Lily Hu’s go-to’s
After Hours with Scaramouche’s garde manger
By Corey Mintz
A standard day working in a restaurant kitchen is like the climax of Goodfellas, when antihero Henry is trying to bread pork cutlets, carry on his criminal activities and look after his family, all while making sure the tomato sauce doesn’t stick. That’s why Lily Hu, garde manger at Scaramouche — the venerable restaurant that still charts as one of Toronto’s best — likes to take it easy when she can.
During days off, Hu often sticks to her East York neighbourhood for craft beer or cider at The Only Cafe, a bar she describes as “like a basement”, with its pinball machine and church pew decorations. Taking advantage of that local’s policy of letting patrons dine on food from outside, Hu will bring a souvlaki on pita from nearby Greek burger shack Square Boy. “Once in a while it’ll be inconsistent,” she admits. “But when it’s good, it’s bang on.”
For brunch, she’ll hit up Maha’s Fine Egyptian Cuisine for a spread of pita and labneh served with dukkah, an Egyptian condiment of ground nuts and spices. Or, alternatively, Hu will head to Saturday Dinette, where they play Billy Joel and Sade on vinyl. “It’s good for something you’d like to cook for yourself but you don’t because you’re tired and lazy,” she says. “Like mushrooms on toast or buckwheat pancakes.”
When seeking something exceptional, Hu will leave her neighbourhood for Enoteca Sociale — a destination for a lot of the city’s cooks. “They do their own guanciale,” she says of the cured pork jowl featured in the restaurant’s bucatini all'amatriciana. “It gets extra crispy, like borderline burnt. All the fat mixes in with the tomato sauce. It’s the perfect, simple bowl of pasta.”
The most relaxing activity Hu enjoys in her off hours is not food-related at all — a Sunday pottery class at LucSculpture, near her home. “It’s really meditative,” she says of working with clay on the wheel. “If you accidentally stick your finger in wrong and poke a hole, it’s completely ruined, but the time and energy you devote to it is much more patient than cooking. It brings you to a different place.”
1 Benvenuto Place
The Only Café
972 Danforth Ave.
875 Danforth Ave.
Maha’s Fine Egyptian Cuisine
226 Greenwood Ave.
807 Gerrard St E.
1288 Dundas St W
663 Greenwood Ave.