After researching quite a bit on these boards, I'd chosen Allen's for an early dinner after taking in a matinee theatre performance. I was particularly interested in having a medium rare burger -- trying what's been widely acclaimed as Toronto's best burger. But then I found a patch of reviews saying Allen's servers are rude and arrogant, the service slow and the food overpriced and overrated. So we'd changed our plans and were going to try Rebel House instead (certainly couldn't find a bad review of that establishment). As it would happen, Rebel House was closed for a private party, so we defaulted back to Allen's -- with a bit of trepidation.
Well...our server couldn't have been nicer, more charming, attentive or helpful. The food was all excellent, with one notable exception, and my burger was certainly one of the best I've ever had (I still miss the medium-rare offerings from the long-defunct Abundance on Church near Adelaide). My companion made the rookie mistake of ordering one of the proffered specials without asking the price, so was shocked to find her beef tenderloin priced at $45. Still, it was so well executed and served with such perfectly done and presented sides (champ, broccoli and a phenomenal onion-mushroom sauce on the side) that she really had nothing to complain about.
Our calamari starter was also really good -- tender and slightly crispy with a great chipotle mayo sauce for dipping. I prefer when there are more of the squiddy looking bits with all the tentacles, but it was still excellent and not even remotely rubbery -- as can so often happen with calamari.
Her ice cream filled chocolate eclair was also terrific, though a bit tricky to eat. My rhubarb crisp was the only sour note of the evening -- almost no "crisp" to offset the tart mushiness of the rhubarb, and what there was was mixed into the mush and only provided a tooth-jarring hit of extreme sweetness that just didn't bring any cohesion to the dish. I'd ignored the waiter's recommendations of either the eclair or the lemon brulé tart, though. Next time I'd have one of those.
Still, we were both quite glad we tried this restaurant and would definitely go back, and the service could only be described as exemplary. We went on a Sunday around 5:30 and it wasn't that busy when we arrived, though got quite busy toward the end, and we still never felt neglected and certainly no one was rude or arrogant, but all were friendly and helpful.
I wonder if some of the reviews I read that said that were old enough that there have been changes made at Allen's to correct those problems? Or perhaps, as some have said, it's very hit or miss. Time will tell, but we'll definitely go back and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to friends.
Of course I still very much want to try Rebel House as well.