Fishman Lobster Clubhouse (Toronto)


Fishman’s newest location is also their largest: a colossal dining room that resembles a mini banquet hall with what seems like a hundred tanks lining the walls ... all filled with living and breathing sea creatures. I’m just glad we were sitting in the middle of the room. All those eyes on me, while eating, would have been unsettling.

As typical in Chinese restaurants, staff bring the live seafood to the table prior to cooking – the restaurant feels they’re showing diners they’re getting something fresh. It’s an act I’d rather skip. After all, if they really wanted to deceive you, they’d switch out the seafood in the kitchen since there’s no distinguishable feature once it’s chopped, deep fried, and covered in garlic anyways. Moreover, in the age of "doing it for the gram", the fad of hoisting the big creatures by the claws to take pre-dinner shots is disturbing. Yes, they're about to be killed, but shouldn't they at least die with as little stress as possible? Frankly, I find it cruel … *deep breath* … animal welfare activist rant over.

A couple of tips for first time visitors to Fishman Lobster Clubhouse.
  • Go with a larger group - 8 or more individuals is ideal - as their best options are the combos. Otherwise, for a duo, indulging in a lobster or king crab can get expensive as they’re $20+ a pound and they rarely carry ones under 5 lbs.
  • Order less than the suggested menu group size as they always provide too much food and inevitably will try to upsell you for 1-2 extra pounds since animals rarely all arrive at an exact weight. For example, for our table of nine, the special king crab dinner or combo G ($468), which is supposedly for 6-7 people was more than enough.
It starts with a big pot of boiled silkie chicken broth, the steamed soup arriving piping hot and full-flavoured. While a bit oily, it’s at least a clear consommé - a lighter start to the otherwise heavy meal.


All the “smaller” dishes arrive near the first half of the meal. Things like the deep fried oysters lightly floured and tossed in a thick honey pepper sauce. It’s crispy, but not overdone, and the sauce’s flavours were spot on. Although the actual oyster had a stronger odour than I would have liked.


Two lighter dishes followed. First, the steamed bass, which could be cooked a touch less, but tasted fresh and clean as the kitchen took the time to thoroughly descale the fish and cover it with plenty of scallions. To round out the meal, a sizeable bowl of poached snow pea shoots topped with goji berries. Normally, I would prefer the dish with garlic, but Fishman smartly leaves out the ingredient since it’s already so heavily used with the lobster and keeps the vegetables neutral.


Soon the fried seafood arrives. There’s of course the lobster: a behemoth 7 lb. tower (although in this case ended up being 8lbs) cut into huge pieces. While impressive to look at, a bigger lobster does mean the meat isn't as sweet and the claws’ texture is denser and harder. The claw shells also seem to have a stronger odour... maybe I just have over reactive olfactory receptors.


Nonetheless, the tail pieces arrive as baseball sized globs of meat – you almost wish there’s a knife and fork so you can cut through it like a steak and really enjoy the lobster. Even the legs become more edible as they’re thick enough to have meat in the spindly limbs.

The lobster tomalley is used in fried rice with a bit of green onion. The dish could use more seasoning, but our table ended up adding bits of the fried garlic from the lobster, which quickly helped spruce up the rice.


Personally, I found the king crab (6 lbs.) was the better of the two crustaceans – although there were mixed reviews around the table. Firstly, a king crab is naturally larger so the flavours remain succulent. Moreover, Fishman makes it easy to eat by splitting the legs’ shell so you simply need to drag a finger through it to get everything out.


Described as Hong Kong style on the menu, in Chinese this translates to bay fong tong. Compared to what I’ve sampled in the past, it’s less spicy, less saucy, and in in lieu of small fried fishes (or ground pork) the crab is combined with French fries – something I don’t mind as the toppings usually go to waste and I can always eat fries! However, it would be even better if the crab was simply steamed with garlic. Sure, it doesn’t look as impressive, but the king crab’s quality would be preserved and since the lobster is already fried, a steamed option would balance the meal better.

With all the seafood, we added an order of the diced beef tenderloin with garlic ($25), which really wasn’t necessary since we couldn’t even finish the rice. Yet, having a different flavour and texture was nice – the beef, cut into thick cubes, had a nice tender chewiness.


Although I don’t love the food at Fishman Lobster Clubhouse, I can see its appeal. It’s an excuse to gather a group of loved ones and share in a filling extravagant meal. Especially one where you can let loose, get in there, and get your hands dirty. 

