By: Shawn Micallef
The first thing I overheard when I walked into Frank is that this will be the new place to have an affair in Toronto. Frank is the new restaurant on the ground floor of the AGO and it has a few cozy seating areas that are tucked away, hidden from the rest of the room. It’s a romantic (pardon the pun) notion, but I wonder if the giant glass wall along the Dundas sidewalk might deter those looking for a clandestine location. Like the Galleria Italia above, Frank is an inside-outside kind of space. One thing Modernism does very well, unlike our beloved Victorian structures, is it often allows us to be inside, safe from heat and cold, but not feel very disconnected from the outside.
Some of the other walls inside of Frank are equally stunning — entire glass wine rack panels stretch from floor to ceiling that looking like some kind of primitive analogue punch card from a 1960s supercomputer. Along with the glass “zig-zag” bar they make the place feel like Superman’s icy Fortress of Solitude. Yet unlike Superman’s place, Frank is full of colour and warm, natural wood, much like that found in the rest of the AGO. An interesting detail are the Gehry-designed tables: the tabletops match the seats in the café below. I was told that Gehry had a specific pattern in mind in how the coloured tables should be laid out, and knowing that you do get the feeling that you’re in his own kitchen when in the room.
Like many new restaurants, the kitchen itself is out in the dining area, and this informal feel is magnified by the stairs that lead down to AGO’s open café below. Connecting the two is a giant twisted steel sculpture by Frank Stella (giving a platonic double entendre to the name Frank). Frank is also in the enviable position of being able to tap into the AGO’s art collection for its walls — currently artists on display include Joyce Wieland and Paterson Ewen, both of whom likely walked this stretch of Dundas in their time. The main room connects to the Yonge Gallery — the free, ground floor contemporary art space that also fronts Dundas. Currently it is filled with large construction photographs Edward Burtynsky took during Transformation AGO.