Auberge du Pommier (Toronto)

I have the utmost respect for restaurants who have been in business for more than ten years. It’s an impressive achievement that not many places can boast. Auberge du Pommier is even more impressive having operated for over 25 years starting as the first restaurant of the Oliver and Bonacini empire. Situated in a cute free standing house, the dining room is strikingly beautiful with its exposed stone pillars and live fireplace. Just do yourself a favour and check your coat, otherwise it will smell like smoke afterwards.

It’s been over five years since my last visit, but I remember it being a pleasant experience with delicious fresh creations. Their service was just as friendly and professional, we experienced a well-spaced dinner service and our drinks never empty. Upon entering, a dish of warm olives were given for us to nibble on. Even the small details such as the person offering bread was outstanding – he checked back two times to make sure we didn’t want more to accompany our dinner (the apple sourdough is delicious). Alas, sadly, it’s the food that hasn’t held its excellence.

The truffle noire ($19) showed promise with a beautifully poached egg topped with thinly sliced salty Bayonne ham. But, then it was doused with overwhelming amounts of crispy potato celeriac strings which simply drowned all the other ingredients. Since there was actually little Perigord black truffle shavings, they would have been better enhanced by having access to the warmth of the egg while being shaved on top. Alas, I had to pick out the black truffles and move away the celeriac potatoes to be able to enjoy the truffles with the egg.

After an amazing experience with suckling pig at Restaurant Montiel in Spain, I was excited to see it on Auberge’s menu. The porcelet de lait ($43) is made with Quebec’s delectable milk-fed St-Canut pork. You can see and taste the difference as the meat is much whiter and doesn’t have the strong pork flavour.

Alas, the “porcelet” deceived me as I mistakenly thought this would translate to piglet. Indeed, a dish that’s labelled “suckling” traditionally means that they are using a pig that has recently fed on their mother’s milk (hence still young). Nonetheless, what was used in Auberge’s dish was definitely not a piglet and the skin was so tough and poorly rendered that it was impossible to cut. First equipped with a butter dinner knife, I requested a steak knife and even then could not pierce through the skin. So, what should have been the best part of the dish was left untouched.

Luckily, sprinkled throughout the dish were smaller pieces of actual suckling pig so I could enjoy those. Also the pieces of braised pork shoulder were quite nice with the spices mixed into it. The crunchy fresh mustard greens and tart pickled apples were a good contrast to the heavier meat. But, I’d hardly say it was successful when the main part of the dish was so poorly executed.

My husband definitely had the better meal for the night. The tartare ($22), made with fresh hand-cut beef, was well flavoured with salty white anchovy, tart pickles and creamy raw quail egg yolk. The little cubes of egg white tossed on top was whimsical and a nice contrast to the stronger tartare. Plenty of pieces of toasted bread also accompanied it and thankfully it wasn’t too charred as to detract from the beef flavours.

The boeuf main ($48) with two perfectly cooked medium rare 48-day dry-aged ribeye was tender and juicy. His only qualm was they also gave him a butter dinner knife making cutting difficult. A restaurant needs to be pretty confident with their product to not provide patrons with steak knives when serving thick pieces of meat. Auberge, take it from me, your proteins aren’t tender enough that you should have that assurance.

The sides were delicious, especially the pomme surprise served separately. As you’re spooning the buttery silky mashed potatoes out, the “surprise” is that there were succulent pieces of oxtail mixed throughout. Beef fat roasted carrots and celeriac puree finish off this rich satisfying dish.

Certainly, Auberge appears to do beef well as my mother-in-law was also pleased with her boeuf and betterave ($22) starter. The smoked beef tenderloin was tender and roasted beets a great accompaniment to it.

Her Canard ($39) was a mixed experience. Although the roasted duck breast had great flavours and was an excellent cut (not overly fatty), it arrived cool despite having piping hot garnishes.  I can only imagine the Hell’s Kitchen moment Gordon Ramsay would have on this dish. Presumably, the duck was probably well rested and sliced only to be delayed as the endive gratin or Jerusalem artichoke puree was not done yet.

Not wanting dessert, it was nice that Auberge brought out some petite fours anyways to end the meal. The two bite capsules of custard was nice and reminded me of a chewier Portuguese egg tart.

Without speaking to the Chef, it’s impossible to determine what caused Auberge’s lackluster dinner. I hypothesize that they simply don’t perform well when busy. During our visit there was a wedding as well as a full dining room. Dishes were likely left out too long so that once they arrive the quality had deteriorated. Previous lunch and weekday visits were a much better experience. So, if you want to enjoy Auberge at its best, take it from me – don’t visit on weekends, holidays and likely during Winterlicious. Otherwise, stick with beef as it appears it lends itself to working under pressure.

Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10

Update: After publishing this review, the General Manager of Auberge actually contacted me to further discuss this experience. He wasn't defensive and in fact asked about the night in detail to determine what went wrong. That professionalism and desire to strive for improvement is exactly what I hoped to achieve (as noted in Gastro World's mission statement). So, although the above dinner was disappointing, I'm very pleased with the follow-up service afterwards.

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 4150 Yonge Street

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - 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!