Overall mark - 6 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 4020 Finch Avenue Street East

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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


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Fishman Lobster Clubhouse Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Frilu (Thornhill)


Chefs who are taking the risk of leaving Toronto to open restaurants that are not on the subway line should be commended. Indeed, weeknights can be quiet, but people living in the suburbs also need a selection of fancy restaurants, especially ones serving tasting menus. I love the suburbs during the winter - who wants to struggle with paid parking and brown slush when you can drive somewhere with complimentary parking on site?

Frilu is located amongst a quieter drag of Yonge Street, but blink and you may still miss the small single lane pathway to the parking lot (located at the back of the restaurant). At least in Thornhill making a detour is a relatively easy affair.  

Their seasonally changing tasting menu aims to showcase local fresh Canadian ingredients. While the restaurant’s name is derived from the Norwegian concept friluftsliv, surprisingly their dishes are less Nordic and more Asian, possibly influenced from Chef and owner John-Vincent Troiano’s time working with Chef Hashimoto serving kaiseki cuisine. Followed by stints at Michelin darlings Noma and Benu, you can see how these experiences built Frilu’s menu.  

The 2018 fall rendition of the menu is dubbed “harvest moon, changing leaves” ($95) and consisted of ten dishes. After speaking to the couple beside us, they insisted the wine pairing is a must ($60). Indeed, they were right. The pairings were spot on going perfectly with each dish. Given my friend and I were driving, they even let us split a pairing, or the equivalent of about two glasses per person.

Frilu aims to “excite and surprise” guests, so one dish that will span across all seasons in the Lar-Eo. Inspired by an Oreo, Frilu’s biscuit drops the chocolate and uses black quinoa and blueberry instead, which sandwich a creamy centre made with lardo (whipped pork fat) spiced with star anise.


We’ve advised to eat the savoury cookie like an Oreo - twist it open and lick the centre – the creamy white filling silkier and lighter than the original offering. While the quinoa cookie is an interesting idea, it’s also a bit mealy and dry. If Frilu really wants to start with something whimsical, they should take the dish one step further and serve it with a warm cup of cream consommé. It would help balance out the dry cookie and give the diner the whole experience of dunking an Oreo in a cup of “milk”.

Maybe they thought the cava paired with the Lar-Eo would be sufficient. It did help cut through the fat and added a refreshing contrast against the earthy spices, but didn’t revive a dry biscuit.

Make sure to spoon some of the sake and sherry broth that comes with the Great Lake trout dish onto the fish. The rainbow trout is cured with Prosciutto giving the fish a salty cured flavour with a smoother texture. However, by itself, the trout is rather plain and really benefits from the sake broth, which although is hard to gather in a spoon, does give the dish that extra punch of flavour.


Once again, the drink pairing was perfect. The sakura sake helped mellow the cured taste and also went surprisingly well with the thickened chicken jus in the next dish, one of my favourite of the evening.

Frilu’s take on agedashi swaps the fried tofu with one made with glutinous burdock root flour. The smooth chewy base was topped with generous amounts of uni and sat in a pool of thick roasted chicken jus. The combination of the three ingredients was heavenly. The only mediocre element being the radish slices, which while adds a contrast against the dish’s softer elements was overpoweringly strong. Perhaps if they were cut thinner or lightly blanched, the pungent raw bitter flavours wouldn’t be as pronounced. 


Another rich dish followed, a cube of venison tongue sous vide in coffee and basil for 45 minutes, rendering it tender while still having a bit of chewiness common with the cut of meat. A strongly flavoured dish with a hint of smokiness and an umami saltiness from anchovy, it’s balanced by a bold red wine that could stand up against the flavours. Seeing the shavings on top, thoughts of frozen foie gras danced in my head, but it was actually hazelnuts that were surprisingly soft and added a light nuttiness.


Frilu’s blog points to the pumpkin patch as being most symbolic of the fall season, sort of like the star dish on the menu. A small squash is roasted than some of the innards is combined with bone marrow to create a piping hot spread on warm toasted pumpkin seed bread. It’s definitely something you can smell before you even see.


The centre of the squash, containing the bone marrow spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon, was absolutely delicious on the crusty bread. However, once that meagre portion was gone and you’re left with plain roasted squash … it just tastes so … plain.

Other portions of the “patch” need more seasoning - whether it be adding salt to the squash-only portion or the bread itself. The easiest fix would be to give the diners a side of salted butter, so once you get to the non-marrow portion, there’s something else to add to the bread that’s still flavourful.

