Showing posts with label molten lava cake. Show all posts
Showing posts with label molten lava cake. 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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CLOSED: Bloke and 4th (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 401 King Street West
Type of Meal: Dinner

Wanting to have a ladies' night out, we decided to try Bloke and 4th's Winterlicious, knowing the food would not be excellent but at least we'd be in a lounge for drinks afterwards.  But, little did we know, numerous service issues would materialize:
  1. The day before our dinner, my friend receives an Open Table notification noting Bloke has cancelled our reservation.  She has to call in to remake the reservation.

  2. On the night of the dinner we call in to reduce the reservation by one person.  During this time, we ask if we can change our reservation to a later time, which the person on the phone agrees to.  However, they didn't update the system so upon arriving, we're advised we are late. Luckily, there are empty tables so they seat us anyways.

  3. It takes a while to get our first round of drinks (about 25 minutes).  Upon arrival, our waiter proceeds to pour it into a glass that has a lip stick stain on it.  To his credit, he does apologize for this, exchanges the glass and opens another bottle to make up for what was already poured into this dirty glass.

  4. We wanted to try to PB and J Bombs for dessert, but they are all out for the night.  We're given a vague explanation of the chef having to limit this dessert.  Honestly, the key ingredients are peanut butter, jam and Cornflakes - all inexpensive ingredients that have long shelf lives.  There really is no excuse to be stocking out of the dish, especially if on the Winterlicious menu there is only three choices.  At the very least, Bloke's should have offered another substitution that is off the menu.

  5. Our mains arrive before the appetizers.  After informing the server of this error, he has to "go check with the kitchen".  Upon returning he agrees that the mains were premature.  Instead of just apologizing, he tries to explain that the mix-up is not the waiter's fault but is the kitchen's error.  As customers, we don't care, every employee of a restaurant is one team and blaming each other in front of customers is unprofessional.

  6. Nonetheless, what the server did do right is immediately notify the manager who came to our table. Indeed it was great the manager apologized for the mix-up and after some prodding offered us another bottle of prosecco on the house.  They try to be generous and also give us a complimentary order of duck fat French fries.  But, the fries were horridly stale and hard.  At that point, we were so hungry, we ate some anyways.

My "appetizer" was the fire roasted tiger shrimp and was my favourite dish.  The shrimp were cooked perfectly and had many great flavours & textures complimenting it.  I like the hot sweet and spicy sauce brushed onto the shrimp and the accompanying cool corn, avocado and pineapple (?) relish.  The chips in the middle were elephant garlic chips which were interesting and tasted less like garlic and more like carrots or yams.

For the "main" my friend and I share the Bangkok slaw and Bloke & 4th mac and cheese.  Both were surprisingly small for a main dish:
  • The Bangkok slaw consists of a handful of Asian dressing coleslaw, topped with one slice of seared tuna and about four pieces of calamari.  Each part of the dish tasted good, the coleslaw well dressed, refreshing and paired nicely with the warm seared tuna. The calamari was tender and not over cooked.  I just wished there was more of it!  If I had come during their regular dinner hours and paid $26 for this dish I would be disappointed in its value.

  • The mac & cheese came in small Corning ware dish (in picture actually just a portion scooped onto a plate).  The pasta was cheesy and had a hint of spice from the chili sauce mixed into it.  But, compared to the numerous upscale mac and cheese dishes available across Toronto (O&B Cafe and Tundra just to name a couple) it was nothing spectacular.

For dessert I opted for the molten lava cheese cake, a big disappointment when I had my hopes set on the deep fried peanut butter and jelly concoction.  Sadly, Blokes needs to invest in hiring a pastry chef or consider outsourcing their desserts.  The dessert tasted like something I could make at home with store bought molten lava cake mix stuffed with a piece of frozen cheese cake. Even the salted caramel and bourbon sauce didn't help improve its caliber. 

Overall, the food actually tastes pretty good. Nonetheless, I will not return for dinner given Bloke appears to have problems with executing dinner service. There needs to be someone responsible for quality control from what comes out of the kitchen and how drinks are served.  Something as simple as checking all the utensils and dinnerware to ensure they are clean before using is easy to implement. I appreciate the manager tried to resolve the issues by giving us two bottles of prosecco for free. However, this isn't a profitable business model to follow - giving away the highest margin items.      

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 - $35

Regular menu - $52 - tiger shrimp ($18), Bangkok slaw ($26) and lava cake* ($8) 

Savings - $17 or 33%

* The lava cake isn't on their regular menu; prices based on similar dish

Overall mark - 5.5* out of 10

* What saved the restaurant was having the manager step in quickly and providing enough complimentary items to make up for all the things that went wrong.  Otherwise, it would have likely gotten a 3.

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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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