Showing posts with label European. Show all posts
Showing posts with label European. Show all posts

12 Tables (Toronto)


Google classifies 12 Tables as an Italian restaurant, which to be fair makes up the majority of the dishes on their menu. However, in speaking to the owner, she noted the restaurant is actually European; in fact, they chose to use a generic name (12 Tables) so they can showcase many nationalities. The husband and wife duo has experience with the culinary industry - back in Poland they owned six restaurants, each offering a different type of cuisine. After arriving in Canada, they decided to focus on one restaurant but still prepare an array of dishes.

Despite 12 Tables’ informal atmosphere, dinners start with an amuse bouche and end with a lemon sorbet to cleanse the palette between the mains and dessert. The amuse bouche changes, on one visit a tasty bite of roasted beet with a creamy avocado mascarpone dressing and another a piece of seared beef. Both arrive with warm soft bread that they bake daily in-house. All this makes for a labour intensive day, no wonder they’re only opened for dinner!


Save some bread if you order the beef tartare ($19) as it doesn’t arrive with crostini. Even with the bread, the dish takes getting used to as the soft tartare against soft bread isn’t the greatest combination (even with a slight crunch from the raw onions). Aside from having something crunchy to spread it on, I’d also prefer the beef cut into bigger pieces so it doesn’t resemble pulverized meat. Regardless, the flavours were spot on and the onions a great addition.


For a crowd, the signature antipasto for two ($27) is a good option with a changing assortment of cured meats, cheeses, and vegetables. The salty cured meat and cheeses are good, but what really stood out were the hunks of grilled eggplant slathered in a garlic dill sauce, juicy sticks of marinated beets, and the large pieces of pickled artichoke. In fact, I wish they offered a vegetarian version of the antipasto platter as the vegetables were definitely the highlight.


12 Tables calls out on their menu, the fact the carbonara ($19) contains no cream. I can understand why, with all the aged cheese, bacon, and parmesan, it tastes like a really rich creamy pasta. Personally, I would have liked more black pepper to help balance the flavours and a splash of stock to thin out the sauce. But, I guess most people who order carbonara craves a dish that’s sinful and hearty, this definitely fits the bill. 


On the other hand, the arrabiata ($19) is the complete opposite. The dish is filled with al dente penne tossed with a thick tomato sauce that has such a delicious angry bite. Given it’s a smaller portion and lighter, you’ll want to add on a heartier appetizer if you get this as a main. The baked eggplant ($16) is a great choice. Two big thick slices of grilled eggplant sandwiching gorgonzola cheese studded with grape tomatoes and smothered with tomato sauce. All together it’s a creamy combination and the lighter blue cheese, which normally isn’t an ingredient I enjoy, pairs well with the earthy eggplant and tangy sauce. Although, if I had the option to substitute the gorgonzola for mozzarella or ricotta, I’d still make the switch.


Yet, my favourite pasta has got to be the frutti di mare ($27) and will be my go-to order during weekends. The linguine is done perfectly and tossed in a chunky tomato and onion sauce filled with seafood: three large prawns, a plump scallop, a passable section of crab leg, calamari rings, clams, and tons of mussels! Best yet the seafood was not overdone and cooked with the sauce to really infuse it with the seafood essence. 


Most of the starters and mains we tried still leaned heavily towards an Italian heritage. Their desserts is where it expands into different European territories, with a small but varied selection: strawberry pavlova, chocolate soufflé, a tart, and gelato. Excited for the soufflé ($12) what actually arrives would generally be considered a molten lava cake. While it was a very good rendition of the dessert – hot, rich, and filled with chocolate flavour without being sugary – the molten centre isn’t the same as an airy soufflé.


They’re a great neighbourhood restaurant, the service outstandingly friendly. My husband, who worked in Europe for a couple of years, noted it did remind him of the restaurants he visited while travelling around. At the end of the meal, they even offered us a shot of lemoncello or Zoladkowa Gorzka (an herby orange liqueur), a digestive to start the digestion process.


I urge the chef to expand the menu to include more non-Italian dishes, something from Poland would be great! Until then, I’ll be returning to enjoy the seafood pasta, with a shot of Zoladkowa Gorzka, which ends the meal with a warm fuzzy feeling.


Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1552 Avenue Road

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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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Constantine (Toronto)


Situated in the Anndore House, Constantine takes up much of the lower floor of the boutique hotel. It’s swanky and has a cool vibe, fitting into the Yorkville landscape perfectly. They offer a varied menu of Mediterranean dishes with Italian thrown in for good measure – from the owners of Campagnolo, La Palma, and Mercatto it’d be a shame if pasta and pizza didn’t make an appearance. Indeed, I had to order both tried and approved dishes, with some new tastes thrown in for good measure.

The grilled halloumi on panella ($11) is a little seen starter, the cheese resists completely melting and merely gets gooey when it’s licked with heat. I love the cheese's chewiness and its saltiness mellowed by the delicate soft panella (similar to polenta cake but made with chickpeas instead). With pickled chili for heat and a creamy labneh this was a great nibble to start on and would be work for cocktail parties.


Scoring seats at the “Chef’s table” I loved the way it’s set-up – two of the corners are split off in the middle so there is a sense of privacy. However, it’s a shame that none of the chefs bother to acknowledge the diners (even if they’re standing in front of you). While I understand they are servicing a large restaurant and can’t afford to have full conversations, even a quick hello or goodbye would be nice. At the very least, staff should refrain from calling these Chef’s Table seats and merely describe them as counter seating around the kitchen.


Just dress accordingly as it can get warm with the wood fire grill and pizza oven going; nothing a bottle of cold cava can’t fix! Hearing that many of their dishes are cooked (or at least finished) on the Argentinian inspired grill, we thought we should try these special dishes. Sadly, the they were also the most disappointing.

After visiting Tanto and seeing their set-up, I can only deduce it’s a poor decision to have the wood burn directly below the meat, rather than off to the side and cooking over smouldering embers (generally how a traditional asado is operated). The person manning the grill just couldn’t get the flame and timing right: the lamb ribs ($19) arrive overdone to the point the pomegranate molasses glaze turned into a candy crust and the meat was hard and chewy. To be fair, the cut of the ribs was also much too small and an uneven thickness. Even the cooling buttermilk dip could only add so much hydration.


Conversely, the fire roasted eggplant ($14) was underdone – the texture spongy and the insides still white from being raw. Having had some of the thinner end pieces, this dish could have been delicious if the eggplant was cooked longer and transformed into a soft creamy consistency. Mixed with garlic and herbs all the vegetables had great flavours, the generally mild shishito peppers a touch spicier at Constantine.   


While the cacio e pepe pizza ($16) was a little softer than expected (I can't help but recall that golden crispy crust from the zucchini pizza at La Palma), the chef certainly didn’t skimp on the cheese. A blend of three - chewy stracchino, creamy mozzarella, and salty pecorino – finished with a dash of black pepper, it’s a simple pie but allows you to really enjoy the warm chewy crust and dairy, with no tomato sauce.


The best dish of the evening was the spaghetti ($21). The fresh pasta extremely al dante (truthfully another 30 seconds in the water would have been my preference) and the olive oil sauce perfectly seasoned with caramelized garlic slices infusing it with flavour. I love how the sweet marinated Fogo Island shrimp was added quickly at the end for a few tosses, so they remained delicate and not overcooked. This was one dish we inhaled.  


After a carb-filled meal, the labneh mille-feuilles ($12) is a great light ending, even though it didn’t resemble the menu’s description. How it’s described: coffee, fig, and caramelized white chocolate. What I tasted: whipped cream, sweetened lebneh, flakey pastry, and slivers of fig throughout. While still good, I was really hoping for some coffee essence.


Overlooking the kitchen, I was disappointed to see the sheer number of plastic bags being tossed in the garbage (used to hold individual portions of the pasta, shrimp, rice, etc.). Considering the number of dishes that go out from the kitchen, I can only imagine how much waste gets generated and it made me feel guilty for even ordering the pasta. Having seen how other kitchens operate, competitors generally use plastic containers to hold large amounts of the ingredients and then simply spoon what’s required into the pan. Maybe some ingredients (like shrimp) require an element of precision, but surely for low cost ingredients, it really doesn’t matter. Personally, I’d rather have a spoonful less rice if it means being kinder to our environment. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 15 Charles Street East

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


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this: