Richmond Station's Chef Menu (Toronto)

There’s no better way to get into the mind of a restaurant than through their chef’s menu. At Richmond Station, every two weeks, their chefs create a tasting menu ($120) with an optional beverage pairing ($75) that tests ideas in progress (some finding a permanent home on the a la carte menu) and others simply showcasing the amazing ingredients available.

Their late July menu started us off with a selection of canapés, a great way to begin so diners have something to nibble on while waiting for the main attractions to arrive. We start with the salmon tart filled with finely chopped salmon, onion, and dill aioli creating a fresh savoury bite. The pastry has a soft crispiness that’s a little unexpected – it tastes like thinly compressed shortbread. The fish was great, but the shell made me ponder.

Luckily, I didn’t have to think for long as my mind was blown by the buttermilk oyster. It is SO good! What a genius idea to use buttermilk and herb oil as the flavouring – the creaminess combines wonderfully with the silky briny oyster, while still having a touch of acid. Ultimately, it allows the oyster to finish sweeter. Move over red onion mignonette, let’s hope buttermilk rains supreme.  

Our server suggests we follow the oyster with the thick tomato bisque, which was fine but not nearly as great as the oyster. Be sure to dig to the bottom of the teacup, that’s where you’ll find pieces of Parmesan crisps that add a salty hit to the soup.

Following orders, we sample the profiterole last as its sweet and salty filling (perhaps a liver mousse with maple syrup?) brings an almost dessert-like finish to the canapés. Personally, I think Richmond Station should consider including one of these with the bill, in lieu of the typical chocolate (the restaurant does put a sweet and salty spin on the mignonettes), as it’s unexpected and ends the meal on a lighter note.

It’s no surprise that the summer menu features a host of seafood: the starter, a scallop crudo, takes a fresh clean scallop and adds bits of radish to enhance the soft shellfish. I love the diced pickled jalapeño that add an unexpected hint of spice, which is calmed by the lime crème fraiche. I’ve always associated Richmond Station with meat (likely because of their famous burger), but this menu shows they do seafood well.

We’re advised the summer squash salad is created from things grown in their garden – barely cooked rounds of zucchini and sweet, peeled tomatoes sitting on a surprisingly rich squash purée that’s spiced with miso. Somehow, they created a feeling of having a “warm” salad without raising the temperature.

The black sea bass was steamed to perfection and the mound of mushroom foam, once mixed with the vermouth cream, creates a comforting cream of mushroom taste – an unexpected and enjoyable twist. While the dish could have become heavy, once you pop one of the Saltspring Island mussels into your mouth, the acidic bite resets the taste buds.

In terms of food, the only slight slip on the menu was the honey-glazed Muscovy duck. While it was cooked well and had great flavours, our piece had a chewy silvery bit running through the meat. Since the duck was left as a larger piece (likely to ensure it stays warmer), that grizzly flaw made it difficult to cut thinly and made for a chewy bite.

My recommendation, if there is a tell-tale silvery sign after cutting into the duck, is for the kitchen to proceed to slice the breast into thin slices… even at the detriment of the meat arriving cooler than normal. In this case, perhaps pour the au jus from a hot vessel tableside to bring heat back into the dish? It’s just a shame when you can’t enjoy the duck to it’s fullest because you have a mound in your mouth that you’re chewing through like Bubblicious.

Cheers to the duck sausage, which was delicious, especially when mixed with a bit of creamed Swiss chard, chanterelle mushrooms, and sour cherry jus.

Richmond Station was smart to serve their pillowy soft bread with the duck, so diners don’t fill-up on the warm milky creation. Normally, I would have devoured both, but by the end of the meal I could only have one. In hindsight, I should have skipped the cup of tomato soup to save room for the roll.

Dessert brought us a custardy vanilla panna cotta topped with tart stewed gooseberries, berry sorbet, and meringue pieces. Like many of the other dishes, Richmond Station seems to always like to feature at least two flavours – in this case sweet and sour – to keep every bite interesting.

The petit fours bring the meal full circle with a fruit tart made with the same crust as the salmon… yes, I still remembered the shortbread like shell by the end of the meal, and it works better for a sweet.  

While the food was a hit, service could improve with two slight adjustments:

  • Richmond Station’s cozy upstairs dining room doesn’t make it easy to hear people – especially when they are wearing a mask. I’d recommend having the chef remove their mask when explaining the dish or letting the maskless servers do the talking, as I could only catch every third word of the explanation and didn’t have the heart to keep asking them to repeat themselves.
  • If need be, slow down the food service to give the front-of-the-house enough time to do their part. For example, we had to follow-up on our drinks that hadn’t arrived by the time the canapes were presented – champagne goes so well with oysters that it would be a shame not to have them together. And there was an instance where a dish was presented before the cutlery was set – to their credit, the chef noticed right after explaining the dish and went to get the cutlery… at the same time our server arrived to lay it out. I get it, there’s a staffing shortage so these things will happen. Perhaps, slowing down the pace of how quickly dishes are coming out will give servers (especially new and inexperienced ones) more time to complete all their prep work.

At least bill settlements are kept simple. Richmond Station’s prices already includes gratuities, so when you ask for the check, they just add on taxes. The pay machine arrives with the total inputted and ready to tap. So, finalizing the transaction is simply a snap. Don’t worry, I’ll stop doing rhymes now. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1 Richmond Street West

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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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