Blue Bovine Steak and Sushi House opens in historic Union Station

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Blue Bovine Steak and Sushi House in historic Union Station combines traditions of classic steakhouse and a sushi house in sumptuous surroundings

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The entertainment industry is not for the faint of heart.

For those who have made a success in the food world, it is all about grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns and never letting go.

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That’s the story of Toronto’s Liberty Entertainment Group (LEG), headed by president and CEO Nick Di Donato and his wife, Nadia, the V-P and creative director of a company that humbly opened its doors back in the early 1980s. It now has a plethora of successful, award-winning restaurants, nightclubs and entertainment venues under its umbrella, with a staff of 1,400-plus.
This company has some of the most recognized restaurants in the world, including the famous BlueBlood Steakhouse, several Cibo Wine bars and the iconic Michelin-starred Don Alfonso 1890 Toronto (named the second best Italian restaurant in the world).

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A few months back, the highly anticipated Danico fine dining restaurant, housed in one of the city’s most historic landmark bank buildings, opened its doors in Toronto’s Little Italy, where today Michelin-star Chef Daniele Corona creates glorious dishes that are a marriage of traditional Italian cuisine artfully woven with Asian identity.

And then there’s the famous castle. Years ago, the Di Donatos filled Toronto’s Casa Loma with music, magic and stunning beauty, along with fine dining, afternoon teas and symphonies in its gardens.

Interior of the Blue Bovine Steak and Sushi House inside Toronto's historic Union Station.
Nadia Di Donato said the design approach of Blue Bovine is a “fusion of various inspirations blending sleek modernism with classic industrial design elements … this intersection becomes a testament to the unique narrative within Union Station’s Beaux-Arts landmark architectural fabric. Photo by Ethan Shaw

The couple works seamlessly together. Childhood sweethearts, married for decades, with two grown sons (one a doctor, one a lawyer), they recently celebrated becoming grandparents to a baby boy named Danico.

When an opportunity presented itself for Liberty to open a fine dining spot in Toronto’s business district, the two metaphorically grabbed the bull by the horns. They are now at the helm of the Blue Bovine Steak and Sushi House, situated in the newly revitalized Union Station.

The restaurant, which officially launched Friday night, daringly combines the traditions of a classic steakhouse with a sushi house in a plush setting of custom elements, bespoke artwork and warm shades of colour reflective of the four seasons.

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And, yes! There’s a majestic bronze sculpture of a blue bovine proudly standing outside the restaurant’s entrance, ready to greet guests.

“For over a decade, Liberty Entertainment Group has been exploring opportunities at Union Station,” said Nick Di Donato in a recent interview. “(We) recognized it as a project of great interest, as we are drawn to heritage sites and the potential to revitalize them.” He said the requirements for main-floor space with street access and natural daylight meant “we needed to exercise patience, as the initial phase of the Union Station project focused on the lower levels.”

The bull statue in front of Blue Bovine Steak and Sushi House in Toronto's historic Union Station.
The statue in front of the Blue Bovine Steak and Sushi House at Toronto’s Union Station is meant to evoke Wall Street’s iconic Charging Bull. Photo by Peter J. Thompson/National Post

In December 2022, Di Donato commenced collaboration with investment company Osmington Inc. and its CEO, Lawrence Zucker, to open a signature restaurant in one of the country’s most significant heritage sites.

“It’s thanks to Lawrence’s support that we were able to install our original bronze sculpture of the Blue Bovine Bull outside Union Station, at our front doors.”

Their celebrity partners in the venture include Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner and celebrity investor Kevin O’Leary.

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“The experiences of Kevin O’Leary and Mitch Marner are quite contrasting,” says Nick. “Our friendship with Kevin spans over two decades, during which he frequently visited our venues and offered support. Despite repeatedly expressing his reluctance to invest in the hospitality industry due to its high risk, his stance changed over dinner one evening, as he expressed his desire to be involved in our newest project, Blue Bovine.”

Interior of the Blue Bovine Steak and Sushi House inside Toronto's Union Station.

As for Marner? “Our acquaintance began when he visited several of our LEG establishments. Upon meeting Mitch and his (now) wife, Stefanie, at BlueBlood at Casa Loma, I sent over complimentary items with their dinner as a gesture of goodwill. The following day, I received a signed Leafs jersey from Mitch in gratitude.”

“Mitch’s gesture … led me to believe that the Blue Bovine project presented an opportunity for Mitch to venture into the hospitality industry and for me to nurture a friendship with such a fine gentleman.”

Nadia said the design approach of Blue Bovine is a “fusion of various inspirations blending sleek modernism with classic industrial design elements … this intersection becomes a testament to the unique narrative within Union Station’s Beaux-Arts landmark architectural fabric.

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“The symmetrical design of the bold sculptural detailing on the ceiling panels, the marble-clad grand entrance, classical crown moulding, rich woods, natural stone, create an atmosphere that resonates with character and distinction.“

The new restaurant — like others in the Liberty roster — are a testament to Nadia Di Donato’s critical eye to capturing a restaurant’s culinary narrative. In the case of Blue Bovine, Nadia used a design that “subtly weaves a story of the history of the building, the journey of the cuisine, and a narrative of the city, adding depth and intrigue to the dining experience.”

Interior of the Blue Bovine Steak and Sushi House in Toronto's historic Union Station.

The new restaurant’s curated art pieces, she said, “bring a sexy street-style to the space, (with) commissioned works by Mr. Brainwash, Mr. Pinkbrush, Peter Tunney and local Toronto artist Peter Triantos.”

This street art, added Nadia Di Donato, “reflects modern culture, and the vibrancy of the urban neighbourhood of the location of the restaurant.”

As for the massive bull at the entrance of the restaurant, Nadia Di Donato said the bull weighs around 1,500 lbs., was meticulously hand-sculpted under her supervision, and is set to serve as “Toronto’s own rendition” of Wall Street’s famed Charging Bull.

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