Showing posts with label halibut. Show all posts
Showing posts with label halibut. Show all posts

Orote (Toronto)


There's something about a tasting menu that gives me a thrill - it's oddly freeing to detach myself from decisions and just be ready to experience. Almost like a rollercoaster for eating where I strap myself in for a ride and hope the track is enjoyable.

Orote presents a six-course menu ($78) where there are some decisions: a choice of main course  and whether you want any of the supplementary ingredients and courses. It's not overly exhaustive, I settled on the fish and as a table we decided to add on everything we could. Let the ride begin.

It starts off slowly, as we made our way up the dinner hill. The thinly sliced pork belly with boiled daikon and pickled parrilla leaves is a dish that's better as a whole than each of the individual parts. Yet, the kitchen needs to work on balance: there's too much parrilla so the acidity overwhelms the delicate pork belly and the chunk of irregularly cut daikon makes it really difficult to create a roll. If these ingredients were smaller, the diner would have a better opportunity to taste the paper-thin pork belly and its dusting of savoury shrimp powder. 


We begin to pick up steam when the skewer of lobster and pumpkin robata arrives. It was fantastic, each bite augmented with black garlic and bits of walnut. The spices and grilled preparation gives the lobster such a unique taste that I couldn't register the protein during the first bite, wow was it meaty. 


As we make our way to the top of the plunge, I'm momentarily skeptical of the "salad" course... there's an awfully large portion of what looks like unadorned leafy greens. We're told to make sure to dig to the bottom where we'll find poached mussels and a wonderful consommé. All in all, I didn't mind the  leafy greens and sticks of daikon, it made for a nice cleanser between the grilled lobster and the following dumplings. I just wish the greens were quickly blanched so it wouldn't cause the rest of the dish to cool down so much. Make sure you get every drop of the lovely soup. 


I was thrilled with the two plump mushroom and tofu dumplings. On its own it may seem a bit plain, but as I broke them apart and had bits of it with the bonito dashi, it was delicious. If there's one thing Orote does well it's their soups - they seriously should consider having a larger soup course. For this dish we added shaved truffle ($10) but it didn't make that much of a difference. Give me an extra bowl of dashi any day. 


For the main, I opted for halibut, a nice thick meaty piece that was cooked superbly. It just needed more seasoning - there was so much sesame sauce on top of the fish, yet it added more of a creamy texture than flavour. Even the broth served with the halibut wasn't as strong as the previous dishes. All in all, the main was fine, but not overly exciting. 


Had I known, I would have gone with the pork loin, which was way more flavourful and tasty. The pickled kale made me think of the dish as a lighter and less greasy form of braised pork belly with preserved vegetables, the Hakka mu choy cow yok (from the Cantonese dialect). The pork also went better with the bowl of miso yolk rice ($4), which I forgot to take a picture, but imagine a bowl of steamed sticky rice topped with shaved egg yolk and way too many green onions. 


The shared add-on dishes were sprinkled throughout the ride. Orote's chicken ssam ($12) consists of large mounds of cold shredded chicken topped with a slice of daikon. You can't really wrap it up like bo ssam, so it is slightly strange the dish is named chicken "wrap". I recommend including some of the pickled greens on the side: it would give the chicken more flavour and would provide diners with ingredients to make chicken ssam two ways.


If you're sensitive to salt, Orote is actually a great place to dine at as even the truffle rice cake and perilla seed ($25), described to us as a really creamy rich dish, wasn't overly heavy or powerful. Sure, the sauce was thicker compared to the broth that adorned other dishes, but it wasn't creamy in the traditional sinful sense. If anything, the best part of the dish wasn't it's "creaminess", truffle shavings, or the perilla seeds... it was the soft chewy pieces of rice cake.


Overall, the ride ended on a high: I thoroughly enjoyed the barley cream dessert, which is like a really fluffy panna cotta topped with finely grated chocolate shavings, puffed buckwheat, and black sesame. Creamy and light, it had a great texture that I wanted to savour, yet also wished I could just pop half of it into my mouth and allow the delicate sweetness to flood my taste buds.


