A Visit to the new Yorkville restaurant, Figures!

There are two sides to my personality that, for a long time, I figured would stay separate, never the ‘twain shall meet. There is the side that’s always on the lookout for a new restaurant that offers an interesting twist or a perspective on something I’ve already had before, thereby making it refreshingly different; a menu that incorporates multiple tastes, layers, and textures into a complex and delicious whole.

And then there’s the other side of me — a massive sci-fi and comic book geek, developed from very early on when I was growing up. Over time those interests have somewhat subsided. But I have found that I have become quite sentimental about that earlier period of my life, those memories that may seem insignificant to others yet played a large role in making me the person I am today. And remembering such memories or icons with a certain fondness perhaps acts as a reminder not too take oneself too seriously as one ages, and to retain a more positive and care-free attitude. It is that sentiment that clearly comes across when you enter the new Yorkville restaurant Figures, at 137 Avenue Road. The owners Nader and Patrick Marzouk have created an environment that brings a sense of laid-back and vibrant fun to the neighbourhood, — which, frankly, they note that Yorkville is in some need of — while also retaining the refined dining that the neighbourhood residents have surely come to expect. It is the interesting marriage of these sensibilities that will most likely make Figures stand out.

The concept of Figures is simple yet seems exciting and fresh. The idea behind the name points to the importance of remembering the figures in our lives that make us who we are. At Figures, they are most clearly various pop-cultural ones.

Very few images of the interior currently exist either on the main website or on their social media accounts — perhaps a calculated marketing ploy to create an air of mystery surrounding the establishment. This certainly worked for me, for when I entered the restaurant, knowing next-to-nothing as to what to expect, I was immediately overwhelmed by the creativity and intricate details of the décor. The front of the restaurant is made to look like a small comic book or a collectible shop. On various shelves sit original concept art sketches of Star Wars characters and golden and silver age comic books amongst other rare and nerdy oddities — certainly appealing to that older collector with some money to burn, as everything in this area is for sale (during my visit, I was told an original sketch of Darth Vader had sold for five thousand dollars a couple of days prior). A hostess greets you in this area, pushes a button — a Captain America Shield —, revealing the wall behind her to be a hidden, Batcave-like entrance to the main dining and bar areas, which are also quite impressive. Entering the dining area, you are met by paintings of Star Wars and DC Comic characters, a large Pac Man maze on the ceiling that also acts as mood lighting, and a large mural of various pop-cultural icons meant to evoke the stories and personalities of the owners and chef. Basically, imagine if someone hired a big pop-culture nerd to create the ultimate high-end VIP dining experience, and you will likely get something close to this. I don’t think it is a stretch of my imagination to think this will quickly become a popular destination for people wanting to check out the space. They will likely not be disappointed by that, nor from the food and drinks offered.

Currently, Figures has a two-page cocktail list, some of the names and concepts of which have a delightfully silly sense of humour to them. To start, I went for The Rarely on Target ($20). Visually speaking, this is going to be a slam-dunk crowd-pleaser. This cocktail is made with Bacardi Gran Reserva Maestro De Ron and Dillon’s Absinthe. Combined, this creates an initial spicy taste, similar to a Negroni, but slightly sweeter and with a smooth, clean finish, which makes it not too boozy and quite easy to drink. A very nice way to start the meal. Egg whites give the Rarely on Target a frothy head, which the bartenders take advantage of by stenciling an image of a stormtrooper on top with various spices. As far as I’m concerned, this drink is the perfect representation of the meticulous presentation, refined tastes, and the don’t-take-yourself-so-seriously sense of humour that Figures will hopefully be known for. A definite recommendation.

The dishes offered create a blend of casual sensibilities that nevertheless can be appreciated with by an experienced palette. There can be some slight drawbacks to that, but otherwise the menu, which is made with seasonal ingredients and is set to change on a near-weekly basis, offers dishes that from my experience are still rich in flavour. The first dish I tried was one that I was told had become a favourite over their initial first weeks of business: the Lump Crab ($24), a medium grilled crab cake sitting atop a small crab salad. The crab cake is very nice, as it has a delightfully crispy exterior, but the interior is still juicy and melts in your mouth. As much as I thoroughly enjoyed this dish, a slight criticism would be that there is not much that distinguishes the crab cake from the crab salad. Some more variation between these two components would have been appreciated but, as it stands, it is still a small dish that packs a wallop of hardiness from the crab, and will surely appease those looking some good no-nonsense seafood.

