Went last night for dinner around 7:00. Got in straight away and sat at the bar.
Bottle of 2003 Akarua Pinot Noir (New Zealand) was recommended by the wine bar tender (not sure if he was the sommelier). Very nice and matched well with almost everything we had.
Started with a selection of apps, including:
Yukon Frites - perfectly done as usual, unobtrusive whole thyme sprigs perfumed the dish without overpowering. Lemon mayo was not as citrus/acidic as I remember from the ROM, but a wedge on the side allowed personal tweaking. (on a side note, the couple beside ordered some bread that came with smouldering rosemary. the wafting smoke was a touch strong at first, but settled around us and provided an interesting backnote to the fresh thyme)
Organic Greens with Sherry Vinaigrette - had to try this after so many chowhounders reco'd it, but was slightly dissappointed. I found the flavour of the dressing didn't match perfectly with the choice of greens, but that is my personal opinion. The bibb lettuce was too soft and lacking in peppery bite to support the oil-rich dressing. The garnishes were a couple of sliced radishes and some astersium (sp?) leaves that went soggy in the dressing. I would really have like some fried garlic chips, or maybe some fresh bacon rashers applied with a light hand. On the whole, not a bad salad, just nothing exceptional.
Cauliflower Soup - a must have for anyone feeling a little bit of the fall chill. this perfectly seasoned & spiced warming bowl was a hit as far as i was concerned. if i had to guess, i would say there was probably some nutmeg and cumin, but the balance of fresh vegetable and earthy spice was so perfect as to make individual flavour identifications difficult. A simple garnish of chopped flat leaf parsley was an interesting choice, in-lieu of the more common dollop of whipping/sour/fraiche cream. I am wondering if he didn't sub a veal stock for the usual chicken or vegetable stock base to create such a rich flavour without the heaviness of added cream/butter. Skip this one at your peril.
Pork and Prune Terrine with Walnut Tuilles - Simply put...a masterpiece. I have always preferred chicken liver pates to the drier, peasant-style pork ones. I am now a convert. While minimizing the fattiness, Mr. Kennedy managed to retain all of the flavour and richness that naturally resides in a meat so often abused by north americans. The walnut tuilles were a perfect accoutrement, as were the lightly dressed, oh-so-peppery-and-delicious watercress sprigs draped across the top. Bold was his choice to serve this dish without the usual, sweet, fruit/wine-based reduction. Opting instead to add prunes (probably my least favourite fruit) directly into the terrine, he managed to imbue the entire dish with their natural sweetness, without forcing the diner (read me) to endure the cloyingly gummy sugariness that is so commonly associated (again, by me) with that stigmatized fruit. This was a dish that was savoured long after the plate was removed.
Mussels and Clams with Sofritto - A very good, surprisingly traditional, tapas style seafood dish. The briny liquor from the perfectly tender bivalves was blended with a mild stock and some finely diced veg. A thin slice of crusty baguette was liberally spread with a delicious (Kalamata?) olive tapenade. My only comment would be that between the tapenade, the seasalt flavour of the shellfish, and anything that was added to the soffritto, this dish was flirting with overseasoning. I thouroughly enjoyed it, but I like well seasoned food and I found myself craving a large glass of water when I was finished.
Beef Tenderloin with Sweet Potato Pave - This review has been very positive on the whole, which is why i feel almost guilty about finishing with such an approbation. I think I can safely say that I enjoyed this dish more than any other plate that has been put in front of me in any restaurant in Toronto. Simple composition, elegant presentation, complex flavour. This is a mantra many chefs in Toronto could learn volumes from. I won't try and do this dish justice, I only hope that it is still on the menu next time I return.
Service was friendly and unobtrusive. Decor was understated and simple. Only complaint was that the bar seating was a little cramped, meaning a lot of elbow rubbing on both sides.
Dinner for two with one bottle of wine ($76) came out to a shockingly low $150.