Canoe, the restaurant where Bay Street loves to do lunch, turns 20 this summer. So does its famous lobster club sandwich. Anthony Walsh, Oliver & Bonacini’s corporate executive chef, outlines one key to Canoe’s success: Always be iterating.
Canoe opened in 1995 on the 54th floor of Toronto’s TD Centre. It is an audacious location—“the rent is mind-boggling,” says Walsh—that requires an audacious menu. From the start, Canoe’s signature club married a diner staple with fresh P.E.I. lobster.
The sandwich has changed over the years, from three layers of bread to two, from local bacon to Mennonite ham. “We do a purée of the tarragon right now,” says Walsh. “It’s not that we’re never satisfied—it’s that we can always make it better.”
These days the sandwich comes on brioche made specially for Canoe by O&B’s Artisan bakery. “It’s not like we save money doing that,” says Walsh, who says “a ton” of R&D went into the bread’s development, from the size and softness to the right amount of sweetness.
The sandwich sells for $24 but costs more than $10 to make, not including labour or rent. “At one point this winter, lobster was $16 per pound,” says Walsh. “And we don’t buy frozen or dead lobster. We don’t play that game. This is Canoe. You gotta pony up. It’s a lot of horsing around for a sandwich. Everyone has made themselves a sandwich, but it’s our job to make it better.”
Watch how Canoe’s lobster club gets made:
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