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Everything posted by estufarian

  1. We went for Brunch last Sunday. Limited menu with some of the breakfast items spruced up slightly. Tried the 'French Toast' - strongly recommended by server. Not bad, but didn't excite. Also tried the short-rib sandwich. The meat was excellent, although BBQ sauce (served on side) was not as spicy as I like. Creme Brulee was 'correct' but not as exciting as some. Whole experience was 'middle-of-the-road' lacking any real excitement. Interestingly, saw several people walk out - it seemed as if they had been expecting a buffet-style operation. Service was casual. Some dishes arrived before cutlery. Coffee never arrived until re-requested. Summary - not worth a detour, but OK if you're in the area.
  2. La Palette only has it as a daily special (it's not on the regular menu) but it is available fairly often. It comes two different ways: 1. As a steak 2. As a course called "Quack 'n Track" - a 4 oz horse steak with duck confit. Worth having this one (especially for the name).
  3. Add me to the Splendido list! Perigee also has a tasting menu but it's a 'mystery". You don't know what you will get. The Splendido one is usually on their website. Also Truffles at Four Seasons Hotel usually has a tasting menu. Avalon used to have a Friday "Trust me" tasting menu but I haven't checked recently. All of the above offer matching wine selections (at additional cost).
  4. Having criticized others choices (and not alone in that), I feel obliged to offer some alternatives (and encourage all other nay-sayers to do likewise). Within a 10-minute cab ride, and meeting 'many' of your preferences, also consider: 1055 Restaurant; and Pastis Both are short on wine selection but offer good food and upscale, but casual, environment (and are considerably cheaper than most discussed above). Xacutti Pan-Indian menu so several unusual presentations. Attracts a little younger crowd than the two just mentioned, but has a better wine list. Maybe a little too noisy on peak evenings.
  5. You’re staying in an expensive area, and Toronto doesn’t do ‘expensive’ well, as the local clientele doesn’t support it. Best wine selection is nominally at Opus. However, EVERY time I’ve been there, my first choice has been out-of-stock. Other people report similar issues. Best restaurant is Truffles at Four Seasons. Perfect service and good, if somewhat safe, food. OK Wine List. Most other restaurants in the area are ‘trendy’ rather than worthwhile. I don’t like Boba (others do) so haven’t been there for a long time, and can’t comment on current desirability (or otherwise). Michelle’s Brasserie is not that great. A far better bet, although a 15-min walk, is Le Paradis – regularly voted the best Brasserie in Toronto. Joso’s has decent fish at high prices. I think Il Posto has disappeared (there’s construction around where it used to be, but it may still be there hidden behind the hoardings). And Prego is safe, but not really exciting. I don’t understand the enthusiasm for Pangaea. I’ve had 3 meals there over 10 years (approx), the most recent being last month and I’ve never thought it performed well (I only try it because others recommend but it will be at least 3 more years before I return). And thoroughly endorse Scaramouche (by cab) they do everything well. BUT almost all those above (OK, not the Brasserie’s) will ‘strongly recommend’ jackets. You’re just not in the right area for casual chic or dining. You’ll have to move a little further to find those. For example, Splendido is a 10-minute cab ride south and seems much more like what you are seeking.
  6. Count me in for Susur. You don't find anything like that in Vancouver. I'm also on the Splendido side. Both food and service there are exceptional (and David Lee was there last night) - but the price approaches Susur level too. Perigee is OK. But in two meals there they have ignored the preferences expressed by the diner and brought things that were inappropriate (at least - potentially dangerous in one case) - but we swapped dishes to get around that. NOTE: There is NO MENU at Perigee - you're asked for likes/dislikes and the food is a 'surprise'. Makes it very difficult to choose wine also, so you're almost forced to go with the Sommelier's choices (which are 'variable'). If you're truly looking for something you won't get in Vancouver, apart from Susur, I'll recommend Chiado. Certainly the best Portuguese restaurant in Toronto (and probably North America). Think 'french' rather than portuguese and you'll be closer to the mark - but it's not cheap either.
