Richmond Station (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 1 Richmond Street West
Type of Meal: Dinner

Just a helpful piece of advice on finding the restaurant: It's not actually in the building with "1 Richmond Street W." sign.  Rather, you need to walk west on Richmond past Sunset Grill to where the public parking entrance resides.  On the left is where you'll see the glass door for the restaurant.

Richmond Station is where you go to get comfort food with a twist.  The dimly lit atmosphere is casual and laid back so you feel you can sit and relax.  Their service feels the same being unhurried but still attentive. Although the regular menu isn't extensive, they always have a few daily chalkboard additions on hand so there's more than enough choice.  Additionally, there's a changing daily price fixe lunch ($22), which is a great option if you have an hour and half to spare.  But, this post will be dedicated to their dinner menu.

Normally, I don't comment too much about the bread unless there's something noteworthy.  In Richmond Station's case the bread looks pretty plain when it arrives (a small wedge cut into slices with a large dish of oil/vinegar) but is surprisingly good.  It's warm, chewy on the inside and has a great crust. Moreover, they pair it with grape seed? oil rather that olive which was tasty and went well with the bread's existing saltiness.

My favourite dish of the night was the polenta fries ($8).  It's great for sharing (as you really can't eat it all yourself) and one of those dishes that you can't go wrong with - a combination of deep fried goodness, truffles and cheese! Sticks of thick cut polenta arrive hot and very crispy sitting on truffle oil aioli and topped with shaved asiago cheese and chives.  I enjoy the slight creaminess of the polenta mixed with the bursts of flavor from the truffle and cheese.  This is a great treat and just as good as a poutine.

The fennel and potato perogies ($22) were one of the better ones I've had.  The dough had some elasticity yet stayed soft; the seared crust adding texture, colour and eliminates any sticky feeling. They were simply filled with potato and light amount of cheese (I couldn't really taste the fennel), so that the accompanying puréed beets and thick full fat sour cream stood out. I think the sides were paired well, sautéed swiss chard and caramelized onions, which helped to lighten the meal and bring some "juiciness" against the starch. At first I was a bit turned off about the "cinnamon mushrooms" noted on the menu but really didn't taste these at all so must have blended well into the other ingredients.

For some individuals, you may find the dishes a bit salty; they were okay for me butI tend to like saltier things. To me, my friend's chilli and fennel sausage pasta ($23) was quite heavily salted, so if you're sensitive to this than you may want to request them to add less. Nonetheless, the hand-made orecchiette was a good thickness and cooked perfectly al dente.

Richmond Station does appear to use a number of different ingredients in intriguing ways.  Perhaps it's me, but I found because of this the menu description sometimes sounds unappetizing.  The empire apple posset ($9) describes the dessert as incorporating celery sorbet, grapes and fennel fronds.  In reality, any celery taste in the sorbet was slight; I couldn't remember even eating any grapes and the celery fronds were actually deep fried so they resembled the texture (but not the taste) of a shrimp chip.  This is a good dessert for those who don't like overly sweet things as the sorbet was relatively neutral, the deep fried fennel adding a touch of savouriness and really just the crème fraiche having a strong apple flavor.

We also shared the special dessert feature, milk kulfi ($9), which consisted of a milky ice cream log, crumble topping, smoked pear and elderberries. The addition of elderberries was interesting as it had a slight bitterness that contrasted against the sweetness of all the other ingredients.  Overall, the desserts were decent but I find they're a bit of a mismatch with the rest of Richmond Station's menu and atmosphere.  The other dishes tended to be more "traditional", whereas the dessert much more deconstructed and abstract.  Conceivably, it may be that Richmond Station has a separate pastry/dessert chef, but I somehow find the meal a bit disjointed in theme.

Some chocolate wedges arrived with the bill, which is always a nice gesture.  Unfortunately, they were orange flavoured and I personally detest fruit/chocolate combinations.  But, it's the thought that counts and my friend liked it.

Despite making a reservation almost a month in advance, during the night of our visit we were sat in the table right by the door (not the greatest during winter weather).  But, the hostess and waitress recognized this immediately, was apologetic and tried to better the situation by bringing us a space heater and ensuring the velvet curtains at the door were closed.  I was impressed by this level of service as it shows genuine concern for the welfare of their customers. It's refreshing to see a restaurant go above and beyond being just friendly, attentive and knowledgeable (although these are all necessary qualities).  I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Richmond Station and hope to come back to try their lunch menu.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

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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!