The hen of the woods really featured the ingredient in its fullest form: a thick wedge of mushroom that’s simply prepared with fermented mushroom paste and mushroom vinegar. In the end, it’s a dish for those who really like mushrooms, whether it’s the meaty middle or slightly crunchy ends.  


Sadly, the dish that sounded the tastiest was the worst of the evening. It started off well with lightly poached lobster in brown butter, warmed through but still tasting raw. But, then it was covered with beef floss (similar to the pork version that’s widely used in Chinese cuisine paired with congee or wrapped in sticky rice), which added a lumpy gritty texture to the lobster. Maybe I could have looked past the floss it there wasn’t so much horseradish added to the puree that it completely covered everything. The flavours only improved with a swig of Riesling, which did help temper the harsh horseradish.


By this point of the meal, we were two hours in and still feeling hungry. Thoughts of whether adding a katsu sandwich ($9) to the menu certainly crossed our minds. If this happens to you, just be patient.

The last savoury dish, roasted duck with rice, is probably the heartiest. An aromatic burnt onion jus is poured over sticky rice and duck at the table. The amount of jus poured was just a little uneven - mine was light (I would have loved more), while my friend’s was drowning and salty. Small slip aside, it was tasty: the duck tender, well-seasoned, and the skin lightly crisped; while the burnt onion jus going great with the sticky rice. A well selected dish to end the meal!


 “Earth apple” was the first dessert and while there were apple flavours, there’s also strong coffee elements, which worked remarkably well with the fruit. Dried sun choke slices adds a crispiness against the silky ice cream. Overall, the dessert went nicely with the madeira wine (port was also available for those who like something sweeter). 


To end, a Dora cake that kind of brings the meal full circle – another sandwich product that brings out the kid in us (although this dessert would be more widely known in Asian cultures). The buttery Castella pancakes were so good and Frilu swaps the traditional red bean paste for a creamy mascarpone. If only they left out the cubes of pear; they were too hard and really threw off the entire pastry.

In the age of seeking peace and happiness, friluftsliv is the concept of immersing ourselves with nature. For example just going out to a park for a long walk, while focusing on nature and not taking selfies along the hike. It’s supposed to provide a sense of spiritual and physical wellbeing.

It’s a great concept, but after sitting in a restaurant for almost three and a half hours, I can’t say that Frilu preaches the concept well. In speaking to the front-of-the-house manager, she explains they want to recreate an experience of connecting with people over food. While I appreciate having this time with my friends, we all agreed, the meal was much too long and needs to be trimmed by at least an hour.

Who knows, perhaps it’s just another symptom of living in the digital era where our patience decreases and we constantly want to be entertained. Sure, it’s a great experience to dive into the dishes and expertly matched alcohol pairings, but the long lags in between are hard to sit through, maybe it’d be bearable if I was dining in a forest. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Thornhill, Canada
 Address: 7713 Yonge Street

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


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Miya Bhai (Toronto)

All pictures are courtesy of Parv.ca
Like many family-run businesses, Miya Bhai is a cozy restaurant. Tucked away on Bathurst, just a quick walk from the station, the store front has discrete signage so look for their brightly coloured tables instead.


The menu consists of dishes based on their mother’s recipes, incorporating all the flavours they love and grew up with, but lightened so customers leave feeling satisfied but not overloaded. Even the sauces used in the dishes are made in house, to ensure the tastes are on par with momma’s creations.


The build-your-own menu allows customers to customize creations to their liking. For first time visitors, the options may seem endless so there is a Signature selection menu where there are pre-built combinations. I tried their best seller, the vegan butter chicken tacos ($11), where the “chicken” was actually marinated tofu  prepared tandoori style, which it ends up getting a lovely flavour and texture that truthfully doesn’t taste like chicken but seemed like paneer.


With crunchy lettuce and kachumber (a refreshing salad made with cucumber, tomato, onions, lemon and chili peppers) the tacos were messy to eat, but all the ingredients mixed with the avocado mayo made for a tasty creation. A light heat lingers slightly on the tongue afterwards, but not overwhelming hot.

After the two huge tacos, you likely won’t need any more food, but for a small add on, the vegan samosa ($2) always hits the spot. A thin pastry is stuffed with well spiced potatoes and vegetables to create a palm sized samosa. I liked that they kept the potatoes in cubes, rather than mashing it, to help add texture to the starter. Just make sure to pour the spicy tamarind sauce into the samosa to avoid having everything fall out.


For something to stave off the spiciness or even as a sweet ending their house made drinks ($3.50 each) are delicious choices. The vegan mango refresh (also offered in a non-vegan format) takes mango, with its pulp, and mixes is it with a creamy non-dairy milk – it’s a very full-flavoured lassi. Meanwhile, the strawberry yoghurt drink is silky and sweet that it almost tastes like a milkshake.

For meat lovers, don’t worry! Miya Bhai also offers a host of non-vegetarian options including beef seekh kabobs, butter chicken, lamb kofta, and tandoori salmon (the beef seekh kabob roll, $11.50, is shown below).  


While the signature selection was a great start, I highly recommend building your own and making a vegan butter chicken biri-rice bowl ($12.50). Having tried a bit of the rice on its own, it’s a flavourful base that’s salty and spicy – even by itself the rice was delicious. Once covered with paneer like tofu, sweet corn, crispy onions, and smothered with cilantro garlic aioli, I can just imagine how delicious it could be!


As the weather turns cold, I crave a bowl of something hearty and filling. At Miya Bhai, thankfully the bowl is also filled with flavours and won’t leave you feeling gluttonous.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10
Disclaimer: The above meal was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 938 Bathurst Street
 Website: Their Facebook Page

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

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Ste. Anne’s Spa for afternoon tea (Grafton)


After a day of pampering at Ste. Anne’s, what better way is there to end the day (assuming you’re not staying overnight) than indulging in afternoon tea with your guests? An extra meal squeezed in between lunch and dinner; time to sit back and sip tea while going over the highlights. 

Given we already had a hefty lunch, we didn’t think we could get through all the tiers, but somehow we managed. Who knew an hour hike around the property would spur up such an appetite? 

Their tea selection consists of a page of options. The English Breakfast, which I had during lunch, was nice and strong and gave me the caffeine jolt I needed. But, for afternoon tea, it seemed better to stick with something light and mellow, the green tea was the ideal option. 

The traditional tiered plate arrived to share and contained enough food to leave us satisfied (and not requiring dinner that evening) but still in small bites so we could get through trying everything.

Within the top tier was a tamari glazed steamed carrot bun, which almost tastes like Chinese BBQ pork buns except stuffed with squash and has a sweet and silky texture. This was very tasty. So was the tourtière topped with savoury caramelized onion jam … two bites of goodness. Only the cream cheese and cucumber sandwich, a staple of the afternoon tea, was forgettable – possibly because everything else was so good.  


In the middle, a tier of cheese (havarti and gouda?) with crostini, crudites, and grapes. It’s an interesting addition and nicely transitions the savoury bites to sweet.


But, the one thing that makes afternoon tea are the scones. At Ste. Anne’s, theirs are filled with raisins (something I could do without). Yet, in the spirit of tea, once I slathered enough Devonshire cream and jam onto it, it was fine. Interestingly, Ste. Anne’s also offers two Devonshire creams with two levels of sweetness.


What surprised me the most was the final sweet tier and how enjoyable they were. These are generally the items I’ll take a bite of and put down, at most finish one– at Ste. Anne’s, I indulged in everything: 

  • Macarons can sometimes be too brittle or sweet, but at Ste. Anne's it was like eating an airy biscuit that envelopes your mouth in an almond flavour that thankfully didn't resemble fake extract. 
  • Meanwhile, the sesame butter cookie was deliciously nutty and chewy. Oh, how I wanted more!Alas, by the time we made our way to Ste. Anne's bakery down the road, I was met with disappointment. 
  • Lastly, and most surprisingly, the walnut cocoa truffle, which was creamy and incorporates a rich cocoa taste without the overpowering sugary blast – all truffles should taste like this.
Given Ste. Anne’s is a spa, afternoon tea was served in a bright sunny room very casually. You don’t need to wear a hat and heels (in fact, robes are not only allowed, but encouraged) and feel free to laugh and be noisy. After all, the day trip is all about relaxing and recharging. Oh, and of course, refueling at the end of the day.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Grafton, Canada
 Address: 1009 Massey Rd

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


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Ste. Anne’s Spa for lunch (Grafton)


It’s remarkable how you can build up an appetite at Ste. Anne’s Spa. Especially since all I did that morning was relax in the hot tub, take a short stroll in the gardens, clear my pores in the eucalyptus steam room, and soothed the kinks in my back in the massage chair. Yet, somehow, I was ravenous by noon.