  7. Yes, I think that is correct. It appears as if the LLBO is only concerned with licensed premises. A local 'good eats' without a license cannot have BYOW, unlike in P.Q. Our government certainly takes us up the high road, price wise! ← The issue here is 'responsibility'. All licensed premises must have 'trained' servers (usally Smartserve), but there is no such requirement for unlicensed premises. The server is (or should be) trained to ensure that patrons aren't impaired when being served alcohol. As both a pedestrian and driver I think that the safety angle is very important. And for the same reason, the move to allow recorking of bottles (both BYOW and from the restaurant) which was introduced in parallel is also to be applauded.
  8. Agree on the Gigondas and Huet - but not enamoured with the Groundrey (based on previous vintages). Also not sure why it would be hard to get - it's owned by Vincor after all?
  9. That's the place that would be top of my list. It's fish (rather than seafood). And the wine list is amazing - literally hundreds of Portuguese wines, most of which you won't know - but they know every one. And there's a sort of tapas bar next door called Senhor Antonio's (part of same restaurant). My recommendation: Choose Chiado over any 'seafood' place. Seafood in Toronto is not a particular strength and even the best here won't match what any fan can get on (or near) the coast. Your brother will inevitably be disappointed. Chiado is one of the great Portuguese restaurants of the world (and their fish is flown in). And hit ethnic restaurants for the other meals.
  10. Aha! Someone else has discovered this one. The steaks are good (not the greatest) but the wine list is amazing in one respect. Apparently Chuck's has been on the Williams Selyem list for years and their wine list features these. The Pinot Noir prices are LESS than I can find retail. The glassware should be smashed; the ambience is 70's (maybe 50's); but the pinot noir is amazing. My guilty-pleasure restaurant in California.
  11. Was there a couple of months back. Buck's performance was far better than I expected. The food didn't match that!
  12. estufarian


    Wow! I think I may be Joanne Kates in a parallel life! My experience at Didier was almost a carbon copy. They NEVER answered the phone. Turned me down 3 times at the last second by eventually returning my messages. Finally made it and the whole impression was of a restaurant watching every penny, rather than eyeing the food. The place seems untouched since its Rhodes days. Very short opening hours. A very small menu (probably a good thing to ensure fresh ingredients, but one wonders if this is to avoid food wastage). Staffed at a bare minimum - but service was very professional (we were there on a slow night). Didier 'worked the room' - but only for his friends. 'Unknown' diners were totally ignored (hint: If you're going to appear in the dining room, visit every table). Food was mixed (maybe the kitchen is still settling in) and had exactly the same misunderstanding with the foie gras. Assumed it was seared/hot - the menu (and the server) do not help dispel this misconception. And best dish was the chicken. At around $100 per person, there are many choices in Toronto that provide greater satisfaction.
  13. Assuming this follows on to my original question above, my issue was more " who cooks, when the person who cooks when you're not there, is not there" - at least in my example - and it was just that; I'm not knocking my meal at Ramsay(which was very good, but probably not in my favourite 3 UK meals, and a little short of what I expected in a 3* experience). And Derek's answer was, of course, spot on - Michelin rates the food not the chef. It's the rest of 'us' (in quotes deliberately because I'm not even hinting that I meant anybody on this thread) who identify with the chef.
  14. Derek, Thank you for your clear responses to date. I understand that Michelin is judging ‘the experience as presented’ (my paraphrase). But it is the top tier(s) that attract the attention and the ‘starred chefs’ are (or were) specifically identified at the top restaurants. And more frequently, we find these chefs undertaking numerous activities outside the restaurant itself. As an example (for clarification only – I’m not looking for a response on this restaurant specifically), Gordon Ramsay himself has been in the USA frequently so rarely cooks at Royal Hospital Road. Mark Askew ‘nominally’ cooks, but he wasn’t there on my recent visit. My real question though, is how Michelin handles these “who may be in the kitchen” issues. Do you know (or care) whether the owner/normal chef/overworked but talented underling are actually there when you visit? If, hypothetically, a bad experience occurs is this a ‘valid’ review (potentially leading to a downgrade) or would an inspector make a determined effort to revisit when the ‘nominee’ is there in person? Or, in simple terms, should we (or you) even care if the chef Michelin reviewed is in the kitchen? [As an observation: On a trip to Spain eating in 4 ‘starred’ Michelin restaurants, the chef was in the house at all four (although Michelin Espana doesn’t identify chefs). In the UK, at 3 ‘starred’ restaurants, I have never found the nominal chef in attendance].