The newly opened Orote offers a wonderful tasting option for those who are looking for a healthier meal that doesn't leave you feel stuffed and heavy. I can certainly see Actinolite's influences in Chef Kwangtaek Lee's menu. Though I urge Chef Lee to consider bringing in even more of his Korean influences into the dishes, especially in the mains and add-ons to really give it some pizzazz. As it stands, Orote is nice and solid, but there's the potential to make it really thrilling. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 276 Havelock Street


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:


Auberge Du Pommier Revisited in 2017 (Toronto)


After a positive and negative experience at Auberge du Pommier a couple years back, a return visit was in order to see if the exemplary service continues. Glancing into the private event room at the entrance, there wasn’t an occasion on the Friday night visit, good news for us already. We were greeted promptly at the door and shown to the table right away. Service was attentive and unhurried, what you’d imagine a fine dining restaurant to exude.

With spring came a lighter menu. The poured-at-table bouillabaisse ($24) was thick and silky, with an ingenious addition of crispy ginger for an expected zip. The actual seafood was surprisingly scant but well prepared: pieces of barely cooked Fogo Island cod, sweet flakes of crab, delicate mussels, and a couple of sweet petite shrimp. The piece of toasted pita with saffron aioli on top was a tad dry, I just stuck with the delicious baguettes that arrive with the bread basket instead.


For those who like cheese and fruit combinations, the camembert royale ($22) is an interesting appetizer - half a baked apple stuffed with a creamy camembert custard gives the dish a sweet, savoury, and tart combination. Adorned with asparagus, artichokes and black truffle, the starter has a light but rich quality.


While the homard thermidor ($55) was barbecued, the lobster wasn’t overly smoky. Additionally, despite incorporating a variety of aromatic ingredients such as leeks, morels, Dijon Mornay and hollandaise, it didn’t feel overdone and you could still taste the plump crustacean. Typically, this dish is part of their tasting menu, but you’re advised every dish can also be ordered a la carte. In this instance, Auberge should consider augmenting the sides as the lobster really didn’t feel like a main with the meagre spears of asparagus and cubes of potato.


The fletan ($45), part of their a la carte menu, was a more fulsome dish. The butter-poached halibut was a hefty portion and cooked wonderfully so it remained moist and meaty. Aside from the fish there were so many other elements: a beautiful garlicky razor clam; a tasty but overcooked tomato spätzle that went surprisingly well with everything; and a buttery gasconne sauce that paired wonderfully with the fish. All the flavours were great with the halibut, which is normally such a neutral fish.


None of the desserts were enticing so we stuck with the tried and true cheese course, which arrives with plenty of crostini, a berry compote, and cube of sweet sticky honeycomb. 



Choosing three French cheeses ($18), the selection had various firmness for interest: a soft Brillat-Savarin, a triple cream cow's milk cheese from Normandy that simply melted on the tongue; a semi-hard abondance that's stronger, but still not overpowering from Haute-Savoie; and the firmer comté that has an interesting almost spicy finish to it. The generous portions of each were perfect for sharing amongst two.  


The petit four selection, arriving with the bill, is such a satisfying finish. The soft and fudgy chocolate macaron was delicious, the lemon poppy seed madeleine decent, and a chocolate truffle with a crisp shell that breaks a part to release a whipped ganache with the consistency of butter cream frosting. Tasty to the last bite.


I’m glad to see Auberge’s service level hasn’t faltered. In fact, staff were so friendly that I couldn’t help but watch interactions between a waiter and table of three older women beside us. As they were having difficulties reading the menus in the dim lighting, being tech savvy they took out their phones and shone the screens on the menu. Seeing this, the waiter introduced them to the flashlight function, much to their delight. He took the time to show each of them how to use it and later when they stopped him again, he helped them navigate to the light once again. A great above and beyond example, demonstrating why Auberge continues to impress.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 4150 Yonge Street

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:


Auberge du Pommier Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mark Greenaway (Edinburgh)

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Address: 69 North Castle Street
Website: www.markgreenaway.com
Type of Meal: Dinner 



Mark Greenaway’s surroundings were simple but comfortable and the dining room held a surprising number of tables for the small location.  My only suggestion, for the next revamp, is to change the chairs. They are simply not practical for anyone with a purse with its holes in the back and rounded backing (nothing to hang your purse from); alas, mine had to sit on the ground.  Additionally, they were not that comfortable which may be a downfall for patrons ordering the 8-course tasting menu whom would need to sit for a while.  Luckily, we were just popping by for a quick dinner so they were good enough for us.

