CLOSED: Houston Avenue Bar and Grill Revisited (Toronto)

Houston’s name is rather misleading as you won’t find the Texa steakhouses of the South. Instead, it’s swathed in black and red with an atmosphere closer to lounge than ranch. It also has prices and food that’s reasonable in an area of downtown Toronto where price points often require expense accounts to satisfy. In particular, their price fixe lunch and dinner menus offer real value. A place where I frequent for drinks, we decided to extend the night away by tucking into their special $35 winter menu.

The beef carpaccio was certainly the table favourite, vibrantly coloured with a slight peppery seared edge. Sliced thinly and topped with truffle aioli, pickled red onions, parmesan shavings and a sweet balsamic reduction there were tons of flavours. The beef could be warmed up more as the middle was fairly icy but washed down with mouthful of wine it mixes into the meat juices so well.

Despite being labelled “Asian” the pan-seared seabass was everything but with the fresh tomato and avocado salsa reminiscent of Latin dishes and the Hungarian/Polish cabbage roll as a side. While a lighter dish paired with cauliflower puree and a tomato sauce, there’s still a significant portion and a satisfying main.  

Carnivores, who don’t care about plate presentation, would lean towards the hefty 12 oz portion of prime rib. It’s decent, well cooked and moist served with traditional mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables.

Houston’s dessert of the day, sticky toffee pudding, was an instant choice for me. The comforting sweet cake didn’t sit in a pool of sauce, rather just soaked enough with the toffee as to not overwhelm the water with sugar. Between the caramel sauce and cake was a layer of frosting which added a creamy tanginess (like a sweet cream cheese frosting) that was a miss for me. But, upon scraping it off and eating the warm cake with the cold toffee ice cream the dessert satisfied me.

Ask for a spot in the dining room if you’d rather carry a conversation; the booth tables at the entrance are great for people watching but difficult to converse given the rowdy bar, echoing entrance and loud music playing in the background. But, that’s what Houston’s all about: not a traditional dark steakhouse, rather a trendy after-work hangout … for those who will be paying their own way. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 33 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!

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