I’ll admit, there was some apprehension... hearing their menu was delicious but healthy, I braced myself for quinoa salads and broiled fish. Luckily, while they do have options that are lighter, they also offer some hearty dishes as well. In general, they just give you a lot of choice; so much so that I couldn’t choose between the beef tataki salad and the potato and scallion cakes to start. As a testament to their hospitality, our waitress brought both.

The beef tataki salad was filled with crunchy fresh vegetables - radish slices, edamame, spring peas, and crunchy smashed cucumbers – so the lightly seared beef slices, while present, weren’t the star of the dish. All the ingredients were nicely tied together dressed in a delicious ginger vinaigrette with tamari glaze drizzled on the plate for an extra savoury element.


Meanwhile, the potato & scallion cakes were a letdown. The crispy French style crepes were in reality savoury pancakes, which tasted like they were made from Aunt Jemima mix with scallions thrown in. Having pictured the starter to be similar to latkes or rosti, it was very disappointing that the potatoes seemed missing from the equation. At least the tangy relish accompanying the pancakes were delicious and gave them some flavour.


It was probably for the best that I didn’t finish the pancakes anyways - the Ste. Anne’s beef burger was a towering creation that demanded an appetite! The thick patty was cooked through but still juicy and dressed with aged cheddar and the customary fresh toppings. I could hardly squish the fluffy brioche Kaiser down to fit in my mouth. Overall, a very tasty burger and the horseradish chive aioli a lovely condiment in lieu of sugary ketchup.


Despite it being a hearty burger, I can see why people describe Ste. Anne’s food as “healthy”. Firstly, the burger doesn’t come with fries, in fact there’s nothing fried on the menu. Instead, side options consists of soup or salad and even the Caesar dressing is light and vinaigrette based.

Any menu item with “Ste. Anne” in the name is worth trying as there’s something special about the dish. The Ste. Anne burger gets its moniker given they raise the cattle – something I realized after lunch. Wandering their property, to make my ways to the stables, I saw the herd grazing on grass and making their way down from the rolling hills towards the water fountain. Looking into their large eyes, as they lapped up the water, made me instantly feel guilty about how much I loved the burger.

The butter tart is also called the “Ste. Anne” butter tart and is created on site at their bakery. It was my kind of desseert: a thin crispy crust filled with a gooey filling that’s sweet, but not in a teeth hurting manner. In lieu of brown sugar they use a flavourful maple syrup, which gives it an added depth. 


If you like these, you can head to the bakery to buy ones to take home – but go early as they were less than a dozen plain ones left when we visited at 5pm. And what a shame it’d be if you didn’t have something to bring home to love ones. It’s the least they’d expect after a day of relaxation. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Grafton, Canada
 Address: 1009 Massey Rd

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


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Regulars Bar (Toronto)


The former Blowfish has undergone a transformation: from a restaurant offering sushi to an establishment with a casual vibe and a menu so varied you’ll find something to try. On Friday, their social hour specials makes it difficult to resist the offer of $1 an oz wine. In this case, the house red (Caleo Primitivo) is better than the white (Scarpetta Pinot Grigio) as cheap white wine really needs to be frigidly cold.

A selection of snacks, normally $6, decreases by a loonie so you can start off with a nibble for only $5. As the avocado bruschetta was presented, we tried our best to look past the presentation of what looks like a green pile of dung on a rice crisp. Sadly, it doesn’t taste better than it looks.


The Jamaican patty is a much better option, stuffed with a generous portion of Red Stripe braised oxtail in a flaky crust. While it’s already flavourful on its own, add some of the neon scotch bonnet pepper jelly sauce and it gets even better. Just be careful, although it looks like sweet and sour sauce, it really has a kick!


In terms of mains, the poke wrap ($18) could be better described as make-your-own tacos. Except, the three toasted flour wraps are not nearly enough for the sheer amount of soy marinated salmon spiked with pickled mushrooms and jicama & edamame slaw. While there are a ton of great flavours, tanginess from the pickled mushrooms and sweetness from the sesame seaweed salad, the dish is too watery and difficult to eat. On a high point, the shoestring fries that arrive with the “wrap” are fantastic.


The teriyaki salmon soba ($19) is similar to the poke wrap, using many of the same ingredients except the salmon is cooked and in lieu of the seaweed salad there’s ginger and soy tossed Asian vegetables instead. The soba noodles were too mushy, but at least the fish was just cooked through and the overall dish easier to eat.


