother had been urging her to keep an eye on Ossington, so when number 92 appeared in the listings, Mozo made the move. "I like being in a place that’s up-and-coming," she explains. "I opened Truc in Boston’s South End before it became gentrified and always enjoyed the varied clientele."

Chef Corinna Mozo, chef/owner of Delux on Ossington

White washed walls and industrial-chic interior

Here at Delux, as with so many new restaurants, the décor is deliberately shabby. The bare brick walls have been whitewashed, as have the ducts and pipes been laid bare across the ceiling. Mozo’s husband is a cabinetmaker, and they had fun with the space during Delux's six-month renovation, putting in a new maple floor and creating funky light fixtures made from bundles of unlit fluorescent tubes. It’s deliberately rough-and-tumble, which seems to suit the raw refreshing edge of the neighbourhood.

Bare brick walls, exposed pipes and funky light fixtures

A backlit art installation dominates one wall

A limited but solid menu

One of the best deals in the city is $1 oyster Tuesdays at Delux. Starting with a bottle of Muscadet Sur Lie Domaine des Cognettes from the Loire Valley — the perfect wine with oysters — we ordered three dozen of bodacious bivalves from Peacock Cove in New Brunswick, to start off the evening. Marked by their deep cupped shells, delicate meat, and high-salinity, the oysters arrived shucked and chilled over ice, and had a delicious clean bright finish. Delectable and a deal.

The first of our three dozen Peacock Cove oysters from New Brunswick

Served chilled over ice, the oysters had deep bowls with a sweet saline finish

Delux signature oyster condiments: Fresh grated horseradish and Crisp Apple Mignonette

Mozo’s classic bistro food is immediately appealing. Chef Mozo bakes her own bread daily, a dense white loaf that grills beautifully and accompanies many of the dishes, such as the large Charcuterie Plate we ordered to share, that came with House-Made Terrine, Chicken Liver Mousse, Duck Rilettes and cured pork sausages served with grainy Fleur de Dijon french mustard, crisp cornichons and a drizzle of honey. Wonderfully flavourful, the platter was a feast for the eyes. The Chicken Liver Mousse in particular was exceptional, silky smooth and lighter than air.

Delux Charcuterie Platter with chicken liver mousse, house made country terrine, duck rilettes and cured sausages served with grainy Fleur de Dijon, cornichons and a drizzle of honey

We also ordered an assortment of cheeses that included a perfectly ripe La Sauvagine, a delicious Quebecois cheese with a moist and supple rind and runny ivory middle. Accompanied by a tangy goat and mouth-tingling blue, the cheese board also featured smoked almonds, sliced green apples and some of Chef Mozo's toasted homemade Cuban bread, fresh and warm from the oven. Also, I can never resist a Fritto Misto di Mare, so we had to order the Friture of Tiny White Fish that arrived in a newspaper cone with a rich creamy remoulade and fresh sliced lemon. Garnished with crispy flash fred parsley, the friture was excellent.

The Delux Daily Cheese Board with three cheese, fruit, nuts and toast, 
including the exquisite La Sauvagine, a delicious Quebecois cheese 
with a moist and supple rind and runny ivory middle

Friture of Tiny White Fish with remoulade and fried capers

Warm and succulent, the white fish were lightly lated and highly addictive

No evening at Delux would be complete without Chef Mozo's made-to-order Warm Buttermilk Donuts rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with Chantilly Cream and sweet caramel flavoured Dulce de Leche. I had never had fresh warm donuts before, and they were sensational. Light and airy with a crisp sugary exterior, the final coup-de-grace was dipping them in the sweet cream and watching them disappear no sooner than they arrived. The birthday candle perched on top of the up-turned metal cup was a lovely touch, especially so for my friend, who was grateful that the staff didn't sing 'Happy Birthday', but we did, ever so quietly. Exhibiting a modicum of restraint, we did resist Chef Mozo's gooey, baked-to-order chocolate chip cookies which come with a white Russian! Although there's always next time.

Warm Buttermilk Donuts rolled in cinnamon sugar and serve with 
Chantilly Cream and sweet Dulce de Leche

Apart from their full French-Cuban fusion brunch, lunch and dinner menus, Delux has been canning their own preserves recently, with pickled raisins, jalapenos, and even candied walnuts available for purchase. "Although the original plan was to combine French and Cuban cuisine," she says, "I can't cook Cuban during Cana­dian winters. I just can't." However, other Latin-influenced dishes are sure to creep onto the menu now that summer is here.

