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Czehoski - 678 Queen West


Nondoctor
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I popped in for a bite a couple of weeks back and was quite impressed with both the service and the food.

My friend's "Low Temperature Steak" was superb. Great presentation too.

The "Farmer's Cheese Vereniki" didn't really work for me though.

Great cheese platter (something that is very important to me)

The renovation is quite beautiful... as are the staff.

Chefs David and Nathan are very friendly fellows indeed.

Wine list needs some work though... to much reliance on one agency (B&W)

They just opened recently so I plan to revisit very soon.

I'd recommend you all give it a shot.

Edited by Nondoctor (log)

"nil illigitimum carborundum"

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  • 4 months later...

The chef who staged at el bulli has left (so I'm told, don't have first-hand information) but perhaps more to the point: The place (in my opinion of course) was never interesting.

I had dinner there about a month after it opened and while they were busy, the food was not only poorly executed, it was boring. The menu promised great things but the plates offered very little.

It has been stated too many times that the service is awful, so I'll leave it at that, but more importantly, the wine list while I was there was pitiful. A small list need not be devoid of interesting wines, alas...

Keep in mind my criticisms are from a dinner from months ago (confirmed by two other dinners by two other friends at around the same time) so I can't say whether they've improved.

Honestly, I hope they have! Toronto needs restaurants at that price point which can actually deliver great food. Are there any?

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I was there a month, maybe two, ago. My meal was ok - I had the low temp steak with tobacco jus, and it was fine, if a bit chewy.

I thought the menu looked less interesting than it did shortly after they opened though. Service was fine, the meal was fine. Nothing stunning. I'll try it again sometime, but I'm not rushing back.

Cheers,

Geoff Ruby

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What's the cut & method for the low temp steak?

When I was there it was a flatiron steak. I believe they grill it but not sure.

Mmm'mm, I curious where the "low temp" comes into play. A lot of the commercial gas grills leave a "gas" flavor when used at low temps.

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I was there in June with three foodies (1 from Chicago, 1 from Connecticut and 1 from NYC). We asked of the cuff if we could have a tastings menu and got 7 interesting and imaginative courses. The kitchen was only too happy as they had three large groups of "overly perfumed" customers that had mutiple dietary requirements.

As for the service, I found it attentive and very good but not excellent - it's west of the Bovine Sex Club remember and priced accordingly.

The wine was another issue. We had two bottles of 2000 Tom Eddy Napa Valley Cabernet at almost $300 each. The wine was worth $300 but in about 4 years time. One of the NYC guys bought the wine without consulting the table and short of putting it in a paint shaker, we couldn't get it to open up. I've had some good drinkable 2000 Napa Cabs but this bad boy needed some time to mellow. The wine error is our own damn fault, and I never really consulted the list as the decision was made in a nano second.

Long and short of it, I'm 12 restaurants into my global top 50 and while Czehoski may be in the next 50, I think they're onto something like other trendsetters in their own market place. I should add that I'm not "in the business" either.

I for one want to encourage these guys to continue to be out there and experiement. I'm quite happy to go and tell them how I fell and would encourage other e-gulletters to do the same. It's the price you pay to encourage innovation. Frankly, if I see one more Rack O' Lamb/Halibut/Veal Chop/Salmon/Chicken/Tederloin structured menu, I'm going to flip. :wink:

Homer: Are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?

Lisa: No.

Homer: Ham?

Lisa: No.

Homer: Pork chops?

Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal.

Homer: Heh heh heh. Ooh, yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal. (The Simpsons)

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I was there earlier this month and was much more impressed. We couldn't decide on which dishes to try (many looked interesting) and on asking for more details were offered a 'chef's choice tasting menu'. We accepted and were very impressed.

We started with a combo amuse which contained a small cup of Andalusian gazpacho (white bean and cucumber) and an endive leaf containing sweet/savoury/crunchy items (a creamy dressing, possibly with mustard, champagne grapes and a crispy cheese ‘vermicelli’ which was like a bow made from very thin strands of cheese and then dehydrated) great textures and explosive flavours as we tried each item. A great start.

Then on to a more whimsical dish ‘Oyster and Beef’. The oyster was served in a pepper sauce. The beef was an organic beef tartare, with maybe a hint of Worcestershire sauce. The slightly chewy texture was what linked the two main ingredients. But the spiciness was on the oyster, rather than the tartare reversing the expected spicing.

Next a spectacular love it or hate it dish. We loved it. You may not! Some osso bucco meat had been ‘pulled’ from the bone and was served with gnocchi ‘pillows’ which had been caramelized outside and were filled with espresso (I think), This was topped with a cardamom foam. The overall impression was of a single colour dish, but the airy gnocchi pillows burst in the mouth to give up their filling. The foam enhanced the richness of the meat. This was by far the richest dish of the evening and the only one that warranted red wine.

Then came sockeye salmon with sautéed spinach, mixed mushrooms and black Arborio rice, served with a German smoked beer sauce. I found that the spinach dominated this dish and couldn’t identify any smokiness from the beer, but the salmon was good, the colours excellent and if the dish is rethought and simplified it could be a winner.

Next an ‘almost perfect’ dish. Halibut cooked perfectly to flakiness (but unfortunately the flavour was subdued on this fish) served with a superb scallop and shrimp cake (think crab cake, but this was better than any crab cake I’ve had – and I prefer crab to both scallop and shrimp). This nestled in an ‘orange’ sauce (never did figure out exactly what it was) and was served with a shaved fennel and Thai basil salad. The fishcake was perfectly cooked and textured –crisp outside and pieces of scallop and shrimp inside which were clearly distinguishable by taste and texture. If the halibut had been more flavourful this would have joined the osso bucco as a must-have course.