All the lackluster food aside, Regulars does have a great vibe: spacious soaring ceilings and a palette of cash lying in the corner under a sign boldly declaring that “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” 


My eyes couldn’t help but be drawn to all the neon fixtures along the walls, in particular the “Fuck social media, I’m dope in real life”. Perhaps, that’s already their response to this post. They’re so cool they just don’t care.

Overall mark - 6 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 668 King Street West

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

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Prime on Avenue (Toronto)


Kosher steakhouses are rare in Toronto. So, when the legendary Barberian opened Prime of Avenue, a Cor certified kosher eatery, along the suburb stretch of uptown Toronto, it’s large gleaming black sign and swanky interior certainly caught my attention. Just be mindful of their operating hours: in keeping with Shabbat customs, Prime is closed on Friday and Saturday, days that are generally busy days for other restaurants.

Their page of appetizers enticed; indeed, diners can easily mix-and-match these smaller plates to make a full meal. The pulled brisket tacos ($26) are ideal if you’re in the mood for beef but in smaller portions. Two flour shells were stuffed with chunks of flavourful and tender brisket, pico de gallo, guacamole and pickled onions. Pieces of smoked potato chips, placed on a top, were an excellent addition enhancing the otherwise soft savoury tacos with some crunch.


Although the eggplant ($20) sounded like a lighter dish, the roasted eggplant was roasted with so much oil that it became so crispy you’d swear it’s deep fried. Regardless, if you don’t mind the oiliness, the starter has fantastic flavours: the creamy eggplant layered with nutty tahini, crunchy pine nuts, and sweet pomegranate. These were all roasted together so the tahini was warm and the flavours melted into the eggplant.


With such a strong start to the meal, the execution of our main, a cote de boeuf ($85), was a letdown. At first glance, the huge 22oz bone-in rib steak looked impressive, with beautiful sear marks and a nicely caramelized surface. It was also a wise decision to share the main, as the actual bone was not overly thick so we were left with a substantial portion of beef. However, upon cutting through the “medium rare” steak, it’d be better classified as a poorly done blue. While the outer ring was seared and cooked through, the centre was very rare, to the point that it was difficult to cut through and I could smell and taste the rareness. Note to Prime: the metallic taste of half-cooked beef is awful and the slightly off smell is even worse.


Rarely do I return dishes to the kitchen, but in this instance it was inedible. Steak is only good when it’s prepared correctly, so I politely asked for it to be re-fired. In about 10 minutes it was returned and nicely re-plated. At that point, it was an actual medium rare steak. Sadly, even with it cooked correctly, it wasn’t great. The steak was barely seasoned and lacked flavour. Perhaps it’s because Prime provides sauce on the side and I should have told them I wouldn’t actually be using any of it. My personal preference is to keep it simple with a nice piece of meat – salt and pepper is all you need to avoid covering up the meat’s natural flavours. It was especially disappointing since Barberian is known for their great rub. Surely, this can be shared with Prime?   

Moreover, the 28 days aged Black Angus tasted pretty young - if that's the proper way to describe aged meats – and didn’t have that depth of flavour you’d expect from the cut. While it was still good, it was nowhere close to the Barberian fame; if I closed my eyes, I’d swear I’d be eating at the Keg.

Steaks do arrive with a small portion of bone marrow, which also needed more seasoning but was thankfully cooked through. It went nicely smeared on a piece of toasted baguette that comes with their complimentary bread and pickle starter, such a staple at traditional steakhouses. In an effort to reduce food waste, Prime should consider decreasing the portion size of the platter and simply ask diners if they’d like a re-fill if it’s been picked clean.


The sides ($10 each) were good, especially the onion rings, which were nice and chunky with a lovely crispy coating. The sautéed green beans, spinach, and swiss chard with scallions puree was a great combination and cooked nicely so the vegetables retained their freshness. Our table had mixed thoughts on the French fries. Generally, they’d be better if the potatoes were cut thinner and then double fried (as they weren’t overly crispy and tasted almost baked).


While Prime on Avenue doesn't tout itself as a steakhouse, its connection to Barberian can’t stop me from judging it as one. It makes the average cote de boeuf seem worse, which is such a shame as everything else was actually very tasty. Nonetheless, the restaurant is a welcomed addition to Avenue and I’ll likely return to try their burger, salmon, or perhaps a collection of appetizers. But, the steak, no thanks.  

Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1960 Avenue Road

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


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