Bymark (Toronto)

Take a walk through TD Centre’s concourse level and you’ll encounter Mark McEwan’s domination of the floor: the second McEwan grocery store and eatery occupies an entire corner, walk in a bit further and his long time restaurant Bymark (a creative conjunction of “by” and “Mark”) takes up the rest of the corner. It’s a restaurant known for its decadent foie gras burger with a hefty price to match. Like most of McEwan’s ventures, it’s a fine dining establishment where bill totals easily reach $100+ a person. Hence, during Summerlicious, their special $48 dinner menu always draws a crowd.

What looks like mechanically processed tuna certainly tasted that way - instead of dicing the fish by hand, the tartare arrives pulverized so you end up spreading (rather than scooping) the mixture on the crispy wonton chips. I could have looked past the fish’s mushy texture if it was seasoned better; too bad the miso-ginger vinaigrette was so light that most of the flavours were from the fish’s natural oils and the chip. Thankfully, the crisp shaved fennel salad on the side helped to wake up the dish, if only smaller pieces were combined into the tartare itself, maybe the starter would have tasted better.

While the Summerlicious website describes the cod as being from "Fogo Island", Bymark’s actual menu revises it to "Atlantic". Honestly, I don’t care that much about the origin and I’m glad the restaurant was honest about the fish’s source – having read Olmsted’s Fake Food Real Food, it’s a shame how often establishments try to pass off non-authentic ingredients to diners, I applaude Bymark for being truthful.

Arriving as a sizeable piece, the baked cod was moist and flakey. Normally, the delicate texture would be fine, but since the accompanying polenta was also silky and smooth, it'd be nice if the fish was seared with the skin-on to create a crispy layer for contrast. Unlike the starter, the main incorporated plenty of flavour from the salty olive tapenade, rapini, and unexpected kick of chili oil. All in all, it's a satisfying dish.

Too bad the same couldn’t be said with the strawberry shortcake … I’m getting so tired of deconstructed desserts! The strawberry shortcake came with the usual elements: soft vanilla shortcake, delicious macerated strawberries, and whipped cream. Additional crisp meringue pieces were a nice touch, providing an extra texture and sweetness to the cake. Dutifully, I combined all the ingredients to make my own cake, only to find the Chantilly creamy overly salty. Perhaps it was the pastry chef wanting to play up the earthiness of the basil purée, but it didn’t work for me. Strawberry shortcake doesn't work as a sweet and salty dessert.

Meanwhile the s’more’s tart was elegant and delicious. Not normally a fan of rich chocolate desserts, I was even drawn in to take a bite of the smooth dark chocolate ganache and ever so slightly salty graham cracker crust.

Having previously visited Bymark for Winterlicious and a regular dinner, this was by far the worst experience. Indeed, I understand what's served during Summerlicious may be a modified menu with less expensive ingredients, but looking back on the Winterlicious experience from about six years ago, it was executed much better and was of closer quality to a regular dinner service. This time, nothing wowed us and the dishes were passable at best.

Luckily, their service didn’t falter; they were just as friendly and attentive as ever. For example, when our waitress noticed my friend rooting through her beef cheek pasta to find the actual meat - another downfall of Summerlicious is some dishes are cooked in larger batches so plates aren’t always split evenly - she offered to get the kitchen to bring out more beef cheek for her to add to the pasta. What a thoughtful gesture that made the experience better. Maybe next time she can take my dessert and make it into a real cake… feasible right?

Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10
Is Summerlicious worth it (based on my meal selection)?
Summerlicious - $48
Regular menu - $72.50 - tuna tartare* ($19), cod ($40) and shortcake ($13.50)
Savings - $24.50 or 34%
* Based on the steak tartare and cheesecake
How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 66 Wellington Street West (in TD Centre)

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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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