Last night, a friend and I were looking for somewhere new to enjoy a summer evening dinner. As we passed Toast on Queen East, we noticed the big window opened, creating an almost patio atmosphere inside the restaurant and decided to give it a try.
We'd never been to Toast, even for brunch which is their popular and busy time. I'd avoided them for brunch because it's always so busy but I wondered why I'd never thought to try them for dinner. So while my companion was choosing wine, I did a quick Google to see what came up. Well, the comments that came up (including some from Chowhound) talked about bad, snooty service and mediocre food. I began to question my choice for dinner, but decided to go ahead anyway - and I'm really glad I did. It was a lovely dinner with great service.
During the evening, we overheard the chef talking to another table and he mentioned he had only been there a short time. So, it's possible the food was mediocre before he arrived, but what he delivered last night was very good.
Our server was also attentive, friendly and knowledgeable about the menu. She seemed happy to answer our questions about ingredients and she paid attention to my "water with no ice" request. (It's such a simple request, but servers -- including the much more expensive ones -- often ignore it or forget when they refill.)
On the table was a basket of toast with a spicy hummus-like dip that we both enjoyed.
For appetizers, I chose a poached pear and rocket salad and my friend had chorizo with mint and grapes. The salad was very good, with just a touch of blue cheese to set off the flavours of the vinaigrette and the pear, which had been poached in red wine. I had a taste of the chorizo as well, since I was curious about the combo of spicy sausage, mint leaves and grapes. It was very nice too, with just enough heat to warm my mouth but enough smooth flavours to avoid an unpleasant burn.
For mains, I went with the "Rack of Vegetarian" and he had the pork chop. The vegetarian is one of those dishes that I'd recommend to non-veggies like me who like to skip the meat sometimes. Nicely presented, it featured eggplant wrapped around goat cheese and asparagus to look reminiscent of rack of lamb. The "rack" was surrounded by a remesco sauce. The sauce was a thick puree of red peppers, walnuts and subtle spicing, more like the consistency of hummus than a sauce. I'm not sure if that's traditional for remesco sauce or not, but it worked really well in this dish. There were also chunks of roasted red
potato under the "rack" that went nicely with the sauce.
My companion asked the server if she'd recommend the pork chop, since it's one of those items that is either done really well or really badly. She admitted that she hadn't tried it since she doesn't eat pork but mentioned that one of her co-workers eats it a lot and recommends it. After polishing it off, my companion assured her that it was done perfectly. Juicy and flavourful, and set off nicely by a sauce of apples and subtle spicing. That too came with red potatoes and the side of veggies included crunchy fiddleheads, beans and other fresh produce.
My companion had mentioned in passing that we were celebrating my birthday, so our server announced that my dessert would be on the house. I protested, because I'd hate for them to think he mentioned it fishing for a freebie, but she insisted and I ultimately relented. I had a nice light molten chocolate cake - with a single candle to mark the occasion. They had two other chocolate cake options on the dessert menu, along with a butter tart, a lemon tart and something else, so lots of choice there.
The other thing we liked was that the wine list matched the restaurant's not-cheap-but-inexpensive menu. Too often we see $20 mains with disproportionately expensive wines. Toast's wine list had good variety and modest markup. We chose a Pelham Baco Noir that we drink at home all the time. I think it was about $25 at Toast.
All in all, it was a lovely dinner. Modestly priced, well executed and great service. We'll definitely be back. I might even brave the crowds to try their brunch. Here's their website in case anyone wants to give them a try: http://www.toastrestaurant.ca/