The second dish I went for was an absolute winner. The Lamb Shank ($28) did not disappoint. In keeping with the blend of casual sensibilities with rich tastes, this dish is the restaurant’s own version of a shepherd’s pie — with lamb, gravy, peas, and corn sitting atop a warm bed of mashed potatoes, which has a perfect soft and milky texture. I was told that the lamb had been braised for upwards of five hours, making it incredibly flavourful and tender as well. This is a great balance of different tastes and is incredibly filling given the relatively small portion size. Given everything I tried during this visit, future rotating menu options will likely be promising as well.

Along with the food menu, there are also plans to change the cocktail options on a seasonal basis, some of which are currently being experimented with right now focusing on some ideas inspired by literary figures, according to bar manager and mixologist James Bailey. As such, there are plenty of reasons to be enticed to check out Figures, and given it’s unique atmosphere and unpretentious fine dining options, it will hopefully spark much curiosity in the coming weeks, putting the establishment on a path for prolonged success.

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Dyeing Art in Toronto by French Patina Artisan Emmanuel Farré

Emmanuel Farré. Photo: Sveta Soloveva
Emmanuel Farré. Photo: Sveta Soloveva

Before Emmanuel Farré came to Toronto from France, most Torontonians didn’t know about the art of patina or dyeing art.

This self-taught artist paints leather goods to give them a unique and subtle elegant look. He transforms natural leather with a tan, light coloured base into made-to-order, one-of-a-kind pieces, which Canadian luxury brand Maison Patina uses to create handbags, travel accessories, shoes, and bags. Originally exclusively available at the Paris-based menswear boutique, Loding — 133 Avenue Road, Sherway Gardens, and First Canadian place —, Farré’s collection of patina bags and cigar cases will now be available at Betty Hemmings Leathergoods.

I met Farré at the Maison Patina’s launch at Betty Hemmings Leathergoods in Yorkville.

In his lavender shirt and gold vest with a paint-stained apron, a yellow tie, and a retro cap, he looked exactly like the man from Maison Patina website. He was drawing on a piece of leather in front of guests taking pictures of him and holding glasses of champagne.

As both his hands were stained with paints, Farré didn’t shake mine. But when he stood up, I was able to examine his shoes — dyed with gold paint.

Farré told me about his inspiration and experience of working in Toronto.

Photo: Sveta Soloveva
Photo: Sveta Soloveva

Sveta: Hi Emmanuel, thank you for demonstrating your art. Do you always do it by yourself or do you have someone who helps?

Emmanuel: The dyeing process is done by myself. And I’m working here in Toronto with Loding shop who’s doing the assembly (shoes, bags, passport holders, etc.). So they give me the piece of leather, the templates. I do my dyeing process and after that it’s going to the Loding shop for assembly. And you know we don’t have many people who are doing it in the world… maybe 60 or 80.

S: You’ve showed your art in France and the U.S. Do you remember your first impressions of Toronto?

E: The difference is, in France and Europe the patina art is a part of their culture. The people who came to me in France already knew what they wanted. Here, it was really confusing for me in the beginning when people were asking me all the time what my feeling was, my advice. So I like to say I’m acting a little bit like a doctor. I need to talk to my customers to understand what they are looking for and why they want to go inside the patina process. So it’s more like an intimate conversation between me and my customer.

Photo: Sveta Soloveva
Photo: Sveta Soloveva

S: So there was no such a thing as patina in Toronto before you?

E: No.

S: Do you dye only brand new shoes or do you paint customers’ shoes too?

E: I expand my services to many things. A lot of customers bring me their own shoes and I change their colour. Also I do something that I call ‘scratch service’.

S:Scratch service’? What is that?

E: Every day you can scratch your shoes or damage them. And I can match and fix them. But you have to keep in mind that the leather has life. Every leather is different because it’s coming from the beast actually. So if you are asking me for the same colour it won’t be the same colour. When the leather is dyed, you will always have some difference.

Photo: Sveta Soloveva
Photo: Sveta Soloveva

S: What inspires you?

E: I would like to say, just open your eyes. One of my last patina was inspired by autumn leaves. That crazy red, yellow that you have inside the leaves. I can also get inspired by metal roofs with bricks. Nature is inspiring to me. For example, an insect on a flower has a mix of colours you can’t imagine.

S: And what is your inspiration behind the new collection?

E: Right now the main colour that you can see here is more like a blue and, with the starchings, orange-yellow. I like to use the wood effect with a combo of yellow and dark. And you can see on the brush that it really looks like the wood. And I play with some red. It’s like antique Chinese furniture.

Photo: Sveta Soloveva
Photo: Sveta Soloveva

S: Those colours look so bright! How do your customers choose them?

E: Here, you can see the main 12 colours that I like to work with, and they can give inspiration to the customer. You have some pink, you have some orange, some gold, bronze, green….(Farré goes through the templates). So everyone can find the colour they like.

S: What is the main element in your products? Style? Comfort?

