I hadn't been to Barberians in many years. I developed a craving for the apple beignet dessert that I remembered having had with pleasure. On enquiry I was advised that it was still on the menu.I succumbed finally and went last Sunday with the Ms. for dessert.
The ab is a cornerstone of the dessert menu, it must have been on the menu from the time that Barberians opened in the fifties, or soon thereafter.
This is what we got and what we thought of it.
On the plate were two decent sized scoops of vanilla ice cream and two "beignets".
The ice cream was obviously commercial and familiarily not good; the principal flavour characteristic was too sweet, but not sweet from the cream but from sweetner. On enquiry I was told that the ice cream was Baskin Robbins. Of course, but I would have to try the BR vanilla again to see where in the Silcor (formerly Silverwood's the franchisor and ice creamer producer.)line it is, there are a few grades.
There is better non chi- chi icecream in Toronto, but comaprison is a pointless exercise, it is like comparing imported American tomatoes in February. Ice cream is a big problem in Toronto, which I would bet would compete for the stigma of having the worst commercial icecream of any major city near where icecream is produced. So for eg the best commercial ice cream in New Zealand is excellent. If I were to give it a "10" on a 1-10 scale I would give what we were served a "3".
I suppose a restaurant can call almost anything it wants an apple beignet, A "beignet" is a donut, and apple beignet is usually understood as (diced) apple mixed into a batter which is fried. The cook flavours and adds to the batter and the beignet according to his interest and taste. What we got was two apple rings in a light batter, cooked and dredged in a mixture of sugar, cinnamon and a bit of not too coarsely ground walnuts. They reminded me of battered
onion rings, they evoked thoughts of Captain Highliner, I became apprehensive.
The batter was so light that it had no taste. The apple that was used was Granny Smith. This apple isn't much unless grown in its optimal "terroir" and
not picked before its prime. This one wasn't a good one. In any event the apple works in cooking only if used in mass, here what we got was a light tasting apple bore. There was nothing sumptious here, when this should be the the aspirtational characteristic of the dessert. But Granny Smith does keep its shape!
The Ms thought from the fact that there was a gap betwen the batter and the apple that the "beignet" had probably been made up in advance and frozen, to be used as needed.
This ab dessert ($8.) would be suitable and appropriate on an all you can eat, $10-to under $20, Chinese buffet. This is a considered comment, not bombast.
The Ms., deluded by going to Barberians, had wanted to order two ab desserts. I suggested one because I thought there would be too much ice cream for her. She was so fascinated by the horror of what she got for ab that she wanted to order another dessert, the New York style cheesecake.
All sorts of things are called New York style cheesecake ($8.50?). This one seemed to be flourless and had a light undifferentiatedly smooth texture. But its only taste characteristic was an unpleasant dairy taste. With nothing to go against or with the graham cracker crust, the unpleasant taste and the greasy texture charcteristics of the base were highlighted.
The topping was a couple thinly sliced strawberries and there was a sickly sweet red syrup drizzle.
My tea($4.50) was served in a fancy iron pot which couldn't let me control how strong I wanted it and showed up a bit more than luke warm. Perhaps the pot had not been heated before the tea was infused. Too strong was good, though. It dispelled much of the unpleasnt dairy taste. But I still shuddered in revulsion several times in the car on the way home when the dairy taste came back.
The Ms. prounced her coffee average.
On the way out the Ms. opined that she would have much preferred to have gone to Tim Hortons for a Dutchy or an apple fritter and a coffee.
The Ms. has enough skill, talent and experience to do the desserts in any restaurant in Toronto, and make them first class.
These are the thoughts that came to me:
1. If anyone likes this stuff they deserve it.
2. Either the owner likes this stuff or he has contempt for his customers.
3. If I were to bring someone from France here for dessert thay could think that this town had gone nuts.
3. Seeing what brings such great success- Very simple cooking, an unchanging menu, the aforementioned desserts, high prices, they might think, if they opened a good French restaurtant in Toronto they would have lineups every night; they might be motivate dto open a good French restaurant. Such a restaurant would probably fail.
5. I would accept this sort of dessert from without offence from a humble place- where I would charged a lot less- and simply not go back. Here we were at Barberians, a 50year old institution, with a simple and easily cooked format, with very high prices and even more money coming from lots of expensive booze that it sells. I felt ripped off, and and since I wasn't conned, angry.