Soon after ordering we were brought an amuse bouche of sage and pumpkin foam with toasted pumpkin seeds.  I find pure foam starters to be a hit and miss, but Mark Greenaway's version was delicious with the fragrant warm foam set against the nuttiness of the pumpkin seeds.  The dish had a richness to it making it taste like lobster bisque (I know a bit strange for pumpkin) and proved to be a great start.

After the amuse bouche, I was expecting bread to be brought out as a large disk of butter sat on the white linens.  Surprisingly, it did not and instead my appetizer arrived first. Rather, the bread is served between the appetizer and main which is certainly unconventional, but perhaps saves you from filling up?  

The spelt risotto (£7) was beautifully presented with a deep yellow sauce set against the brown grains of spelt.  If you like cheese, this would be a great option as there’s plenty of it – a layer on the bottom of the plate, four croquettes of fried cheese included and a generous shaving of parmesan on top.  Indeed, the croquettes were crispy, hot and delicious an unexpected treat on an already rich dish. But, the risotto itself was a bit hard for my taste. Of course, I realize the barley and spelt based risottos generally have a harder shell so has more of a bite, but these grains hadn't split at all so it just tasted like I was eating kernels of grain in a cheese sauce. Perhaps if they were cooked a bit more or mixed in some rice the dish would have been better as the flavours were certainly there.

My main of halibut (£24) was cooked well and another colourful presentation.  Although it was good, I found the protein to be overshadowed by the pickled vegetable garnishes accompanying the main which were so vibrant in flavour.  Every time I had a taste of the vegetables and then went back to the fish, the halibut tasted really bland.  Now, this isn’t necessarily bad as there is some contrast, but just seems to be a shame that the main part of the dish gets lost. It was served with a lemongrass foam but found this didn't add much in terms of flavour. 

The black rectangle on the fish is actually a piece of squid ink pasta; a bit mushy and not flavourful at all which is strange as squid ink tends to offer such a distinct aroma.  The highlight of the dish, for me, was two slices of carrots which were wrapped around chopped up pieces of either fish or scallop with micro dices of pickled radish.  These garnishes were such a great combination of tartness and silkiness of seafood that I wish there was more of them.

The pan roasted hake fillet (£21) that my husband ordered was definitely the better dish of the two and exhibited a fusion of Asian and French flavours. It had the flavourful crispy skin, which I adore with a piece of plain fish, surrounded by a fragrant sesame ginger broth.  A side of purple mash included was smooth and had an interesting potato flavour mixed with what seemed like black sesame and red bean.  Topping the fish was a lobster tagliatelle made into a dumpling form - sadly my husband polished this before I had a taste.

Normally, I am not a big dessert fan but heard about their peanut butter cheesecake (£7.50) and had to try it.  The dessert consisted of layers of pressed peanut butter and smooth cheese cake piped between peanut butter sheets.  A large piece of dark chocolate peanut bark topped everything and had a hint of saltiness giving the cake a sweet and savoury aspect to it but not overwhelmingly so.  

As if this were not enough a warm syrupy caramel sauce is brought to the table and poured around the cake itself adding such a delicious buttery toffee taste to everything.  Thankfully, the sauce wasn't too sweet and was just enough to complement the already decadent dessert.  A white log decorates the cake and at first we put it to the side thinking it was a regular run of the milk while chocolate cylinder.  When we finally tasted it we were delighted to find it ice cold and creamy in texture going so well with the warm sauce.  I believe it might have been a frozen white chocolate gouache?  This dessert was absolutely delicious and worth all the hype it receives.  During our visit, it wasn't on the regular menu and only offered as part of the market menu.  Thankfully, the chef was accommodating and made it for us anyways.  Mr. Greenaway, put it back on your menu!

Perhaps it was due to our late seating and there were no other diners around, but the staff were extremely friendly and helpful, not only taking the time to chat with us but explain some facts of Scotland to us.  Overall, the experience was a great one and Mark Greenaway is worth a visit. They also offer a great deal with the special market menu, available from 5:30-6:45 offering 2 courses for £16.50 or 3 courses for £20.

Overall mark - 8.5 out of 10

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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!




Actinolite (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 971 Ossington Avenue
Website: http://actinoliterestaurant.com/
Type of Meal: Dinner



Actinolite is what I'd imagine Noma to be like - except with a focus on Canadian ingredients and much friendlier on the wallet. Like many restaurants they use local suppliers but gone one step further by starting their own garden. Controlling their food source allows them to strive for peak freshness by picking ingredients right before serving. What they don't grow and buy, they forage from the town of Actinolite (as noted on their website). Somehow knowing that their forging happens outside of the city was a relief as the thought of eating vegetation out of the Don River (which may be perfectly safe) was a bit alarming. 

There are two menus available, the 7-course Chef ($85) or a 4-course summary ($55). The summary menu offers larger plate sizes, so you won’t be starving afterwards, but does mean you’ll miss three of the dishes. During our dinner summary diners would have missed out on the radish, squid and egg ones - the biggest loss being the egg dish which was a favourite of my husband and I. Wine pairings are an additional $65 and $40, for the Chef and summary menus, respectively.

We decided to go with the Chef’s menu which true to form was seven courses. There are no amuse dishes at Actinolite, just a slice of sourdough bread with olive oil. At least it's really good sourdough; crunchy exterior, soft interior and enough salt within the dough that you could eat it plain. 

The first radish and carrots course was supposed to resemble a garden with halved vegetables served with soil butter, crunchy grass salt and other crunchy bits. Soil appears to be the up and coming ingredient that's growing in popularity worldwide and noted for its mineral properties. Luckily, at Actinolite the soil is incorporated with whipped butter and light tasting, so much so that it's unclear if real soil is actually used as there was no grittiness at all. 



Next came four spears of the most scrumptiously grilled asparagus. We were advised it was cooked on a Big Green Egg, which my husband proceeded to explain is one of the best grills for temperature precision and its smoking properties. The asparagus was cooked through and hot yet still crunchy with a light smoky flavour. Served with a nettle puree (a relatively neutral flavour), cold thick sour cream and spruce flowers this was a wonderful dish.


Our waitress warned us the squid was chewy, and she certainly wasn’t wrong as I gnawed on it for a while. Undeniably, the squid’s texture wasn’t my favourite and personally would have preferred the addition of shrimp and fish so that it’d be more of a seafood salad and less rubbery. Nonetheless, it wasn’t a total miss as having been marinated in a tart vinaigrette and served cold the dish was refreshing. With juniper berries, olive oil and a flavourful wild ginger gelee we found it almost acted as a palette cleanser.


Eggs are a staple ingredient but when prepared well can also be luxurious. For this dish, Actinolite poached the egg slowly so that it arrives gooey and hot in the middle. Topped with light shavings of summer truffle (a very delicate flavour) and pops of onion from the chive blossoms it was a lovely egg. Simple wilted spinach surrounded it and helped mop up every drop of warm yolk that leaked out.


The halibut was perfectly cooked with a beautiful golden crust and tender meaty interior. I did find the watercress puree on the bottom overwhelming bitter and was taken aback at first. Luckily, it was served to the side so I could lift the fish off and enjoy the halibut by itself. An ingredient I’m starting to get tired of is foam; yes, it’s decorative but in most cases adds little to the dish itself. At Actinolite their foam was made with fish stock and what a genius idea as it actually complimented the fish quite well. Various sprigs of minty herbs accompanied the fish and although I appreciate the naturalness would have preferred a hot cooked vegetable (more of the delicious wilted spinach would have been better).