E: It’s a balance. Work that I’m doing is like cooking, so it’s always a matter of proportions. It’s not burning too much, dark dye to this point… (Farré explains with a shoe in his hand)

Emmanuel Farré. Photo: Sveta Soloveva
Emmanuel Farré. Photo: Sveta Soloveva

S: I like your shoes. Did you paint them too?

E: Yes, of course. I paint all of my shoes.

S: What are your plans for the future?

E: I would like to expand my business. Leather is everywhere. It’s endless. Right now, I’ve just finished the bag and I’m already thinking about the next idea and where I can produce my work. A dream of mine that I’ve never realized is doing the seat inside a car.

S: Thank you for that amazing conversation and showing me your art.

E: Thank you for sharing my passion.

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ICYMI: Beautylicious Bloor-Yorkville

Need some last minute pampering this weekend? Beautylicious welcomes you to participate in Toronto’s 8th annual premier beauty and wellness event. Presented by Bloor-Yorkville, Beautylicious presents you with the opportunity to indulge in a variety of specially priced beauty, spa, health, and wellness treatments in Toronto’s leading destination for spas, salons, and wellness centers.

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Inspired by Toronto’s annual Winterlicious and Summerlicious dining events, Beautylicious is the best beauty deal in the city. The annual event offers beauty packages from over 50 participating businesses in the Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood. Women and men can experience an array of hair, spa, skin and health and wellness packages priced at $30, $50, $75 and $125 and are only available from October 20th to 30th. Packages are categorized as Salon, Spa/Medi and Health and Wellness and can be found on the Bloor-Yorkville Beautylicious website.

Beautylicious is a great way to pamper and indulge yourself with one-of-a-kind deals on premier beauty treatments. It is the perfect time for the people of Toronto to relax and enjoy some pampering and grooming, and for businesses to attract new clientele, while also showing their love and appreciation for their already loyal customers.

So if you need some well-deserved pampering after a long, hard week at work, start making some calls for because this is the last weekend to indulge yourself in Canada’s one of a kind beauty and wellness event!

What I Wear To Work: Yannick Bigourdan, Entrepreneur

YB 2

Name

Yannick Bigourdan

Occupation

Entrepreneur

Wardrobe Essentials

I love sports jackets; I have about 40 in different colours and fabrics. I often end up wearing Hugo Boss, as their 42 regular seems to always fit me perfectly. I also have a great collection of denim – I tend to buy every brand but always in blue!

Uniform

I would call my work uniform smart casual. It consists of a clean, crisp shirt by Loding, sport jacket, denim jeans or chinos, leather belt (preferably by Loding), coloured socks, and of course – a beautiful pair of Loding shoes. My shoes are always the most dressed up part of my outfit, and l love wearing stylish dress shoes with a casual look.

Favourite item in your closet

My favourite thing about my closet would be my shoe collection of over 70 pairs – all with cedar shore trees inside. I also love my cedar shakes. I use it to keep a nice fresh odour in the closet, as well as help take the moisture away after wearing the shoe to ensure the leather stays in perfect shape and condition.

Yannick Bigourdan is an entrepreneur, philanthropist and family man. Bigourdan, one of the most business savvy men in Toronto and also recognized for his style, is behind some of the most popular dining destinations in Toronto – previously Splendido and Nota Bene; currently The Carbon Bar; and coming soon Union Chicken!

On top of Toronto’s restaurant scene, he has also brought LODING to Canada – a Parisian menswear boutique retailing men’s shoes and accessories at a fixed price with three locations in Toronto (Yorkville, First Canadian Place and Sherway Gardens), and more to come! 

 

Yorkville Village is Getting a Facelift

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The upscale and always chic Yorkville Village is getting a face lift this Summer 2016 and you won’t believe the changes! Building upon the already established Hazelton Lanes, the chic shopping complex will expand into its own downtown mini shopping haven that will cater to new brands such as, Judith & Charles and Ofelia, along with existing stores such as TNT, Andrews and philip. Sure to make an impact on the thriving shopping complex as it revamps its appearance and retailers, anticipate a one-stop-shop experience as the new facility will house everything you will need from fitness, with Equinox gym, groceries from Whole Foods, and a new food court that will cater everything from Italian to Asian fusion inspired delicacies.

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With changes already underway for its June 2016 grand upgrade, Yorkville Village will be another staple in the downtown core that will have many running to its doors with open arms; and wallets. Not just stopping with the new interior of the facility, but its exterior will be just as extravagant. With a patio on the outside of the luxury mall and dual entrances, the shopping destination will be transformed into a shopping experience everyone will want to witness first hand.

