Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: The One (Part 2: The Food!)

Lobster Spoons
Before you read this, please click here to read my review on the very, erm, colourful ambience of this posh restaurant!

Okay, let’s finally talk about what I was looking forward to most during this outing: the food! (Cue the harps!)

So last time, I talk about how much I was looking forward to the food at this place.  And looking forward to it I was – I stopped eating 5 hours before our reservation in anticipation of this meal.  In addition to feeling like it’d increase the capacity of my stomach for this meal (illogical, I know, but hey, I wasn’t a science major!), this tactic also has the bonus effect of making everything taste even better than it actually does when it reaches my mouth!

After we were seated, I settled right down to see if the menu was identical to the one that was online (it wasn’t), and to see if everything I’d planned to eat was actually available that night (it mostly was).  Originally I was wavering between the $56 steak or the seared scallops.  Eventually I was convinced by fellow food-lovers that I should go for the steak because a really good steak is absolute heaven.  I ordered that and the French onion soup to start.  A colleague ordered lobster mac & cheese, someone else ordered venison, I think it was, and one of my bosses ordered the gourmet fried chicken.  Interesting choices on the menu, right?

The service was excellent.  Our server, whose name I unfortunately can’t remember, actually reminded me a lot of Oneika.  She was generous with her smiles and was super attentive.  What was kind of odd, however, was the fact that she answered every request with “Cheers” instead of plain old yes, of course, or sure.  Incidentally, when I had a birthday dinner at Oliver & Bonacini a few years ago, our server replaced all his affirmative answers with “You got it!” :P  Is that something they teach at Fancy Restaurant Serving School?

Anyway, we ordered our food and it didn’t take too long to arrive.  One of my colleagues ordered lobster spoons (pictured above), and he closed his eyes in pleasure when he had his first bite.  The chunks of lobster did look quite large.  Another colleague had a beautiful plate of steak tartare, which he said was excellent.  One of my bosses thoroughly enjoyed his beet salad.
Beet Salad

Steak Tartare

And then there was my French onion soup.
French Onion Soup
*sigh* How should I put this?  It was pretty awful.  As in absolutely terrible.  I’d never tasted a French onion soup like that before.  It was just so, so bad.

For the sake of presentation, the soup was ladled into a wide, shallow bowl, which meant that there was no abundance of gooey cheese spilling over the side.  Fine, I could deal with restraint.  Instead of having croutons, there was one single slice of bread floating in the middle of the soup with a bit of melted cheese on top of it and that was the very best part of the dish.  The super dryness of the bread and the consistency of the soup resulted in a slightly chewy and not soggy at all bread topping.  The herbed butter that they put on it was diviiiiine.  And the cheese itself, while I would’ve liked more of it, was a good quality one, not too pungent, not too mild.  That was an excellent slice of cheesy bread.

But the soup itself was really gross.  It tasted like thick, beef syrup.  It was, for some odd reason, very tangy and sweet – like a sweet & sour beef sauce.  I could taste that a lot of time and effort had been put into the broth base, but why did they add all that tartness and sugariness to it???  And why in hell did they thicken it up to the consistency of gravy?  I like my beef broth thin and packed with flavours that do not include sweetness or acidity, thank you very much.  So that was kind of a downer.

When my boss, who was sitting next to me, asked me how I liked my appetizer, I told him, and he was surprised because everyone else was enjoying their food just fine and I am the hugest food whore on our team.  He advised me to send it back but, with me not being accustomed to going to such fancy restaurants, it didn’t feel right because I’d already tasted it and gone through about 1/3.  I didn’t finish it.

When our server came back and asked how we liked our appetizers, she was appropriately horrified that I didn’t like my soup and offered to get a different dish for me.  I didn’t know if they’d charge my bosses if I had another appetizer and I didn’t want to act like some diva bitch in this upscale restaurant that I clearly couldn’t afford going to on my own dime, so I declined.  She was super apologetic and I felt bad about how devastated I’d made her.

