Zomato Meetup at the Harbord Room (2014)

Harbord Room
Address: 89 Harbord Street

Torontonians are lucky. We have a wealth of restaurant review platforms that inform us about where to eat. In October, our choices have expanded as Zomato launched a Toronto section - it’s first foray into North America … move over New York! Zomato's not new, they’re already part of 17 countries and serve over 30-million visitors monthly - those of us in Toronto will just add to this growing number.

So, what makes it different from Urbanspoon and Yelp? Like its competitors, users can browse/post reviews, pictures and restaurant information. But, Zomato also employs a team of people who actually visit restaurants every few months to update information. So, you’ll less likely go to a place only to find it’s already closed.  Also, I found their restaurant information more complete – listings I’ve looked at has menu pictures (often the hardest thing to find).

The social aspect of being part of their network is also more pronounced. Indeed on Urbanspoon and Yelp people can follow you and rate reviews. But, on Zomato, with the ease of use, I find people actually follow me and I get a lot of feedback on what I share. Like other social media platforms, there’s a “wall” that will show you updates from those you follow – allowing you to curate your own collection of information from those you trust and value. As a reviewer, you can also earn “expert” status by posting a number of reviews and pictures from a particular neighbourhood – I’ll soon be a North York expert!

From their app, I see features such as cashless payments and ordering online will soon be added to expand their service offering. So you can easily move from reading about a place to ordering delivery and then paying.

A week after Zomato’s launch, I was invited to a meet-up where they gathered a group of fellow users to meet their staff and give feedback on our initial experience.  It was held at the Harbord Room, a place where my husband loves their burgers. Having only been there once for a quick bite (a large satisfying po-boys and the delicious freshly made doughnuts), I was excited to return and try more of their menu. 

Our meal with wine pairings was much more complex than the po-boy I had previously. So, it was a pleasure to experience the intricate dining side of the Harbord Room. To start. a chestnut and chorizo soup (paired with a 2012 Campo Nuevo Rosado). It was more akin to chili with the chestnut puree creating a thick base and crumbles of chorizo adding a spicy element to the soup. Topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and dollops of tangy sheep’s milk cheese, there were plenty of contrasting textures with the seeds adding a nutty earthiness to the soup. A bowl of this with a wedge of crusty bread would be great for the cold weather.

The grouper ceviche (paired with a 2012 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay) was much creamier than expected from the addition of coconut milk. Combined with mint, basil, cilantro, radish, jalepeno slivers, red chili slices, cashew and crispy tortilla strips, these all helped to lightened up the ceviche and add contrast against the tender fish. There was a lot going on with the dish with papaya and avocado mixed into it as well. For me, the fish became lost in all the ingredients but the flavours came together well. If the dish were promoted more as a salad versus a ceviche, it may be more aptly described.

For our main we were each served a hearty roasted Quebec partridge pot pie (paired with the 2011 Stratus Tollgate Red). What a decadent dish with the flaky crust made from duck fat and a thick slab of foie gras on top of that! The foie gras reminded me of the wine poached version I had a Cava, where it was cool and just melts in your mouth. Inside the pot pie were chunks of partridge (similar to chicken), plump mushrooms and pearl onions. All in all, a very filling dish and would be best eaten with lightly dressed arugula or kale salad.

We also had various sides to go with the pot pie. I tried a piece of each but simply could not go back for more as by this point I was quite full. A cauliflower gratin served piping hot in a clay dish. Roasted and topped with a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese, this is a dish to order if you like cauliflower.

My favourite was the charred zucchini, which after roasting becomes soft and creamy. Topped with crunchy toasted pumpkin seeds and juicy pomegranate seeds, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the dish since I normally don’t like nuts/fruit with savoury dishes.

As well, some slices of bread (good for dipping into the pot pie juices) with a pumpkin (?), lemon hummus on the side.

To end, a stick-to-your-ribs baked pumpkin custard cheesecake (paired with the Barrbeito Malvasia Madeira 5-year Reserve). The base was creamy and rich – a mix between a pumpkin pie and cheesecake. I loved the ginger snap cookies, crunchy candied walnut pieces and unsweetened whipped cream on top. They all went well with the custard. There was also a scoop of ox blood plum sorbet on top. Admittedly, I didn’t read the menu carefully so had no idea it incorporated ox blood. Really, it tasted more like fruit than anything else. Although it was a refreshing sorbet, I would have preferred it on the side as personally didn’t feel it went well the rest of the dessert.

In the end, all the above dishes are great for the upcoming cold weather. Indeed, you may not want to eat everything in one sitting as each is rich and heavy. Based on Harbord Room’s current menu line, you can order the ceviche ($14) or charred zucchini ($9) to try. Perhaps the other dishes is a highlight of things to come and what diners can look forward as the temperature dips. 

Don’t live in Toronto? Don’t worry, over the next while Zomato is expanding to Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Ottawa. I’m sure it’s not going to end there and further cities will be added afterwards. So, I suggest you try it out. Signing up is easy and you can even just read or follow others if you don’t want to post. Of course, please considering following me, especially if you don’t have Twitter, as I’d love to hear from you!

view my food journey on zomato!

Disclaimer: The meal provided in this post was complementary, but the opinions are still my own.

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