Inside Casa Madera, Noble 33’s first Canadian restaurant

Image via Publicist

There’s something in the air in Toronto. covid restrictions have eased. The weather is finally, albeit slowly, warming up. All over the city, you can feel the urge to throw caution to the wind and enjoy what Toronto has to offer – and for the first time in what seems like a century, there are actually new offerings to enjoy. . It’s the perfect time for a hot new restaurant to explode onto the scene and become a must-visit culinary destination. People are looking forward to going out and having a good time. After two long years staring at the walls of our apartments, we all want to see something exciting and new.

That’s exactly what Noble 33, the team behind new Toronto restaurant Casa Madera, is banking on. Casa Madera is a quirky and innovative dining hotspot designed to make diners feel like they’ve been transported to the Riviera Maya. With its sumptuous dining room in the One Hotel on Wellington Street in downtown Toronto, it easily secures a place among the best establishments in the heart of the city, but with its energetic atmosphere and lively theatrical spirit, it feels more like an exclusive nightclub than your typical white tablecloth restaurant in the financial district. Meanwhile, hero dishes like the Wagyu Tomahawk and crystal-infused raspberry cake ensure the focus is on spectacular food.

A plate with a wagyu entrecote, bone marrow and a crispy potato

Image via Publicist

So much about Casa Madera makes a strong impression right away, from the ostentatious cocktails (including several served frozen, on the stove, smoked, or with a side of dry ice), to the violinist wandering the room playing along to the pulsating electronic music. from the sound system. It’s the kind of flashy, mesmerizing experience you’d expect from a restaurant cluster with many successful outposts across the West. Hollywood and Vegas, and part of the appeal of Casa Madera, especially after two years of closures, is the feeling that you have been taken far, far away. And yet, for all of LA’s extravagance and theatrics, Casa Madera feels out of place in the city — a testament to how restaurant founder Tosh Berman worked hard to fit in.

During the restaurant’s soft-opening craze in early April, Complex Canada caught up with Tosh to talk about his journey to becoming a major restaurateur, the challenges of opening a restaurant post-COVID and what’s unique about the restaurant. canadian culinary landscape.

You run many successful restaurants and have been a major player in this field for a long time. How did you start in the industry?
I started in high school as a dishwasher. My father told me that if I wanted a car, I would have to work for it. I worked all summer in a back kitchen, and it really became a kind of love affair for me. I was doing the work as fast as I could, and as soon as I had a break, I was running on the floor and kind of watching what was going on. I was in awe of everything that was happening in the restaurant. Service items. People dressed well. The symbiotic relationship of the front of the house and the back of the house. I fell in love with it and never looked back. From there I worked as a back bar, bar manager, service manager. I got my first general management position in my early 20s, and through that I met some great people who really believed in me and had the opportunity to open my first location when I was 23 years old.

In the last 20 years that you’ve been doing this, what are the biggest changes you’ve noticed in terms of what it takes for a restaurant to be successful? How have things evolved?
I think it’s double. In a sense, I have personally evolved in my approach to hospitality. When I think back to some of the things I did in the beginning, it’s cringe–it’s like looking at a bad haircut. From the customer’s perspective, however, it is more about changing attitudes towards diets. It used to be that restaurants created concepts for one group, people who ate everything. Now you have vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian. Even “flexitarians” — people who eat vegan every other day. This evolution has really dictated and guided the way we develop menus and protocols in the kitchen. Our restaurants have a very robust vegan program, and that means making sure that some things aren’t cooked in the same pans as others, as well as details like not having leather-bound menus. It’s about understanding the needs of our customers.

Tosh Berman wearing a brown plaid suit

Image via Publicist

It seems customers are more sophisticated now in what they want. What do your restaurants offer to cater to these tastes?
There is this idea that the theatrical elements associated with the dining experience are part of the overall concept of the restaurant. We want to create this machine that gives people the opportunity to walk through the threshold of our doors and during this two or three hour moment we are able to give them something transportable, from music to theater to how we create the cocktail menu. It’s about telling a story. This is the new benchmark, and this is what guests expect. You can’t just create a restaurant. You have to do something more, and that something more is what we really try to focus on.

“West Hollywood is a bit of a core inside of Los Angeles, and there’s a lot of acceptance there for people to just be who they are. And that’s reflected in Canada. I think there’s has a lot of synergy there.

Is this stuff consistent across different markets? It’s easy to imagine huge interest in vegan food and the like in Los Angeles, but what about a place like Denver or London?
It’s consistent, absolutely. I have a restaurant in London. I would never have thought that in London, but we’ve had so much success there, because the vegan market is incredibly underserved. There are 1.5 million vegans living in the city, but per capita there are about 1/16and restaurants for them against Los Angeles. Demographics are changing globally. You have a huge vegetarian restaurant in India for example. We end up having a lot of Jews and Muslims in our restaurants because of the vegan options on our menus and the way we produce our menus and cook our food. The religious component, the health and wellness component, it’s all pretty global. I’ve yet to see where it’s not a driving force in how people decide where they want to eat.

A bowl of beans and vegetables with a roasted lemon.

Image via Publicist

This is your first restaurant in Toronto. What are your impressions of operating a restaurant here so far?
It is markedly different from the WE. I know it’s a cliché, that people in Canada are so nice, but it’s actually true. My fiancée got off the flight to Toronto, it took her a long time to get through the airport, and when she got here the first thing she said to me was, “God, people in Canada are so nice. It’s true! I think this is reflected in our staff and the people we have found for our restaurant. We start with a much higher staffing benchmark because of the passion and desire to be excellent.

It’s funny you say that, because I always find the people so nice in West Hollywood.
West Hollywood is a bit of a hub inside of Los Angeles, and there’s a lot of acceptance there for people to just be who they are. And this is reflected in Canada. I think there is a lot of synergy. Much more openness. When you look at the melting pot that is Toronto, the people who mix, you don’t feel as homogeneous here as elsewhere. There is an interesting cultural divergence here that you won’t find elsewhere. It’s incredibly diverse. This is one of the reasons we are so excited to open this restaurant.

What impact has COVID had on this process?
With this restaurant in particular, we have completed construction for a year and a half. We sat on our hands waiting to open, trying to find a great place to overcome the limitations COVID placed on us. Canada obviously had a much stricter lockdown. Were in Arizona, for example, where they lifted their mask mandates and restrictions in June 2020. We’ve had open lockdowns, closed lockdowns, and that’s a challenge. Retaining our best team players has been difficult. For many of these people, just sitting around and not working has been a challenge because they are so passionate about what they do. Our chef surprisingly survived the two-year wait. We kept him on the payroll and we kept him here to work on creating menus and pushing the boundaries. What he has created is truly spectacular.

The interior of the west dining room of Casa Madera

Image via Publicist

Tell me a bit about the inspiration for the design of the restaurant.
It was important to me not to put a square peg in a round hole. I didn’t want to just take a design and put it in a space. It’s cold in Toronto. So creating an overly tropical restaurant that’s an eyesore in the winter doesn’t make sense. We have found something that stays true to the concept, Casa Madera, which means “wooden house”, but which corresponds to the space to which it belongs. We’re a known entity in the US, but we’re not here, and I didn’t want it to feel like an abandoned LA concept here. I wanted to come into this market and develop the product here, so that it looks like a proven concept in Toronto. I want to be part of this landscape. I want to be part of this continued emergence of Toronto being one of the key cities in the world of hospitality. Toronto is on the verge of being considered a great foodie city. It will make waves. And I want to be part of it.

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