Showing posts with label arctic char. Show all posts
Showing posts with label arctic char. Show all posts

Quatrefoil (Dundas)


For my husband and I, each summer brings a week (at least) of staycation, where we take time off work and spend it exploring Toronto and its surrounding cities. Any locality that’s a 2 hour drive or less is fair game for a visit and after four years there’s still plenty of places to see.

Hamilton and its surrounding neighbours have been a favourite haunt. A typical outing consists of driving for an hour, hiking through beautiful scenery to stretch our legs, changing as discretely as possible in the car, strolling through a quaint town, and having a lovely meal to cap off the day.

August 2019 brought us to Dundas, Ontario and dinner at Quatrefoil. Their town is made for the eco-conscious with numerous stores selling sustainable and earth-friendly products (I found some great reusable produce bags for grocery shopping).  The end of the walk lead us to a quiet side street and a house that’s morphed into a restaurant. While the outside is a historical home, the dining room looks rather modern, complete with Instagram friendly white marble table tops.

On Fridays they offer a five course tasting menu ($72 a person) with wine pairings (additional $55). Like traditional meals, it starts off with an amuse bouche, a portion of braised veal cheek situated on a light tapioca cracker with dollops of crème fraiche. It’s a tasty bite, but a tad salty even with the tangy yoghurt.  


Followed by a great selection of bread including brown sugar pumpernickel (great combination), chewy French bread, oily poppy seed puff pastry, and a decent cheese and chive puff. It’s an enticing place and I had to try a bit of everything.


Quatrefoil presents beautiful plates. The seared sea scallop arrived with a lovely golden crust and while it was starting to split, the centre was cooked perfectly remaining tender and sweet. The buttery sauce was lightened with strawberry vinaigrette and the dish kept fresh with sweet spring peas and crunchy fennel. It paired wonderfully with the Chablis.


For a sweet and savoury course, I rather enjoyed the compressed cantaloupe salad. The melon was squeezed until the juices are removed so you get its sweet essence but it doesn’t overwhelm the other elements. It went nicely with the creamy whipped ricotta and the garlicky pesto and arugula keeps the dish savoury. It’s all topped with slices of summer truffle – eat these with the ricotta as with the strong pesto its mild flavours become lost.


The apex of the night was the Arctic char where the fish’s meat was flakey and tender but the skin could be a touch crispier. Paired with a tomato vinaigrette – a popular choice - at Quatrefoil it’s seasoned beautifully so you get a fresh tomato jus that’s also flavourful. The warm quinoa base acted as a great side.


Sadly, the last half of the meal is where the menu starts to falter. Tenderloin, when left in a longer cut, can be finicky to work with given it’s thicker in the middle and tapers off at the end. This leaves the thickest part of the steak arriving medium rare while the rest of it was really overdone – the heated plate probably didn’t help.


Without a proper steak knife, cutting through the thinner portions was difficult. Yet, the passable beef aside, the rest of the dish was tasty – the red wine and shallot jus lovely and slightly thickened so it clings to the meat. All the accompaniments were also great: meaty maitake mushroom, crispy broccolini, and the scrumptious potato and cheese croquette… it was the highlight of the dish.


The strawberry crémeux looks pretty but is a really sad dessert. Our waitress takes a fairly long time explaining all the individual sorbets (yogurt cheesecake, strawberry, and strawberry cream) and describes the dish as having an olive oil cake. It took me a while to realize that this “cake” was actually the crumb that propped up the decorative leaf.


I’m done with the deconstructed dessert and wish the preparation would just go away. If this is meant to be a trio of sorbets than give a larger scoop of each and call it that. Meanwhile, if this is meant to be a cake than just create a cake. As it stands, the meagre portions and laying each element out on a dish just seems like a lazy excuse to not employ a proper pastry chef.

Sweets are definitely not Quatrefoil’s forte, even the final bites were a letdown: the cappuccino macron too sweet and while the dark chocolate and strawberry truffle had promise (well balanced flavours and good quality chocolate) the shell was too thick.



Nonetheless, the friendly service and easy going pace of the dinner is what makes dining at Quatrefoil a treat. They were also accommodating, allowing me to get half a wine pairing so that I could have a taste with every dish without falling asleep on the hour drive home.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Dundas, Canada
 Address: 16 Sydenham Street

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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!


Is That It? I Want More!

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Lena Restaurante (Toronto)



Just try to resist digging into the hot plate of crab cazuela ($14) as soon as it arrives - it will be hard, but trust me, patience is worth it. Instead, make sure you have another small plate to nibble on first, while waiting the requisite five minutes.


Looking back, I should have reached for one of the gaucho empanadas ($13) instead. Supplied to Leña from Susana, Chef Anthony's wife, they’re good, if it weren’t so heavy on the olives. Otherwise, everything else was tasty: the pastry soft and bread-like and the beef and egg filling well spiced. A “chiminasty” sauce (chimichurri combined with Anthony’s scotch bonnet laced nasty sauce) goes nicely with the empanadas and helps to drown out the brininess of the olives.


Afterwards, then you can go back to the crab dip – so why have I made you wait so long? It’s not because it’s piping hot, but rather the fresh crackers that come with the dish. If the crackers haven’t cooled yet, they become a strange texture where the edges are crispy but the middle hard and almost stale tasting; add the crab on and things just get chewy. However, when they’re cooled, the crackers become crispy and pairs nicely with the dip.