Our last savoury dish of the night was sweetbread or the sheep’s thymus (neck/throat gland). Lightly floured and pan fried the sweetbread was fairly good and really just tastes like tender dark chicken meat. Sitting on a bed of wilted greens and topped with these tart berries the dish was an interesting mix of sour and salty flavours, with the berries cutting the fattiness of the sweetbread.


To end, a dish of fresh strawberries with cheese curds – a seemingly healthier version of strawberries and cream. With sweet drizzles of elderflower syrup and a delicious hay dust, despite its simple presentation, this was a satisfying dessert. Every speck of dust, drop of syrup and crumble of curd was wiped up with the plump sweet strawberries by the end!


Actinolite’s menu is so different from what you’ll find elsewhere in the city. Dishes are simply presented allowing the ingredients themselves to be showcased and patrons to enjoy their natural tastes. Throughout the meal so many different flavour were presented; sour, bitter, sweet and salty all represented at different times. But, what struck me most was how perfectly Chef Cournoyer seasons everything; each element was salted (for my taste) to the right strength to compliment the other ingredients.

In addition, you still feel good after all seven courses – the dishes felt healthy and light so I didn’t get a gluttonous feeling afterwards. It’s also a good choices for vegetarians as so many dishes featured non-meat ingredients prominently already.

With its small dining room and friendly dressed down staff the restaurant has a laid back atmosphere. It was comfortable and made me feel like I was eating in the countryside despite the busy Ossington street just outside the window. Do yourself a favour and try it once, you may just fall in love with all the tastes fresh produce has to offer.

Overall mark - 8.5 out of 10

Like the blog? You can now follow me on twitter for notifications - 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!



The Shore Club (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 155 Wellington Street West
Website: http://www.theshoreclub.ca/
Type of Meal: Dinner

The Shore Club, situated beside the Ritz Carlton, is surprisingly spacious.  The enormous restaurant is split into smaller areas using wooden walls adorned with artwork and backlit decorations, which makes each section cozy despite its size.  

As we settled into the plush velvet booths, the hostess whisked away the white napkin in front of me and handed me a black one instead.  It's only later my friends and I start noticing some have white napkins while others have black... what is causing this?  Not being able to decipher a pattern we finally ask our waiter.  It's simple, it depends on your clothing - people wearing dark clothes are given the black napkin - so that any lint that may be left on your clothing will not be noticeable.  Genius!  And it's this attention to detail that sets the Shore Club's service above the many other restaurants across Toronto.

The service that night was exemplary.  Despite being a table of nine, five staff members served each course to ensure we could all start eating at the same time.  Moreover, I cannot remember once in the night when my wine or water glass was ever empty.  After the disappointing service at my last two meals, refer to Lucien and Urraca Resto Lounge blogs, it was refreshing to go to a place that does it right!  We were even served warm, freshly baked bread for free (once again refer to Lucien).

I chose the arugula, pear and brie salad to start.  The poached pear was beautifully presented and was a great texture (not too soft) and flavour (not too sweet).  It would have been nice if the pear was warmed up to compliment the cold brie and arugula.  But, overall was a good salad and tossed in the perfect amount of dressing. 


My first bite into the New York striploin presented mixed emotions; I was happy with all the flavours of the grainy mustard rub and wonderful steak jus, but disappointed that my steak was overdone.  After giving away slices to my husband and continuing to eat, I realized that the remaining two thirds of the steak were cooked well.  After trying some of my husband's halibut, which I thought was nicely cooked albeit a tad under seasoned, he commented on how his fish was also overcooked on one side only.  So, it appears, the Shore Club may have some issues with its cooking surface or warming areas that is causing one side to cook faster than the other. 