The new range of Delux homemade preserves and candied nuts

Delux Cuban Sandwich
Serves 4 
Recipe courtesy of Corinna Mozo, chef/owner Delux

Pork Brine:

16 cups water
1-1/2 cups kosher salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
3 cloves garlic
1 whole pork shoulder, about 5 lb

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup grainy mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Chipotle Mayonnaise:
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp lime juice
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
2 tbsp finely chopped chipotle peppers

8 slices good quality, home-style white bread
2 tbsp grainy mustard
8 oz sliced gruyère cheese
4 oz sliced Black Forest ham
1 lb slow-roasted pork, sliced (see below)
1/4 cup finely chopped cornichons or dill pickles
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup softened butter

Combine water, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns and garlic in a large pot over high heat and bring to boil to dissolve salt and sugar. Cool completely. Place pork in brine and refrigerate. Brine for 8 hours or overnight.

Combine brown sugar, molasses and grainy mustard to make glaze. Preheat oven to 300°F.

Remove pork from brine and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover with glaze and place pork in a foil-lined roasting pan. Place in the oven and cook for 3 hours or until very tender.

Combine mayonnaise, lime juice, red onion, cilantro and chipotle peppers to make chipotle mayonnaise.

To assemble sandwich, spread two slices of bread with a thin layer of chipotle mayonnaise, then add grainy mustard to one slice. Place a slice of cheese on each slice, then sliced ham and sliced pork. Sprinkle with cornichons and red onion, then carefully close the sandwich. Butter the outside of the sandwich and place in a hot panini press or grill pan with a weighted lid and grill until bread is toasted and cheese is oozing. Repeat with remaining sandwich ingredients.

COOK'S NOTE: Corinna Mozo's favourite cooking tool is a Panini press. "We use it all the time at the restaurant. It's good for anything - if you have bread and some cheese, you can throw in whatever's in the fridge."

Delux Cod Fritters
Serves 4 as an appetizer
Recipe courtesy of Corinna Mozo, chef/owner Delux

6 oz dried salted cod
1 egg, beaten
1/8 cup minced white onion
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 jalapeño pepper
2 scallions, cut in thin rounds
3 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup - 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Salt and pepper, if necessary
Canola oil for frying
1/2 cup sour cream, for garnish (optional)

Soak cod overnight in cold water, making sure to change the water three times. Drain cod and place in saucepan with enough fresh water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer until cod is soft, about 10 min. Transfer cod to a plate to cool and reserve 1/2 cup of its cooking liquid.

Finely chop the fish by hand or in a food processor. Add egg to cod with the onion, garlic, jalapeño, scallion, parsley and cooking liquid. Beat in enough flour to obtain a thick paste, stir in the baking powder and salt and pepper if needed.

Fry fritters in hot oil 350°F until golden brown on all sides, about 2 minutes total. Work in batches, do not crowd the pan. Drain on paper towels and serve with a small bowl of sour cream for dipping.

French Toast With Bananas & Dulce de Leche
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Corinna Mozo, chef/owner Delux

1 cup homogenized milk
1 cup whipping cream

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
5 large egg yolks
7 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
8 slices of 3/4-inch thick stale white or egg bread
3 ripe bananas, peeled, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/4 cup dulce de leche
2 tsp unsalted butter
Sweetened lightly whipped cream for serving
Maple syrup for serving

In saucepan, combine milk, cream, vanilla bean and seeds. Place over medium-high heat. Bring to simmer, remove from heat and let stand 30 minutes. Remove and discard vanilla bean.

In mixing bowl, whisk together yolks, sugar and cinnamon until slightly thickened. Slowly whisk in cream mixture. Cool, cover and refrigerate 2 hours, preferably overnight.

Pour custard into large baking pan. Soak bread 3 minutes per side.

In medium fry pan, heat bananas and dulce de leche over low heat, stirring to coat evenly.

Heat large non-stick fry pan over medium heat until hot. Swirl 1 tsp of butter into pan. Working 4 at a time, cook soaked bread until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to baking sheet; keep warm in preheated 275°F  oven. Repeat with remaining 1 tsp oil and remaining bread.

Serve with warm bananas, whipped cream and maple syrup.