Black + Blue for lunch (Toronto)

The financial core of Toronto isn’t what it used to be… it’s quieter and less hectic. Yet, I’m happy to see that restaurants are still opening, and their opulence hasn’t taken a hit. Black + Blue has made its way from the west coast and into the Exchange Tower, occupying the former site of the TSX. It’s a massive space with soaring ceilings and a grandeur that makes you stop for a moment to take it all in. Focus on the details and you’ll realize the large bull artwork on their wall is made up from hundreds of steak knives, how cleaver.

Their prix fixe lunch menu ($45) offers diners a choice of a main with either an appetizer or dessert (some supplements required). Word for the wise: you’ll want to share the appetizers as some dishes are rich and the portion sizes would impress a Texan.

Thinly sliced barely seared beef forms a beautiful ruby base for the beef carpaccio. Dressed in horseradish crema and tangy pickled shimeji mushrooms, the two give the meat bright pops of flavour. Personally, I would have gone with either the crispy shallot or fried capers on the dish; having both seems like overkill and the oily garnishes overtook the delicate tender beef. But the slices of shaved parmesan were a great addition offering a bit of sweet and saltiness.

Black + Blue’s calamari is left in thick sticks, lovely bites of tender and meaty squid. The coating is crispy and light but also too salty so that it renders the dipping sauce useless. If you’re going to provide a condiment, it’s best to reduce the seasoning so that diners can taste the sauce.

Leave room for the mains as they are big. A huge cone of sizzling hot parmesan fries arrives with the steak frites ($15 supplement), they are deliciously covered with a layer of cheese and a bit of parsley for a fresh richness. Once again, I did find them over seasoned so with the garlic aioli (a tasty rendition) it ends up being too salty. I also had to leave the red wine jus unused as it was a bit too soy sauce and beef stock heavy to pair with the steak.

The steak frites includes a sizeable sirloin but it was cooked poorly: the medium rare is well seared on the outside but still fully rare in the middle. My husband, an excellent steak preparer, hypothesizes that the meat was too cold before being placed in the pan, evidenced by the tell-tale ring instead of a gradient doneness.

When my friend mentioned the undercooked steak to the manager, he brought over a doneness card to indicate the steak was cooked to their medium rare standard. My recommendation: print more of these cards and place one in each menu, so diners understand Black + Blue’s definition as it doesn’t appear to follow the Toronto standard.

Still, the manager was nice about it and noted they would have been happy to put the steaks back on the grill (likely not something chefs trying to time the next table would be “happy” about) and made up for the miscommunication with a plate of petit fours.

Underdone steak aside, Black + Blue nailed their service as everyone was a delight: professional and attentive without making the restaurant seem stuffy. Of course, the environment is anything but stuffy with the airy high ceilings and upbeat songs blasting from the speakers. One thing’s for sure, this isn’t your typical steakhouse. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 130 King 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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