Alo is a fancy French (but, looking over the meal card now, weeks later, I have to say not too French) tasting-menu place. It's on the top floor of a Victorian low-rise, and the dining room feels notably spacious and airy. (That's how you know you're not in New York: this is really spacious -- not made to look more spacious than it is, or designed without a thought given to elbow room, other than to eliminate it).
Now I have to say I thought this dinner was just wonderful. And it had to be the quality of the cooking, because looking the meal card over, nothing jumps out as seeming particularly "interesting". This was just a case of excellent ingredients, thoughtfully combined and excellently prepared.
I'm not saying I didn't wish I had more of that venison saddle and whatever game bird it was I begged them to add to my card even though the wimpy rest of the table didn't want any. But this was a very enjoyable extended tasting-menu meal.
So where does Alo stand in the scheme of things? The first thing to note is that although they do (I think) have a counter, the seating is predominately at tables. And it's a good-size dining room. So Alo feels like a restaurant, not a cultic center. That's an advantage.
The next thing to note -- if I didn't make this clear already -- is that while the cooking is modern, it's not in any way experimental. There are Asian influences (because 2018) (yeah I've been remiss in writing this up). But it's not as out-and-out fusiony as Brooklyn Fare (or even Blanca, for that matter). It's more like Jean Georges when that restaurant was still fresh. (Of course, I have no idea how JG is now, as there's no way I'm entering that building, much less spending money that will go into that rent stream.) But that's fine. And the cooking was very, very good. Like, really good. Like, superb.
So I really loved this place. On the other hand, if I lived in Toronto, I doubt I'd be there very often. (And yeah, Ian, I did go to a Balkan dance party afterward. But I didn't see anybody else from the dining room -- not even from my table -- there.)
Wrong Balkan dance party, I think.
Anyway, a good assessment of Alo. I was there recently for the second meal in a short window. I do have to say, the overall food enjoyment gap between the two meals was larger than expected. Across the meals the execution was very high and, I think more than it has ever had, each dish was committed to a very clear idea. For example, the cuttlefish with pistachio and orange or the kampachi (I think) with a green curry or the small piece of venison with chestnuts were all very distilled, modern interpretations of the culinary traditions they reflected. What surprised me was that ideas that enthralled on round one landed much flatter on round two. What surprised me though was that this is modern cooking, but it's not pyrotechnic. With limited menu turnover, I thought that would be a much greater advantage versus at a place where there is a "trick" to the food, or the food is intellectual and not fundamentally delicious (see a version of that argument at this site which is still around? https://www.gastromo...eleines-of-2018).
I mean, it's still superb as you say and the technique is very good. And it is still somewhere I will find myself at multiple times a year. The more puzzling question is why this format - intense, multiple small dishes, large variety of flavours, even if relatively classic in technique - basically needs full seasonal turnover to be fully enjoyed, while restaurants like Edulis, Chasse et Peche, even Toque!, don't have the same drop-off. Or, to take your example, there are Jean Georges dishes when made correctly (the foie brulee, the asparagus) I could eat practically daily, while there are dishes at Alo that impressed as much on first instances, but I would tire of.*
*Of course, there are Alo dishes I've had I don't feel that way about. Like the scrambled eggs with caviar or a variation on mushrooms a la creme that haven't had that dropoff, but they are among the most classic dishes.