  15. estufarian


    The French Laundry's charge is $75US - and the wine cannot be on their wine list either (in theory - but they waived that restriction for the table next to us who brought a 90 Latour, not knowing it was on the list). On the other hand, Le Select isn't the French Laundry. But, at least they are offering the possibility. It's still our choice whether we go there - and now I might, indeed, go there with a special bottle and good friends. It's certainly more likely than it was last week, so le Select wins (potentially) and I win. Who loses here?
  16. estufarian


    I care; I care; I care. I don't begrudge restaurants taking huge markups. I just ignore them in my dining choices. And what hurts even more is when the LCBO puts limits on their meagre quantities of wines but allows restaurants to order by the case for limited items. You'd think their self promoting (but totally untrue) claim of being the largest wine purchasor in the world would allow decent quantities to be made available. I particularly recall being told that I had zero allocation for the mail-in only Cloudy Bay SB (nominally $25) only to find it on a restaurant list (chalkboard, not printed, i.e. just arrived with no storage cost) for $75 the following week. Never went back. Restaurant later went broke! I didn't shed a tear. As soon as we can, let's start a thread here on restaurants that have signed up for BYOW and support them as much as possible.
  17. Just a little caution - Michael (although a great chef) is NOT a qualified mushroom expert. I speak as one who consumed (greedily) some of Michael's "hand gathered mushrooms" (direct quote before being served) - only to discover a few hours later that at least one was poisonous. I won't gross you out with the details but, suffice it to say, it wasn't pretty.
  18. It seems that Gary is the first to try each new dish – but on my visit last week, everything was new to me, so I’ll add my 2p worth. The cranberry with beer ‘shot’ immediately reminded me of a Belgian lambic beer. Could this be Tony’s attempt to ‘deconstruct’ such a beer (I know, I’m probably reading too much into it)? But he does have a relatively large beer list, although I didn’t even peruse it. The cauliflower trifle was superb. Certainly the highlight for me in its ‘concept’. We’ll be attempting several savoury trifle variations at home in the future. AmuseGirl identified the bottom layer as coffee (or perhaps I’m already getting confused with the risotto)! And there was some apple in there too. The tuna dish held less excitement. The best part for us was the tuna roe crumbled around. Similar to bottarga but more in harmony with the tuna. And also a tangerine and ginger ‘soup’ with yoghurt ice and a muesli-like layer. A perfect palate cleanser. We tried all four starters available. The white onion risotto has had many raves. Add mine. The highlight in the roast squab was the crunchy shoots – exploded with flavour, but didn’t realize they were peanut (thanks, Gary). Gary also mentioned the sea-salt on this dish. Ours was lacking this ingredient – we even commented that some Maldon salt would have lifted this dish. Our favourite starter was the Black Pudding (best ingredient of the night) with roast salmon cheeks and mango. Just an amazing combination of flavours. And also the cep veloute with salt cod and kikos. I know why they talked Gary out of this one. The weakest dish of the evening for us. However, this would have been a must order dish for us as two nights earlier we had eaten a cep veloute at Gordon Ramsay (name dropper!), and this had been the finest dish of that evening. On both dishes, the pure cep flavour came through, but the Ramsay version had layers of complexity, both broadening and heightening the dish. To finish that comparison, the Ramsay highlight for almost every dish was the saucing which was immaculate in all cases. But of course, it’s a different style of cuisine, French in heritage; and Anthony’s makes no claims or pretensions to being French – even his ingredients show a significant Spanish leaning (but still ‘English’). And Ramsay is MUCH more expensive! On to the mains. The red mullet with langoustines seems to be a standard item – but this time it included an almond crème caramel. We ate every morsel, but couldn’t really understand what this dish was all about. The components were certainly tasty, but seemed ‘separate’ on the palate, rather than a more exciting combination. The roast and carpaccio of venison has been on the menu for a while so I can’t add much to what has already been said. An excellent cheese course and all English – at Ramsay’s the only English cheese available was Stilton with most of the 20+ choices being French. I found the pickled celery (in the salsa) too overpowering but really enjoyed the different textures of the cheeses. And an overall comment. What a pleasure to have space around each table. I know they could easily get more tables into the room but, the fact that they don’t, speaks volumes for the philosophy of Anthony’s. As a contrast, at Gordon Ramsay the same week, a party occupied the adjoining table where some members generously shared their perfume with their neighbours (us!). Luckily, we had the earliest reservation, and only had dessert to come when they were seated, so were able to move to the reception area to conclude. If this had happened simultaneously with our arrival, I’m not sure what would have happened, as there were no empty tables available where we could have been moved.
