Toronto has become one of the world’s greatest culinary destinations. With its multicultural population, Toronto has become a hotbed for world-class chefs, including Jonathan Poon.
Nicknamed the King of Ossington, Jonathan is regarded as one of Toronto’s top chefs and restaurateurs. Poon owns three restaurants in Toronto – Favorites Thai BBQ, Superpoint, and Paris Paris – all situated on Ossington, Toronto’s version of restaurant row. Torontonians flock to the three blocks between Queen and Dundas, filled with local restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops, all supplying customers with an experience and energy that is unique to the Toronto neighbourhood.
Jonathan’s restaurants deliver on that promise.
If you’ve wandered around the Ossington neighbourhood, particularly on a warm summer night, you’ve probably spotted crowds surrounding at least one of Jonathan’s restaurants.
Paris Paris is one of the city’s most popular wine bars, with a bistro inspired menu and an assortment of natural wines. Superpoint is a North American take on a red sauce, Italian pizza joint, where you can also find spring rolls on the menu. Then there’s Favorites, which offers customers one of the most unique dining experiences in Toronto, with its distinctive take on Thai barbecue and one-of-a-kind interior.
Jonathan Poon, one of Toronto’s top chefs
Jonathan Poon has quietly become one of Toronto’s top culinary masters.
The restaurateur has had a lifelong passion for food. Surrounded by grandparents who Jonathan calls “amazing cooks,” he developed an excitement for and adventurous approach towards food. It was from the large weekly Saturday night family dinners that Jonathan became attracted towards restaurant ownership: “It's about seeing a space come alive, people gathering and having lots of great food.”
The Hong Kong-born chef received his culinary training under top chefs Claudio Aprile, David Haman, and Guy and Michael Rubino before beginning his nomadic working journey at restaurants across Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, and then finally Noma in Denmark, which is recognized as the "best restaurant in the world.”
With his worldly restaurant experience, Jonathan has curated his own unique flavour palette that is evident throughout the menus of all his restaurants. While Jonathan steers away from using the word “fusion” to describe the menu selection at Favorites, he marries the flavours and ingredients from his geographically diverse travels and culinary backgrounds to create something truly unique.
“Growing up in Hong Kong, we were exposed to Eastern and Western cultures. That kind of translates into my own cooking. I like to mix things up. I don't do anything that's authentic. I just like to be creative.”
It’s that approach to cuisine that makes Favorites an unparalleled dining experience.
The new Thai restaurant
When Jonathan was brainstorming names for his Southeast Asian-inspired restaurant, he wanted something easy for people to remember, something catchy, something positive. The name “Favorites” became obvious because he wanted everyone to call it their favourite Thai restaurant.
Physically, Favorites doesn't look like your average Thai restaurant.
The front of Favorites operates as a coffee shop during the day, but as nighttime comes around and dinner service starts, the cafe transforms into a private dining room and the entrance into the main restaurant. From there, customers enter through a tunnel of perforated metal where they can gain a glimpse into the sights, sounds, and smells of the kitchen. After walking by the kitchen with large woks being tossed and the sizzling charcoal grill customers finally enter the inviting main dining area.
Jonathan didn’t want to create a typical Thai restaurant with either the interior or menu. “It seems that most Thai restaurants these days really want to transport you to Thailand and we really didn't want that,” said Jonathan.
We wanted it to be something else. We wanted it to stand out. And so we put the Favorites concept into a room that can really work well for any type of cuisine. We wanted to pair it with not just cocktails, not just beer, but also wine, because we wanted to really elevate the entire dining experience. So whether it's the room, the service, the lighting, the music, we really wanted to do something that is not what you'd expect from a street stall in Bangkok.
Jonathan was inspired by a different regional Thai cuisine that isn’t readily available in Toronto. He became obsessed with learning about cooking techniques, ingredients, and how ingredients are treated so he could share it with the city.
Unlike many more traditional Thai restaurants, Favorites has a big focus on salads and grilled items. By combining ingredients that are more readily available in Toronto with Thai flavours and cooking techniques, Favorites is able to transport diners to Thailand – even though they’re over 13,000 kilometres away.
It’s this cultural hybrid that makes Favorites unique and unlike any other Thai restaurant in Toronto – if not the world. “It's something that I think makes us very unique because most Thai restaurants really try to replicate a Thai experience,” says Jonathan. “We're trying to do something that is Thai-inspired, Thai in mentality, and something that's our own.”
One fundamental element to that one-of-a-kind experience and menu is their focus on the grill. The Japanese-style grill that heats up to 700 C and maintains its temperature for five, six hours is key to fusing the flavours and cooking items to perfection. Favorites exclusively uses a charcoal grill that ingrains a smokey flavour and smell. According to Jonathan, the difference comes from using a premium charcoal derived from white oak that produces a clean flavour.
Bringing unique flavours and techniques to Toronto diners
When it comes to flavours, Favorites aims to bring something different.
Favorites head chef Ronnie Sue strives to create something truly special for diners. He pinpoints this to two areas: flavours and technique.
Through a combination of flavours, herbs, fruit, and other culinary components, he tries to produce something Canadian customers have never tasted before. Chef Ronnie describes the flavours at Favorites as spicy umami and smokey from the wok and grill, plus different types of herbs and citrus.
The Asian-trained Chef Ronnie places a large emphasis on technique to achieve the unique cuisine offered at Favorites. Prior to learning how to cook, he spent a year learning how to chop vegetables when he first started his culinary career. According to Chef Ronnie, “If things are not chopped properly, how can you cook them properly?”
This diligence is critical to the successful synthesis of cuisines at Favorites. Although the use of woks and charcoal grills are becoming more common in North American restaurants, the chefs at Favorites set themselves apart with temperature and how they want to cook.
How DoorDash has helped Favorites succeed
When Favorites launched in 2019, it operated as a dine-in restaurant only. When the pandemic struck in 2020, restaurant management needed to shift their focus quickly to adapt. That’s when they turned to DoorDash.
One of the potential challenges for Favorites is translating the multi-sensory enjoyment of dining inside the restaurant for customers in their homes. Although not all of the in-person menu is offered through the DoorDash app, Favorites has curated the highlights from their menu, taking pride in the packaging and preparation to ensure that items deliver well.
For customers to receive the full experience of dining at Favorites, having the capacity for customers to order complementary alcohol selections with their food was key. “With DoorDash, we're able to deliver wines and cocktails along with our food,” noted Jonathan. “I think it's great that people are able to have the full experience brought to them with our focus on natural wine that is essential, that people like are able to experience that and understand and taste the entire concept.”
After restaurant operations returned back to normal and in-person dining resumed, takeout and delivery continued to grow for Favorites and has become a vital part of their business. DoorDash contributes a significant amount of the takeout and delivery revenue for Favorites, as well as 100% of the takeout and delivery revenue for Paris Paris and Superpoint – which are offered exclusively on DoorDash.
Through their partnership with DoorDash, Favorites has gained a new set of clientele for in-person dining from their delivery and takeout regulars. Although it’s hard to tell which exact diners have been referred from the DoorDash app, Jonathan has noticed a large number of in-person customers who have requested menu items that are exclusive to DoorDash customers and not offered on their dining room menu.
From my experience with DoorDash, they've been the most supportive of all the delivery platforms. They've definitely gone above and beyond in terms of helping us whenever there's any issues and more so than that, they've helped us a lot in terms of marketing, branding, and getting the word out about Favorites.
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