Next the least impressive course, Squab cooked sous-vide then crisped (note for the squeamish – the foot was left on as seems to be the current fashion in Toronto) and served with lentils, more sautéed spinach, a black rice sauce and stupendous heirloom carrots (can’t ever recall having had better carrots). The Chef (Nathan, who had popped out a few times before) arrived after this dish to ask what we thought, and incidentally apologized for the duplication of sides on this dish. It had been added as an ‘extra’ course (apparently they had been impressed by our comments on the food thus far and started adding extras) and the chef preparing this hadn’t realized we’d had some of these previously. We identified it as ‘boring’ compared to the other dishes we’d had. Nothing wrong ‘technically’ – just didn’t feel that it possessed the excitement of previous dishes – almost as if it had wandered in from another restaurant. This made his day! It apparently had been ‘borrowed’ from one of the chefs’ stints in another restaurant and had been added to provide a more familiar note – not everyone in Toronto is an adventurous eater!

We would probably have been served even more dishes – except we were getting very full, so suggested they moved on to dessert. But first they served us a magnificent salad the menu describes it as something like ‘Crunchy, chewy, sweet, sour…salad’. And it was! Mixed greens and flowers, with salsify chips, heirloom beets, a 6-year old aged Gouda cheese, honey gelée and probably some other stuff too.

Then a pre-dessert of a citrus soda with a sorrel sorbet.

And two desserts an extremely light Valrhona chocolate mousse with a rosemary chantilly, and a brie-de-meaux cheesecake with strawberry gelée.

And a comped cheese plate with a glass of 20-year old tawny (it was a birthday celebration which was mentioned part way through).

Quite simply the most exciting meal we’ve had in Toronto this year. We started early when the dining room was almost empty and provided ample feedback on each course as the meal progressed, so I think the chef was also excited to get people who cared about his cooking. The front part of the venue is really a bar (which you pass through to get to the dining area) and around 10:30 the live music starts right at the back so Czehoski’s definitely becomes a ‘scene’. There were far more people in the bar area than the restaurant, so I’m not sure how economic the restaurant will be. But if you show interest I don’t doubt the chef will pull out his best for you. Service was very competent. Friendly, genuine concern for whether we liked each dish and good follow-up of our questions and criticisms. But it was mid-week in an uncrowded dining room.

I didn’t see the ‘other’ chef (David Haman) in evidence, but that doesn’t matter – the food was excellent and we’ll be back (again early and midweek).

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Sounds interesting, estufarian. Would you mind telling us the approximate bill for the evening? We haven't been yet, but are looking for something interesting for out of town friends early next week.

Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

Good friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.

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When Czehoski opened, all the press mentioned "molecular gastronomy" and I was very excited to have a new option in Toronto. My dinner experience was very disappointing but I'm glad to hear that they are delivering fine meals in an interesting style to some diners.

Thanks for the in-depth review.

Also, I really think that more chefs would be encouraged to try new things if their patrons responded honestly to the food the way you and your party did. Kudos.

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estufarian: Thank you for providing this report - as usual, well done. Regarding the 'other' chef, it was reported in the press in June that David left Czehoski. Apparently management wanted to make a change in direction and David felt it was time to move on. He was on good terms with his co-chef Nathan and decided he should learn more about how the 'front of the house' runs so he took a job as a food runner at the JK Wine Bar. I have no idea if that report is accurate or if he is still at (or even arrived at) the JKWB.

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Would you mind telling us the approximate bill for the evening? 

I didn't pay (it was my birthday) but I estimate total was around $300 for two all-in. But we did have 'extra wine' - a glass each of different sparklers to start, a bottle of white and 2 glasses of red, so I'd guess most people would have been in the $200 - $250 range for two. Appetizers are around $15 and mains $25 (some higher).

Regarding the 'other' chef, it was reported in the press in June that David left Czehoski.  He..... decided he should learn more about how the 'front of the house' runs so he took a job as a food runner at the JK Wine Bar.  I have no idea if that report is accurate or if he is still at (or even arrived at) the JKWB.

He certainly 'landed at JK' - don't know if he's still there.

Having said that I'm not sure the press release would pass the test of 'whole truth and nothing but the truth’.

I for one want to encourage these guys to continue to be out there and experiement.  I'm quite happy to go and tell them how I feel and would encourage other e-gulletters to do the same. It's the price you pay to encourage innovation.  Frankly, if I see one more Rack O' Lamb/Halibut/Veal Chop/Salmon/Chicken/Tederloin structured menu, I'm going to flip. :wink:

Totally agree with this.

If we don't support innovation, we'll get the blandness that Toronto was once famous for.

I was extremely pleased with the attitude of the staff - genuinely concerned about our experience. Nothing was said about future directions but, noting the crush in the bar, and the space in the restaurant, I have doubts that any rational businessperson will tolerate sub-par returns for long. We need a critical mass of innovative restaurants (e.g. Chicago) so I hope that eGulleters will try this place and definitely post ther experiences (good and bad). I admit I want new tastes and experiences, but that others will be more traditional. AmuseGirl was sceptical when I requested Czehoski - she'd heard 'mixed reports' and wanted to take me somewhere 'nicer'. Now she's going back with some girlfriends too!

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  • 5 months later...

Just bumping this one up. It seems to have disappeared from the radar screens. Would have done this sooner (with details) but I'm still having difficulty posting to eGullet (although this is the second time in a week I've used the same 'backdoor').

Suffice it to say that I've now been 5 times in 5 months and all visits have been worthwhile. Recommend you just ask for the chef to 'feed me' and see what you get.

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