The crab cazuela is fantastic. Large chunks of the seafood combined with a light dose of creamy lemony aioli, spinach and fennel slivers on the bottom, a cheesy parmigiano reggiano gratin on top. Unlike some dips where the creamy cheese sauce is most pronounced, you can definitely taste and see the crab – it’s the star of the dish.

Right off the bat, our waitress introduces Leña as an Argentinian restaurant with inspirations from Italian and Spanish cuisine. Having never been to Argentina, perhaps my expectation of a robust steak that has a strong meaty flavour is unfounded. So, when the meek striploin ($44) arrives, the fantasy is soon dashed.

To be fair, if the steak was served at O&B Café instead of Leña, I would have enjoyed it. The meat was tender and the fried duck egg perfectly cooked, oozing its runny yolk over everything. But, for a restaurant that’s representing Argentina, the tepid steak lacked the smokiness from being barbequed on an asado. Really, aside from the chimichurri and yucca fries, there’s not much Argentinian about the steak.

Another dish you’ll likely never find in Argentina is the pan-seared Arctic char ($29). Nonetheless, it’s good and surprisingly rich for fish. The char has such a lovely oiliness that the meat remains moist, the skin still crispy despite the dish being ignored to tuck into the steak, and the four plump mussels topping it a tasty and functional garnish. I also enjoyed the risotto-like corn and fregola gachas on the bottom, but it needs something fresh (salsa criolla maybe) to brighten the dish as everything was just so buttery and rich.


Having only been opened for three weeks, service wasn’t bad at Leña. There was a cheerful and helpful gentlemen who escorted me to the first floor hostess podium (it’s a three-floor restaurant) and our waitress provided a good run-down of the menu and its meaningful dishes. The only slip was forgetting to set steak knives before the main, and then proceeding to bring only one knife when they remembered and knew we were sharing.

Leña is a safe choice – it has a pretty robust menu and everything’s modified to meet the typical western palette. With the exception of the crab cazuela, everything I sampled was decent, but hardly memorable. So, if you want something safe, head to Leña. Just keep your expectations clear – you’re not going to experience an Argentinian affair.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 176 Yonge Street (inside Saks)

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:



Leña Restaurante Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


The Beech Tree (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 924 Kingston Road
Website: http://www.thebeechtree.ca/
Type of Meal: Dinner 




When you think of a quaint neighbourhood restaurant, The Beech Tree certainly looks the part. Its cozy dining room is wrapped in dazzling damask wallpaper and bright wainscoting. There’s a sophisticated homey charm to its décor.

But, it’s small size has drawbacks – one being waiting 25 minutes after our reservation time to be seated. It’s unclear whether they have limited dishware, but 10 of the 25 minutes was spent setting the table. Irritatingly it was a slow and inefficient process - three separate individuals bringing out dishware at varying times (one cups, another cutlery and the last napkins?). After each you think it’s done only to find the person go serve another table. The Type A in me cringed making me want to go help. If setting a table is going to take that long, I highly suggest just having a plate and napkin done, seat everyone and worry about the wine goblets and cutlery afterwards.

Alas, once seated I ordered a cocktail to calm the impatience. The Osborne ($10) sounded delicious made with cucumber infused gin, cucumber puree, Thai basil, lemon and lillet. It’s light and refreshing, a good drink to start with.


Thankfully, their food impressed. The pan-seared gaspe scallops ($14) was fantastic and beautifully presented on a platter. The scallops had a nice seared crust and was just cooked through. Even the items accompanying it were great – the tender house-cured ham and what I thought were soft creamy potatoes which turned out to be Jerusalem artichokes.  This is an appetizer that’s great for sharing.


The arctic char ($25) was cooked perfectly with a very crispy skin. The fattiness of the fish (less than salmon but more than halibut) went well with the heavier accompaniments – a thick butternut squash puree and a sweet curry corn patty. I also enjoyed the hit of chilies that was thrown in somewhere. Topping everything was a refreshing vinegary slaw that worked well to balance the sweet squash.


I was looking forward to the roast breast and fried leg of chicken ($22). Sadly the breast was overdone and dry. I salvaged it with the sauce verte drizzled around the artic char, using the oil to rehydrate the meat. The leg was much better with a crispy cornflake coating, which was well drained so wasn’t greasy at all. On the side were parsnip, brown butter, quinoa and a great smoked swiss chard (I would have loved more of the greens).


My other friends at the table decided to go with beef and that evening they had two options to choose from. On their regular menu was the grilled sirloin steak ($24). It arrived cooked well and beautifully presented with fingerling potatoes dusted with kale powder, mushrooms and a vegetable fritter.


Beech Tree was also offering a bone-in ribeye special for two ($60). Essentially a huge hunk tender meat rustically served with thick wedges of large mushrooms, potato gratin and creamed spinach. The steak looked fantastic and so did the sides – but the portion of sides given could be upped since it was meant to feed two.


The Beech Tree’s food is delightful and the surroundings cozy and comfortable. I’d hope our experience at being seated with an anomaly, but to be safe grab a smaller group or opt for an earlier sitting so the table is already set upon your arrival.

Overall mark - 7.5* out of 10
* Food wise it would have gotten an 8. But, the pitiful table set-up at the beginning lost them half a point.


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
  • - 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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