Finally decided to try the new Czehoski restaurant, a beautiful space that used to be a butcher. Despite the name food is haute western-european with some unique twists in presentation and unusual ingredients.
The space is small like most Queen W restaurants but beautifully done. The back dining room is wonderfully comfortable and the perfect mix of warmth and elegance. The front area serves as the bar while the open kitchen seperates the front and back. We went on a Monday night around 7:30PM and was immediately seated- the dining area had only 2-3 tables but closer to 9 PM it was 3/4 full.
To start our server recommended the espresso gnnochi which was supposed to be the classic pasta but cooked with espresso with lamb and other items. We opted to share the 'duck parfait' instead. I will try anything that finds a different way to serve duck. Presented like a classic parfait, it was in a tall fountain glass with three layers. The bottom was a coulis-kind of sauce with fresh apples and other fruits to give a nice sour-sweet flavour. The bottom layer was cool, which constrasted with the warm duck 'scoop' of shredded duck meat, which was very soft and moist and finally topped with radicchio leaves and pinenuts. Overall very interesting and fun to try, but ironically the duck was the most dissapointing- it lacked texture and flavor but the radicchio and sauce at the bottom made it enjoyable. Apps are 7-9$
A had the 'low-temperature' blade beef steak which was paired with corn off the cob and fingerling potatoes as well as dark green leafy veg whose English name I can't recall (I believe it's a Chinese vegetable). At first bite the steak was dissapointing, each slice was difficult to chew (because it was 'low-temperature' you're not asked how well done it was to be but it was medium-rare to medium) and it was obviously of poor cut. I told the server and was slightly dissauaded when he tried to tell me that it was simply a section of the steak. I was firm, and he brought it back. The chef ended up coming back to the table and explained that they just got new grain-fed cuts of beef (or something) and that he was very sorry. The steak was on the house and he even got me another martini! The second one was better but unfortunately not what I would call a 'good' steak it still was slightly tough at the edges. The marinade is interesting though as it's flavored with tobacco and gives it a delightfully smoky and distinctive flavor that goes well with steak. The corn was very sweet and actually shucked off the cob and the fingerling potatoes were nice and not too much. Again, with this dish everything but the main attraction (the steak!) was good and I may try it in the future when they have a better handle on their quality of meat. The steak was 25$, entrees were around 18-25$
My friends had a chicken leg stuffed with prisciutto and another trout. All of the dishes were beautifully presented.
For dessert we (3 at the table) shared the vanilla mousse. A simple teacup filled with mousse and topped with a few pieces of white chocolate, lemon foam, and hazlenut oil. The hazlenut oil didn't come out at all, but the lemon foam offset the mousse wonderfully. The mousse itself was excellent- light texture and perfect balance of creaminess and sweetness that was a wonderful finish.
Did not have wine that day but tried several martinis. They tend to use a lot of fresh fruit in them which is a welcome change over the usual minscule garnish. I loved my martini, called the Olivette which was Rye, amaretto, sweet vermouth, and bitters.
Service was superb, very nice and accomodating without any pretentiousness. I only remember better service at Flow. The 'newness' of the restaurant shows through though, as they seemed to be overstaffed as there was always several serving staff hovering in front of the kitchen which looks a bit odd. The less forgiveable thing is that we happened to notice one of the kitchen staff *eat* something while working! That was quite unsettling for us. But beyond that our server was highly attentive, always filling our water and available to take our order at all times. I really appreciated the chef coming out to explain the problem with the steak and not making me feel uneasy in sending something back.
Total bill came to about 147$ for three people. I hope the review doesn't sound too condemning because we enjoyed eating there greatly. The (young!) chef has very dynamic twists on some dishes that aren't really tried right now in most Toronto restaurants and you can tell that the restaurants is trying extremely hard to ensure all it's customers have a good time. I'm confident that the kitchen will smooth over it's staff and food quality issues in time and will present a flawless experience. At the moment it's very good, and I'll certainly be returning a few weeks.