  19. Hey, I recommended the place, so only fair to return. And it was seriously bad this time around. I took an out-of-town chef this time and he must have wondered what was happening and questioned my tastebuds. The worst moment was the truffled mashed potatoes - which had no discernible truffle aroma or taste. We suggested to the server that perhaps the truffles had ben forgotten. We were 'left in our place' - "that's the way they always are" was the response. The complexity of the dishes on the first visit was replaced with 'bland'. Textures were more in the rubbery/soggy end of the spectrum. Everything seemed dumbed down. Even the ingredients didn't "zing" (which had been one of the pleasant surprises on my prior visit). I wish I knew what happened!
  20. OK You finally persuaded me - I went back after one of my worst dinners in 2004. And it was better - but I'm not rushing back again. My biggest problem is still the identical one I had on my first visit in 2004. Why ask about preferences if you are going to be served dishes that contravene the request. A 'no cheese' request was ignored and a dish covered in melted cheese was served. An 'anything foie gras' request was ignored but another 'no organ meats' request was served the foie gras. Can it be coincidence that this was exactly the problem on the first visit? BUT, in fairness, the food was generally pretty good. At times excellent. The wine choices were an improvement on the first visit, but we still found ourselves switching glasses between ourselves. Surprisingly, my favourite dishes were the beef. And this is probably my least favourite of the common meats. Next time (if there is one) I will only go as a couple. Whenever it's four they just don't sem to be able to keep the preferences straight.
  21. estufarian


    A recent Tony Aspler column indicated that the BYOW legislation was "passed in 2004". However the regulations have not yet been defined - and most liquor changes are done by regulation (and as far as I have been able to determine never officially 'published' e.g. in the Ontario Gazette). He expected the rules to be defined by end of February.
  22. A couple of responses to this omitted the agents from whom I have ordered most often! FWP Imports (many of their wines are in 6-packs, so only need a small order) John Hanna & Sons (one of my better sources for older wines) Both have been VERY active for years. (And I have ordered from some of those contained in the suggested lists too).
  23. estufarian


    Susur has been up & down. In the Summer I had a superb meal there - made more surprising as Susur himself wasn't in that day. Usually it's been easy to tell when Susur is not at the helm. But since Lee opened it's definitely lost a little. In particular the service has plummeted, although the food is fine. Orders get "lost" and dishes have come out a second time (this happened to me and to 2 other sets of diners I've spoken to). I still believe it's capable of the finest food in town - but currently it's a bit hit and miss. Having said that, I would still choose Susur over any other restaurant in town (including Perigee, although I also plan to retry Perigee, based on the several recommendations here) - for the food!
  24. Bear in mind that Le Manoir and the Prince of Wales (under Parsons) both feature classic french cuisine that's 20 years out-of-date. That style didn't work in NOTL and Le Manoir has been passed by several other newer UK restaurants.
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