Nonetheless, the meal was good.  The beluga lentils at the bottom of the halibut were great and soaked up the romesco sauce.  You can imagine them to taste like a cheesy barley risotto, except a bit firmer.  The sides that accompany our mains were served table style so we were able to mix and share: 
  • The green beans were great - thin and crispy;
  • The steamed broccoli is exactly as it sounds, a bit bland and boring; and
  • The steak house fries were disappointing and tasted like the frozen McCain variety.
To complete the meal, we pretty much all had the sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream. I loved it! The warm toffee cake itself was surprisingly light and not too dense. I enjoyed that the caramel sauce was poured around the cake so that it didn't become too sweet.  As always, nothing goes better with a warm dessert as some rich, cold vanilla ice cream.


After this visit, I went back to the restaurant for their normal menu, visit my more recent post for my thoughts on this visit.

Is Winterlicious worth it?


As a special feature to the Winterlicious blogs, I will attempt to calculate the savings being offered (based on my meal selection).   

Winterlicious - $45

Regular menu - $68 - salad* ($10), striploin steak ($40), side of green beans ($8) and toffee pudding* ($10) 

Savings - $23 or 34%

* The salad and toffee pudding aren't on their regular menu; prices based on similar dish



Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


Like the blog? You can now follow me on twitter for notifications - 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!
For further general discussions about this blog please refer to http://gastroworldblog.blogspot.com/2012/09/welcome-to-gastro-world.html







Sassafraz (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 100 Cumberland Street
Website: http://www.sassafraz.ca/
Type of Meal: Dinner

When so many restaurants are dimly lit and swathed in dark browns, it’s refreshing to walk into a bright, white-washed room.  The waterfall feature wall has been maintained nicely and still looks beautiful and impressive.  Perhaps, what is most appreciated, is the healthy distance between tables – something about not having to slide into your seat sideways and manoeuvering jackets and bags with strangers on shared bench space always starts the meal right.



My last visit to Sassafraz happened two years ago and I vaguely recall the experience.  So, when Groupon was offering a three course meal used for four people for only $105 it seemed too good to be true – an economical way to return to the restaurant.  But, since it was a deal, we prepared for disappointment; thankfully, the meal turned out terrific.


My appetizer of tempura isn’t on their regular menu.  A generous portion of crispy calamari, octopus tentacles and green bean tempura was topped with a sprinkling of chopped red chillies.  Unlike Japanese tempura the batter is heavier and accompanied with sweet chili thai and sriracha aioli dipping sauces. 

Although the dish’s presentation wasn’t impressive, it tasted good.  The batter and chopped chilis already had such great flavour that the dipping sauces weren’t necessarily required.   The calamari was cut into large pieces rather that in the typical small rings.  I like this as the seafood tastes meatier and retains its moisture; the octopus tentacles were equally well cooked.  The green beans, on the other hand, were too oily due to ratio of batter; zucchini strips or bundling the green bean before battering may be better.

The halibut, also not on their regular menu, was an equally large portion.  The fish had a nice pan seared crust and the lemon butter sauce complimented the mild halibut well.  But, what I enjoyed most were the accompanying poppy seed spaetzle and crisp Swiss chard.  Spaetzle, a German side dish of dough slivers, is not found often at restaurants.  The only time I’ve ever tried it was at O&B Café and their version pales in comparison to Sassafraz.  I enjoy the larger sized pieces which allow the dough to be softer and contrast the crisp pan fried exterior.   The Swiss chard was cooked perfectly so that it retained its vibrant red colour and crisp texture, I would have happily trade in the halibut for more of it!

My husband had their 10 oz. striplion with horseradish scented pommes puree with olive ($33).  The striplion, despite being a leaner cut of beef, was cooked well and tender.  I found the mashed potatoes to have a slightly sour taste that I found strange, but my husband enjoyed it.

For dessert I had the donuts ($12), which are three churros dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with chocolate ganache and dulche de leche dipping sauces.  Made to order, they were hot, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.  There was just the right amount of cinnamon sugar and the bitterness of the dark chocolate sauce complimented the sweetness.  The dessert was a great ending to the meal.

Unfortunately, when offering deals, some restaurants treat customers with subpar service.  At Sassafraz this didn’t happen and they were as gracious as they’d normally be, attentive at filling up empty wine and water glasses.  The manager even came around at the beginning the welcome all patrons and solicit their feedback at the end of the meal.  Competing restaurants should take note of this trait – when you are offering a deal this is your occasion to promote your restaurant and obtain feedback from new customer groups, so use the opportunity wisely!

