My DH and I have spent the last week in Toronto catching up with friends over meals. (We lived here last summer and love Toronto.) It's been a whirlwind week of excellent company and a wide spectrum of food quality. On this trip our friends picked the places. But since we got so much value out of restaurant reviews last summer, I wanted to share with you:
Il Fornello: we went to the Queens Quay location for lunch. This chain resto used to be a favorite of my husband's, and we've seen it slowly decline in quality (food and service) over the years. We enjoyed our company very much, but not the food. I had the wild mushroom salad, decent but not fantastic. My husband requested his standard favorite: multi-grain crust pizza with tomato sauce, brie and prosciutto. He's been eating it there for years. This time, it was served with less brie and apparently very little flavor, though the crust was good. Our friends had the pasta bolognese, and enjoyed it. But at least the service was good this time. Last March we took my MIL there for her birthday w/ the whole family, and actually had the waiter get into an argument with us about whether or not we ordered the multi-grain crust.
JKWB: this was another favorite of ours that didn't live up to our fond memories this time around. We arrived on Tues evening at 7:45 and were quoted a 2 hr wait, which wasn't surprising. We headed over to the Keg to wait it out with a drink, but the host at JKWB (who was a delight) called us to our table in just > 1 hour. Our waiter gave us dry service which didn't improve as the restaurant grew less busy. We shared: salad with roasted vegetables and goat cheese, 2 orders of pomme frites, a dish with scallops and chorizo, black cod en papillote and a take on a grilled cheese sandwich with apple compote and cheddar. The shining star of our meal were the fries, as always. They were perfectly crispy and wonderful with a lemon squeeze. The salad was disappointing with limp roasted beets and shallots; I definitely preferred the perfectly-dressed summer salads from last year. My friend pronounced the scallop dish delicious. The black cod was decent. And the grilled cheese didn't quite work -- instead of a harmonious blend of flavors, the tartness of the compote overshadowed the cheese and added a texture that took away from the wonderful mouthfeel of a good grilled cheese. We finished this with a shared slice of chocolate ginger tart, which was good though the crust was so/so.
Butler's Pantry: All the evenings blend together, but I think Wednesday night was spent at Butler's Pantry in the Annex. Again, the best part of the meal was the company. The restaurant has a very laid-back vibe that does not exist in our homtown (SoFla). The menu seemed to consist of comfort food items from around the world. I ordered kosharee, my husband had a chicken tandoori, one friend ate the spinach casserole and another the bul-go-gi. Our mojitos weren't very good but they were small and didn't offend. My kosharee was delicious, with a crunchy layer of fried onions surrounding a mound of rice and lentils. I'm a big fan of mujadarah, and this was even better. And the dressing for the salad was excellent. My husband didn't love his tandoori, but couldn't specifically tell me why. The spinach casserole was very good, though a little heavy. And our friend enjoyed his bul-go-gi. I don't think this is a place to go to for outrageous culinary experience, but for a chowhound looking for food comfort and large portions on a cold Toronto evening, this place will provide comfort of food and atmosphere for sure.
Romagna Mia: This was by far the best meal we had during the week. We arrived at Romagna Mia on Thursday evening after a very rainy day, and were looking forward to the Northern Italian cuisine. Our friends, back from a honeymoon in Italy, told us that their risotto was as good as many they'd had in Italy. And these friends had always picked good places in the past, so we knew we were in for a treat. The host was fun and friendly and our Argentinian waiter, Tito, was a delight. He took excellent care of us, entertained us with stories, and we will always think of him now when we watch Boca play River.
Our friend ordered a bottle of wine that was fantastic; I wish I could remember the name. We all started with the mixed greens salad, which was very good. The mesclun wasn't tastless and dry like in some places, but had a great texture. And the fresh ricotta on the salad was delicious. I did wish it had a bit more roasted vegetables on it. For entrees, my husband and our friends enjoyed their famous risotto. All 3 enjoyed the risotto very much and pronounced it delicious. I'm a vegetarian and didn't taste it, but I did enjoy nibbling on the frico on my husband's plate. I had a plate of squash and swiss chard gnocchi served over a light cream and wild mushroom sauce. It was delicious! The gnocchi were perfect pillows that practically melted in my mouth. There is nothing quite like good gnocchi (rather than bad chewy stuff) and these were great. And while I'm not a huge fan of heavy, creamy sauces, the sauce was just right. For dessert we shared a chocolate mousse that was good (though a tiny bit grainy, the flavor was great but the mouthfeel a little off) and a tiramisu that was excellent.
Riz: last night was our final restaurant night, with dinner at Riz. This cute little restaurant on Bayview was pleasing to the eye, and once again our service was really excellent. We'd heard that this was a chain restaurant and didn't have high expectations, but they went out of their way to please. My husband enjoyed the fresh mango juice, and I had a mango cranberry -- we were wined out! Then, for our table of 6, we had so many dishes come to the table that I can't possibly remember them all. A few of the dishes were very good: the eggplant was excellent, my husband loved a lettuce-wrap appetizer and everyone pronounced the lemongrass soups delicious. The green beans were also good. And our friends loved the beef. It wasn't the best food we've had, but it was pretty good, and with the great service we'd go again to satisfy an asian fusion craving.
Today we are relaxing with family and detoxing from all the food and wine! I hope everyone on this board has a wondeful holiday with family and friends, and some great chowish experiences.