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Taking a closer look at the retailers of the new and improved Yorkville Village, Novella has a one-stop-shop guide for you on existing menswear retailer philip, and new retailers Ofelia and Judith & Charles. Offering a little something for everyone is what Yorkville Village prides itself on, and we’re here to give you a little dose of that while you plan your visit to the shopping centre.

 

philip

This third generation men’s wear business has been in a staple in Canadian men’s fashion for many years, and continues to keep the family business a float with a variety of brands such as, Paul Shark, Armani Collezioni and John Varvatos, while carrying their own in-house philip label attire and accessories. From what started with owners, and siblings, Philip and Leandra Zappacota’s grandfather years ago with his bespoke tailor shop, the company has transformed the coveted store and brand into a fashion one-stop-shop for the dapper gent wanting to make a statement.

Adding the title of image consultant to their list of duties is nothing to the Zappacosta siblings as they enjoy styling their clients in the latest trends offered to them from their philip store. “When we’re image consulting, we really get a sense of who we’re looking after. So that may involve going to their home and studying their wardrobe, getting a feel for their career and their aspirations and goals in dressing. And from there we customize a look and wardrobe for them,” says Philip Zappacosta. And always making sure every client feels like family, creating a rapport with each customer as they walk through their glass doors is everything to the duo as they create an experience for their growing clientele. “You meet your match with your clients,” says Leandra Zappacosta, “and that’s why it’s about building a relationship with the client because you do get along with them and you get one another.”

 

Ofelia

Housing three notable German brands – Laurel, Luisa Cerano and Riani – Ofeila is the sophisticated woman’s go-to for all things, casual, chic and sleek. With one store in Montreal and Yorkville Village being the first store to house all three brands in Toronto, Ofelia is ready to expand throughout all of Canada and bring European threads to women who want to set themselves apart from the crowd. The bright lights, light coloured walls and intricate ceiling fixtures cascading down upon the spacious store automatically transform your mood into a calming and relaxed state, while the sophisticated atmosphere where minimalism and colour meet welcome you with clean cut pleated dresses and elaborate floral accessories. “The Ofelia customer would be an older woman from 40 and up” says owner of Ofelia and manager David Lugassy, “the pieces are more toned down, and the younger generation likes to step it up.”

Luisa Cerano – keeping things casual and semi-formal, the statement pieces of this brand are their well-tailored suits and comfortable denim. Sticking to more neutral tones so pieces can be easily mixed and matched is a must with the Luisa Cerano brand, as the art of adding your own personal style to each piece can seem as though you are painting a blank canvas.

Riani– keeping things fun, flirty and colourful, the Riani brand brings a sense of youthful vitality to each dress, dress shirt and skirt set. With the use of subtle prints such as polka dots and stripes, Riani is utilizing the classic print to be mixed with trendy colours. Key pieces for the brand are their shoes, which are made to be matched with the corresponding Riani pieces, and the brands dresses, which can be worn from day to night. Also, their reversible pieces, from skirts to dresses and cardigans, proves that Riani is for the woman who is ready to take the town by storm at any time of the day.

Laurel – branching from the famous Escada brand, the Luisa brand is a step above a designer collection and offers comfort and simplicity with every piece. Noted for their great fitting pants, Luisa aims to please when it comes comfort and simplicity. Always debuting a different style T-shirt each season, as well as the basic black, white and red, the blank canvas effect of the brand offers clients to mix-up their attire with the brands elaborate jewelry pieces.

 

Judith & Charles

Structure, clean lines and a minimalist approach to fashion is all that comes to mind when taking a first glance at Montreal brand Judith and Charles. With warmer weather on its way, the Judith and Charles Spring/Summer 2016 collection offers an array of yellow hues and white chromatic designs that exude a sense of newness and refreshment to the colour palette of the brand. A favourite amongst Canada’s first lady, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, the brand offers clients a range of styles that shift from the traditional pants suit, to the popular A-line cocktail dress. “Our customer is the working woman who is busy and travelling for work. As well as on the weekends she likes to have fun and go casual, and likes to spend time with family and find good quality pieces,” explains Judith and Charles store manager Carla Tulk. While sticking to traditional pieces, the brand also caters to the young fashion goers of today with trendy pieces that will sure have all eyes on you. From tuxedo styled full length jumpers, to monochrome open style coats, Judith and Charles has a piece that will suit any woman’s personal aesthetic and will be sure to have those pieces for years to come.

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Now with all these exciting features coming to Yorkville Village everyone has the chance to experience the luxury of the upcoming shopping destination. Whether you’re a gentleman who wants to give your wardrobe a facelift, or a woman who is I need of a wardrobe colour spruce-up, new and existing retailers will have exactly what you’re looking for. And with all of your lifestyle amenities under one roof, it want be hard to get carried away with all the things you have to do. Workout, shop and eat all under the same complex? Yes please!