I got to know the Australian-based, New Zealand-native chef Ben Shewry a little bit when he came to Toronto a few years ago for the Terroir Symposium. Over lunch we talked about how big deal tasting menus, at big deal restaurants can be a bit much, or confusing – in other words, not much fun. I’d been to a top ranked restaurant in another city and wasn’t sure what to make of it. He explained to me he had a simple test to evaluate how much he enjoyed his meal, and he gave it to me in the form of a question: “Do you remember what you ate?”
Whatever has been or will be said of Jason Bangerter’s tasting menu at Langdon Hall, I can tell you it passes the Shewry Test. My wife took me to Langdon for a night on the occasion of my birthday in February. Langdon (sorry – if you’re familiar with the place, you drop the Hall) is many things: a spa, a meeting centre, a wedding venue, but for me it’s above all a (very good) restaurant with (very nice) rooms. We came to eat, and then sleep. The next morning, over an enourmous breakfast spread and pastries that really deserve their own post, we managed to recall the entire menu in about three sips of latte each all the way through its eight courses and amuse. (To see the menu we tasted, click here.)
There are lots of reasons to remember Jason Bangerter’s food. Like the man himself, it’s full of composure, a touch of reserve but ultimately open, friendly and smart. The cooking is serious and consummately professional, but the dishes are deliciously fun and time flies. There’s no heaviness, although there’s plenty of nods to classical technique, and the ingredients sing.
Bangerter first caught the attention of Toronto diners at Auberge du Pommier where he gained credit for reestablishing it as a destination for hâute cuisine. Then, he very successfully took on the job of opening Luma and the Oliver Bonnacini restaurants in the Tiff Lightbox. His recent move to Langdon, which under his predecessor Jonathan Gushue won the designation as a ‘Grand Chef’ destination within the Relais and Chateau group of elite hotels and restaurants, signals a return to the work he did at Auberge and harkens back to his formative years as a young cook learning the ropes in the UK and Europe. Owners Mary Beaton and Bill Bennett are confident in Bangerter’s abilities and are investing in major kitchen renovations this winter, substantially increasing his workspace and outfitting him with new tools.
In the video interview below, Bangerter talks about his transition to Langdon Hall.
Can’t see the video? Click here.
Malcolm Jolley is a founding editor of Good Food Revolution and Executive Director of Good Food Media, the company that publishes it. Follow him at twitter.com/malcolmjolley.