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


____________________________
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!
For further general discussions about this blog please refer to http://gastroworldblog.blogspot.com/2012/09/welcome-to-gastro-world.html




CLOSED: Four Restaurant (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 187 Bay Street (Commerce Court, Concourse level)
Type of Meal: Dinner


Despite Four's convenient location to work, it's been a year since my last meal, so my coworkers and I decided to head there after work. After we got over the disappointment of the end to $4.44 weeknight martinis, we decided to stay for some wine and dinner.

Four's atmosphere is like many Financial District restaurants - dim lighting, high top tables, leather chairs and open concept so you can see who you know there.  Also like many establishments, Four's new cocktail menu has also moved away from the fruity martini cocktails and has done a throwback to the old fashioned cocktails filled with bitters and non-vodka based spirits.




If you haven't heard of Four before, their claim to fame is each dish is 650 calories or less. Sounds great at first, but after eating an appetizer, main and dessert - 650 calories can really start adding up!
Their new menu consists of 50% tried and true favourites and 50% new items. We decided to order a mix of tapas to start:
  • Soft shell baja fish taco ($10) - a sizeable portion of fish accompanies each taco but the flavour itself is bland. The fish, appears to be baked, would have benefited from being cooked on the grill to add a smokier taste. The tacos were in need of more pico de gallo and jalapeno crema to flavour the plain fish and tortillas. Even some chopped fresh cilantro would have been a good low calorie alternative to adding a bit of texture and flavour to the dish.




  • Salt cod fritters ($8.50) - thankfully, this dish was more flavourful after having the fish taco, but perhaps too salty given the combination of salt cod and chorizo. Mixed predominantly with potato (rather than in dough mixture) and baked (rather than fried) made the fritters resemble salty tater tots to hot crisp fritters. This was my least favourite of the tapas.





  • Prosciutto flatbread ($10?) - Although the dough was a bit thick compared to most flatbreads, I liked it. Similar to a crispy thick pizza dough, it was warm, had a nice airy texture and well-seasoned. The toppings, however, was an interesting combination - prosciutto with blue cheese. The flavours didn't compliment well given the blue cheese sauce pretty much overpowered everything. I seem to recall a few arugula leaves sprinkled on the flatbread. Perhaps, the dish would have benefited with a bigger handful of arugula to cut through the heaviness of the cheese.



As my main, I opted for the halibut ($22.50), which sadly was another disappointment. The fish was overcooked so that the flakiness of your typical halibut was ruined. It sat on a roasted humitas which resembled a thin baked cornmeal pancake - also bland and could have benefited from some chopped fresh herbs or jalapeno mixed into the batter. Perhaps, the worse combination with the dish was the tomato tortilla slaw - literally strips of baked tortilla strips sprinkled over the fish. Given the fish and roasted humitas was so dry already, the dish needed something fresh, juicy and flavourful; tortilla strips did not achieve this.





My coworkers seemed to have chosen the better dishes, based on the piece of protein I tried from each:



  • Thai roasted chicken breast ($18), was the best of the bunch. The chicken was flavourful and tender from the coconut lime broth accompanying the dish. It the restaurant wasn't so health conscious some crusty bread to soak up the broth would have been amazing.




  • Jail island salmon ($20), a dish from their old menu which is like any typical salmon. Unlike my halibut it wasn't quite as overcooked.


  • Grilled beef tenderloin ($25) was cooked well, tender and the beet sauce paired well with the beef.

To cap off the meal we each picked a shooter sized dessert ($2.50) - chocolate mint, tiramisu, cherry cheesecake and one other flavour. The tiramisu was drier compared to my previous experiences, but overall the desserts were good enough to satisfy our sweet tooth without being heavy.

The service was average, everyone was very attentive for the key moments (drink order, food order and bringing the bill), but, when it came to refilling wine and water glasses this is where improvements could be achieved.

Overall mark - 6 out of 10


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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!