Then, after a long, long lull, during which we had ample time to down a few more bottles of wine, our main courses came.  Again, everyone was absolutely delighted (so I took the chance to take a bite out of everyone’s meals if they offered me)…except me.
This is what a $56 steak looks like.
I ordered the steak, which came with a side of bone marrow.  Some people might get grossed out but I’m (mostly) Chinese and we eat everything, so I was down with that.  However, the broiled marrow was entirely flavourless and I really wish they’d seasoned it at least with some salt.  Garlic salt would’ve been amazing.  Or some kind of savoury sauce, like soy.

Now the steak – this is what broke my heart (in addition to the crappy soup).  The steak was lukewarm at best, which takes away from that delicious, just-grilled flavour.  It was a good steak, but at $56 an order, good doesn’t cut it.  It should be fantastic.  And it wasn’t.  I mean, the doneness was pretty good – I asked for rare (which normally yields medium rare in many establishments) but this one was pretty close.  Could’ve been a little rarer, but that would be nitpicking.  The thickness of it was good.  But the fact that it wasn’t hot enough really, really bummed me out.  

I know that they probably wanted to serve everyone at the same time so my steak had been sitting for a while but I think that in this case they should’ve grilled the steaks last because all the other orders had heavier sauces or were fried, so they were more capable of retaining heat for a while.  The meat was aged to a good degree but didn’t provide that KAPOW! kind of beef flavour I was expecting with this price tag.  It just…was a good steak, when it should’ve been amazing, based on what it cost.  So that was not up to par.

What about the other dishes?

I didn’t taste the venison, but the lobster mac & cheese was really lacking, and I really don’t understand how my colleague could’ve been so enamoured of it.  Although the doneness of the pasta was good – al dente, which is harder to achieve in a baked pasta dish – the sauce was unbearably bland and the lobster was way overdone.  I mean, the lobster was quite, quite tough.  And I totally expected the cheese sauce to be infused with lobster flavour but it wasn’t.  It was just cheese sauce that happened to have chunks of lobster in it.  So that was below expectations.
Really expensive, gourmet fried chicken
The fried chicken, however, was quite good.  My boss generously cut up several pieces to pass around the table to share and I thought it was very nicely done.  Juicy, crispy, hot enough (remember, this was mid-winter, so this point was especially crucial), light, flavoured batter…and the condiments it came with were very good as well - house made, well-seasoned, and the flavours were very nicely put together.  Very tasty and well executed.

The truffle aioli parmesan-topped fries were good but not amazing.  Note that this is the kind of resetaurant where you need to order side dishes separately.  The fries were decent, the aioli was nice, and they were generous with their parmesan shavings.  I also liked how they layered the fries with the toppings so that you won’t feel like you have nothing to look forward to once the top layer is eaten.

The Chinese broccoli (which we call “choi sum” in Cantonese) was weird.  I’m totally biased because I grew up eating it prepared a certain way – and I was also surprised to see it on the menu at all – but they cooked it with quite a bit of balsamic, which was odd to me.  Not necessarily bad though, but just weird.  What wasn’t done well, however, was that the ingredient wasn’t chosen well.  The stalks were very mature (we describe it as "old", in Chinese) so they were super fibrous – good for the gastrointestinal tract but not as pleasant to eat.  What we do at home is we choose younger sprouts to cook or, if we don’t have much of a choice, we peel away the bottoms of the stalks.  Also, we remove the blossoms of the vegetables because they are allegedly not good for you – especially for men – and I was getting big mouthfuls of blooms, but it wasn’t a huge deal.

The sauteed mushrooms were alright.  Not memorable though, because I don’t remember how they tasted.

I was super full by the end of my entree, so sadly, I had no room for dessert, but our server did bring around some complimentary bite-sized dessert squares that I can’t remember the flavours of, besides the fact that they were nice.

After the meal, my other boss asked me from across the table how that restaurant rated and I answered 7, even though in actuality I felt like it was closer to 5.5 or 6.  Everyone was astonished by the enormous stick up my *ss because they were all so happy with their meals but, well, flavours and quality aside, value for money is one of my main priorities and this place just didn’t deliver.  For what they were charging, the food should have been much, much better.

It did, however, provide an excellent opportunity for anthropological research, though. :P

1 Hazelton Lane
Toronto, ON

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