Malcolm Jolley finds Mark Moffatt in Lesleyville at his new restaurant, Core.

You can bring your own wine to Core, our friend Mark Moffatt’s new storefront restaurant on Queen Street East, near Logan. And he’ll even waive the corkage fee if you can ‘stump the chump’ and confound the renown sommelier with a blind tasting of whatever you’ve brought. “It’s only happened once,” Moffatt told me when I visited him at Core recently,” but it was dumb mistake where I didn’t trust my gut, so it could definitely happen again.”

Core, which Moffatt owns in partnership with Chef H. Kim, is a change of gears for the top sommelier used to opening Grand Cru’s at high-end Toronto restaurants like Victor, Crush, and Bosk at the Shangri-La. (Kim’s C.V. is correspondingly fancy, having most recently cooked as Sous Chef for Chef Lorenzo Lesoto at George.) Not that his standards have slipped: “Please,” he said, when I visited him before service on a Thursday afternoon, “don’t call it a gastropub!” Instead, he explained he and Kim are bringing fine dining to neighbourhood scale with a small, but precise menu with appetizers or small plates well under $20, and mains under $30. There is also a five course tasting menu for a modest $65, with two price options for wine pairing.

The focus is on seasonal, locally sourced food. Moffatt told me he was currently sourcing meat from his Queen Street East neighbour, John Maxwell’s Butchers of Distinction, and Kim insists on making everything from scratch, including the pasta and bread and butter. Of course, Moffatt is particularly excited about his wine program, which is geared toward value. He vows to always have VQA by the glass and on the list, and has kept most of his pricing by the bottle at between $49 and $99. While we were talking I noticed three magnums on the corner of the bar, including the Lebanese cult favourite Chateau Musar. I asked him if they were for a special dinner, and he smiled and pointed out two were open, explaining that he offered wines from magnum by the glass. I told him that after 15 years downtown, he may have come to Lesleyville, but it’s nice to see he hasn’t given up the flash altogether.

Core restaurant is open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday at 5:30pm, and keeps a website at