93 Ossington Ave
The room is WOW! The set up is great- a hostess, a manager, lots of waitstaff, five people in white in the open kitchen.
Now the food.
The menu stretches pocketbooks but few palates. E.g ,mains- Pasta with sausage $18, , trout $28, salmon $28, chicken fricasse $28. veal chop, $39, rack of lamb $34, strriploin (10 oz), $37.
1. House baked bread and butter $3
2.. Harvest Platter. Bits and pieces. I had three of nine choices for $14- (a) 10 year old cheddar,(b) Pickled beets, artichoke and gherkins, (c) Warm olives with rosemary. Served with fruit and nut crostinis
3. Pan roasted rainbow trout ,peaches and cream corn, confit garlic, olives, beurre blanc. $28
4.Coconut panna cotta $10.
1. The bread was touted as sourdough. Yippee shit. It had been badly handled and was sodden. Not particularly tasty. They would have done better by buying from Caldense around the corner.
The butter was a nothing - just lubricant and calories. Not enough for the amount of bread, but that was OK.
2.Harvest Platter. The olives (black) weren't much notwithstanding the promise. At least they weren't out of a can. But there was a problem. There were two kinds and they look alike unless you are paying attention. Fortunately I started with the ones with a pit, which I looked for. But the the others had no pit. If I would have gone the other way I would have risked breaking a tooth.
The pickling was interesting and good and appropriate for a restaurant at this level. The best thing for the night.
Now the cheese. I got two triangles of cheddar, each about 125% the size of what you get in a plastic pack on an airplane. I have a bit of experience with cheddar cheese. I live(d) in New Zealand. Until relatively recently, cheddar was almost all that NZ made. It is as ordinary an item as potatoes ( which incidentally are almost all sold as named varieties), it is excellent and cheap. The cheese served cold and so salty that a Russian salt addict would have liked it. It was soft (high moisture content=cheaper).
The addition of salt is part of the cheddar making process, but what I got was good as a beer snack. As for the softness, it was like no cheddar that I ever have had, of all ages, and I have had lots both in NZ and the US, and aging (10years old!) makes cheddar dryer.
I sent the cheese back, telling the waitress that for $14 the cheese should not be from the fridge and salty. She brought a little dish with more cheddar, I declined, saying sorry, too much salt. After a while some different cheese was brought, with was just as soft but OK good. Nothing special.
The fruit and nut crostini sounded good on the menu and looked good on the plate, but "crostinizing" turned them into a disappointing nothing. I didn't feel like telling , myself that I was wearing clothes.
There were enough olives and pickling for two, but not enough cheese. To make the plate as a (smaller) starter for two (and I did go at the bread) one would need to order two more items. Five items for $24, which would be OK if all the items showed the talent of the pickling. But basically almost all the items were brought in and $24 is a lot for some assembled bits.
2. The trout. The fish was a fillet, and sat on a mound of chopped corn kernels. a bit of rapini, a couple of nondescript black olives, three small cloves of garlic that still had a sharpness. The fish was nicely cooked and the whole dish was a quite alright dish. What one should expect from a competent kitchen serving a diverse clientele, but for $28n a restaurant that sees its self as special everything should sing and in harmony. Incidentally, rainbow trout is $4.00 a lb wholesale , cleaned and scaled, and $4 gives you two fillets each larger than the one that I got. Rapini and corn were in season and cheap. You get to raise the price if you call yourself a locavore.
I didn't want to question the fish type with either the waitress or the manager (see infra). I wondered if the fish was rainbow trout. The colour of the flesh varies with what the fish has eaten, but this flesh was brownish -grey and had no tinge of orange- red, which colour is characteristic of rainbow trout. At least in my experience. The shape was unusual also. The first piece, the front was quite thick, the second piece, the tail, was thin. For a moment I thought whether the middle was missing, but I didn't bother looking closely. There was a tinge of a muddy taste in part which can be trout like.
I let this one pass; I had already made trouble , the palte was alright and what do I know anyway.
3. The coconut panna cotta with tropical fruit gelee and guava sauce. This sounded flamboyantly fruity and delicious.
The panna cotta came from a mould and had the texture of hard Jello. The taste was faintly milky and faintly coconut with atiny bit of coconut texture. A nothing. On top - the tropical fruit gelee- was I think some guava paste from a big container which I get at from a Latino store for $1.99. On top of this was some red stuff (more gelee!) which had no pleasing characteristic and which I couldn't identify. The plate was drizzled with some fruit syrup, which was the best part of the dessert.
I peeled off the topping and ate it. I left half the panna cotta. The waitress came and asked if I liked the dessert . I answered no, its texture was close to being rubbery. It was taken away.
Now I am not big on desserts and don't have them often. I know little about their making. But the times that I have had panna cotta previously the custard was sensualy smooth and delicious. But these were in really good places. To b ethat good , I thought that panna cotta was made in a bain marie and requries great skill to get the consistency right. I asked the Ms., who could be pastry and dessert chef in the best kitchen in any town in which she has lived. No, she answered, panna cotta is a made in a single pot on the stovetop with gelatin and is very easy. You need to get the recipe and ingredients right. Glorified Jello (?) at $10 better be good and this one wasn't.
So far the meal was unremarkable for Toronto- pretentious, overpriced and flawed.
Now the remarkable part of the evening.
Then the manager came over. He introduced himself as Derek, said that he was the manager , and sat himself down across from me.
He said that I had been harassing the waitresses. I answered no, I had not accosted them, nor volunteered. They had asked me and I had told them. There was a lengthy conversation of which he was in charge. Inter alia, he questioned me, asked me where I was from , whether I was a chef. I tried to make nice in order to end it without adding to the agitation. He did not back down, although he did say at the end that the cheese had been served cold the first time. I remember answering to make nice, ah! that's why the salt taste had been pushed.
We moved onto the panna cotta. I repeated that it was rubbery, he suggested too much gelatin. I came out that I didn't understand how it was made.
He also asked me how I liked the fish plate . I answered , it was quite alright, His retort was, "alright" , is that it?" I answered that it was alright, what else is there to say?
I subsequently sent him an email asking about the so called rainbow trout. I didn't get a reply.
$55 for the food, pre- everything. Conclusion? Res ipsa loquitur.