Prime Seafood Palace (Toronto)

Canadian celebrity chef Matty Matheson’s larger-than-life attitude is infectious. While watching his cooking program, It’s Suppertime!, I can sense his love and respect for food and developed a belief that I could create his comforting spreads at home. Of course, like many viewers, laziness settled in and that’s when I decided to eat at his restaurant instead.

His latest venture is Prime Seafood Palace, a restaurant that’s unlike his other establishments such as Parts and Labour or Makers Pizza. Firstly, no expense was spared to create a beautiful Zen-like dining room that’s completely encapsulated in blond wood. I almost expected someone to roll out yoga mats if it weren’t for the vintage rock playing in the background. Both elements are bold and unexpected for a steak and seafood restaurant, sort of fitting for a chef who doesn’t blend in with the rest.

Thick pieces of blue fin tuna, kampachi, and king salmon are showcased in the Sicilian crudo ($45 for a small), cut to a sashimi-like thickness. There is no shortage of olive oil used in the crudo, the fish swimming in a plate of it. Yet, despite all the herbs, dish lacked flavour; if only they reduced the oil and added a sprinkle of salt instead.

Cheese and seafood aren’t a popular combination. Despite that, the delicate thinly sliced grilled Humboldt squid ($34) went remarkably well with creamy Stracciatella cheese. Maitake mushrooms, being a lighter fungus, didn’t detract from the squid and dairy’s natural flavours, the combination so tasty heaped onto a piece of well-toasted sourdough. Of all the starters, this was my favourite.

The Palace bacon ($18 for 3 pieces, extra $6 to add the fourth) was also delightful, a char sui flavoured pork belly that’s sticky and sweet. The fat was well-rendered, so the pork belly simply melted in my mouth. Delicious on its own (not overly salty), it could be equally tasty sandwiched in in a soft bao bun.

In hindsight, I should have put a piece of bacon into the molasses bread. For $21, the bread service was rather disappointing. Sure, the molasses bread was fragrant and unique - it was like having gingerbread in a bun form - but the accompaniments were lacklustre… the butter needed salt, the mustard pickles run-of-the-mill, and the kippered mussels weren’t the freshest tasting. If it weren’t for our waitress’ long story about how this was Matheson’s grandmother’s recipe and filled with East Coast charm, we would have skipped the bread service all together.

Perhaps I should have relied on my own instincts as I found her recommendations to be a let down. While the cote de boeuf ($275) was a beautiful cut of beef and cooked well, it was just so bland. Strangely, some Google reviews claim dishes are too salty, I wonder if the kitchen is overcompensating and has simply started under seasoning everything.

At least our waitress warned us that the cote de boeuf was neutral and suggested an order of sauce. The grilled onion chimichurri ($8) seemed like a logical choice but was too fussy - the mustard or wasabi added gave it a bitter after taste and detracted from the beef. Give me a simple chimichurri any day; or better yet, just some salt and pepper on the steak.

At least their sides were good. The Palace potatoes ($21) a potato gratin cut into cubes and deep-fried creating the most awesome hash brown. The carrot tart ($21) was also great and could even work as a starter. Layered on a crispy buttery crust was Grey Owl cheese (think a much creamier and richer goat cheese) and perfectly roasted carrots that were soft but still incorporate a bit of texture. If Prime Seafood Place ever opens for lunch, pairing the carrot tart with a salad would make a great lunch main.

The Yorkshire pudding ($13) comes as a solo pudding that’s the size of a bread plate. Oh, so fluffy and light, I wish we had some gravy to pour onto it as the cote de boeuf’s juices couldn’t do the pastry justice.

Prime Seafood Palace’s dessert menu is a short affair – chocolate cake, key lime pie, or ice cream. Having only tried key lime pie ($14) on a handful of occasions and never being impressed, Prime’s version was fantastic with a crispy buttery crust, creamy custardy key lime filling, and covered with meringue that’s toasted just prior to serving so there’s a warmth to the fluffy sweet topping. If key lime pie was always this good, I’d order it more often.

Our dinner at Prime Seafood Palace was satisfactory, but hardly the masterpiece that some people tout. We were treated to delicious sides and a couple tasty starters, but the lacklustre main was disappointing. If anything, the food was merely decent and what enhanced the experience was the beautiful dining room, attentive service, and personable sommelier. Maybe it’s just Matheson’s reputation, you can’t help but want to love the restaurant, because you like the person.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 944 Queen 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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