Dinner With a View (Toronto)

If you asked me 5 years ago if I’d like to eat dinner under the Gardiner Expressway, a look of confusion and an adamant no would have followed. Yet, the underpass space is undergoing a revitalization, starting with this winter when it was transformed into a skating trail. Now that the ice has finally melted, a small portion of the space near Fort York plays host to Dinner With a View.

Let’s start with the latter half of the title - With a View. As you first arrive, it’s an underwhelming feeling when you find the view consists of black gauze and the metal and concrete highway. But once you settle into one of the domes ($149 and seats from 4-6 people) you start to get into the spirit.

The décor and furniture vary in the domes. As I relaxed into the comfortable wooden chair (which felt like I was getting a hug) and pulled a blanket over my legs, that feeling of experiencing something different added a sense of excitement. Interestingly, the cozy enclosure makes the dinner feel intimate, but being able to peer out into the Bentway also ensures you don’t feel claustrophobic.

I just wish they didn’t keep harping on how the items within the dome weren’t complimentary and that staff members conduct an inventory count before and after the meal. Were guests really pilfering the pots of fake plants? Way to ruin the experience.

Now the first part of the title – Dinner. After reserving a dome, guests are required to select a dinner option (additional $99 per person) within 48 hours and can choose between meat, fish and vegan mains.

Let’s just say you don’t come for the food. The quinoa salad with ranch dressing was something I could have easily whipped up myself. Moreover, the random boring garnishes thrown in – chickpeas, pitted black olives, and frisee – felt like someone was cleaning out their fridge and decided to throw a bunch of ingredients together. Seriously, is it that difficult to at least roast some beets?  

I left hungry as the paltry portion of whitefish (with many soft bones left in) barely made a dent in my appetite. Sure, they could skimp on the protein but at least load-up the plate with more sides (slivers of mushroom, turnip puree, and roasted vegetables). At the very least, give out a bread basket. Note, the beef is slightly larger – although my friends complained it was too salty.

Dessert was a minor improvement with a fancy sounding rosemary vanilla crème brûlée topped with pear tuille. While the actual dish didn’t resemble the name – there was no brûlée and somehow the rosemary was chocolate instead. At least it tasted decent.

I’m sure Chef René Rodriguez tried his best with the challenging outdoor conditions. But, the meal was a flop. They should really stop touting his accolade of being a Canada’s Top Chef winner. I’ve had better meals attending conferences.

Nevertheless, our 7:30pm dinner was the perfect seating – at the start there’s plenty of sunlight so you’re able to navigate easily into the dome; we’re treated to the descending sun for the first half of the meal; and after it gets dark, the lighting and illuminated domes creates a dazzling back drop. I loved the night-time experience and couldn’t believe the one and half hours was over … I didn’t want to leave and felt like I could party all night. You’re definitely here for the experience, not the food.

I can’t finish this post without correcting a piece of fake news – no homeless people were forced to vacate the site to make room for the domes. During the opening weekend of the dinner, OCAP made a lot of fuss that a homeless camp was demolished and people were evicted in preparation for the event. In reality, that camp was located 2km away and the City of Toronto removed the tents for safety reasons; over the winter fires have broken out killing people in the process.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disputing there’s a growing homeless problem in the city. It’s a visible issue that’s not only confined to downtown Toronto and something that has to be addressed. What I can’t agree with is how OCAP reacted to the event. Instead of protesting something that supports the Bentway and adds tax dollars into system, they could have approached the organizers to donate a portion of the proceeds to their cause or alternatively set-up a booth outside to raise awareness and solicit donations.

In a city where there’s a growing divide between the rich and the poor, do we really want to make the chasm even larger? Instead of pointing fingers and throwing insults, wouldn’t it be better to work together to enact positive change? 

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 250 Fort York Boulevard

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog

Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this: