Showing posts with label mussels and frites. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mussels and frites. Show all posts

Hearts (Kimberly)

I haven’t ventured far from the Blue Mountain Village while visiting Collingwood, usually because no one wants to be a designated driver and the city’s taxi service isn’t plentiful. Yet, I know I’m doing myself a disservice and missing out on the true experience of the town – a laidback friendly vibe, reliance on fresh produce, and eclectic local flavours that aren’t trying to please a tourist palette. A place like Hearts, located away from the Village in Kimberly.

One look at their chalkboard menu and I knew fresh ingredients would grace our table that night. Things change so quickly that we’re asked to snap a picture of the board before making our way to the table. Do away with printed menus and save the trees!

A platter of freshly shucked oysters ($40 for 12) arrives with the typical vinegar-based garnishes, they’re a nice fresh bite against the other heavier starters we ordered.

Such as the chicken liver parfait ($22) that’s topped with a creamy congealed jelly for an extra shot of flavour. The smooth parfait is slightly sweet and when smeared onto the hot crusty bread creates a sweet and savoury concoction. There’s plenty of pickled zucchini included to cut through the parfait’s richness, but the dish could include more bread to help get through the generous portion.

Luckily, it seemed like everything we ordered included slices of the lovely toasted fresh bread. The steak tartare ($25) was a hefty mound of well-seasoned beef mixed with a savoury relish that had a slightly spicy finish. While I would have liked the beef a little less pulverized, the tartare had such lovely flavours, so much so that the large salty anchovy garnishes were unnecessary and detracted from the meat.

Forgive me while I swoon like a dreamy schoolgirl over the heirloom tomato ($24) salad. I hated raw tomatoes growing up, but after tasting a fresh Ontario heirloom tomato, I was hooked. At their prime they are vibrant and sweet in a cozy warming way. They’re especially delicious paired with a creamy burrata, at Hearts simply seasoned with olive oil and salt. If I still used a notebook, maybe I should draw images of heirlooms on the cover.

The tomato and burrata is a much better option than the salad niçoise ($27). While the niçoise’s dressing was tasty, the canned tuna covered everything casting a fishy tinge over the other ingredients. Personally, I would have like to have a bite of protein separate from the crispy sweet green beans, creamy and soft potatoes, and lovely soft-boiled egg. If someone likes all the flavours combine, they can mix it on their own.

Hearts’ shared plates menu sometimes makes it difficult to determine where the starters end and the mains begin, creating a continuous meal that Hearts orders in a nice procession. The moules and frites ($34) were plentiful, in terms of the mollusk and shallots, sitting in a light white wine broth that’s perfect for dipping bread into. A much better option than the sizzling crinkle cut fries, which are so nice and crispy that they’re best enjoyed solo.

Our server suggested trying the polenta gratin ($25), a thick cube of buttery soft polenta topped with tons of melted cheese and served with roasted bell peppers. It’s an interesting take on polenta that is best enjoyed shared with a lot of people as it’s a rich dish.

The BBQ sticky ribs ($44) were a hit at our table. Tender, sticky, and flavourful with a hint of smokiness, it pulled me in and made me want more and more. The accompanying coleslaw is so finely chopped that you can almost smear it onto the ribs, creating beautiful edible confetti, which has a hefty hit of horseradish – the bite a nice contrast against the sweet and savoury meat. If there was one dish that I wish I didn’t have to share, it’d be these ribs.

Visiting Hearts in the summer was a lovely experience, but I can imagine the heightened appeal after a day of skiing or being outdoors in the winter elements. Hearts’ cozy cabin atmosphere, warm staff, and hearty dishes would sooth any chill. Who needs hot chocolate when there’s sticky ribs.  

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Kimberly, Canada
 Address: 235334 Grey County Rd 13

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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: Splendido Revisited for Brunch (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 88 Harbord Street

Type of Meal: Brunch

Having only been to Splendido for Winterlicious dinner, it was great to be able try something completely different – brunch. Unlike most places, they take reservations and offer a luxurious and leisurely experience. Their “two-course” brunch menu is a standard $35.

The first shared spread really embodies bringing the tastes of breakfast and lunch together. For lunch, the board is filled with cheese, cured ham, terrine, pickled vegetables, olives and a savoury parfait (a chicken liver mousse with blueberry compote during our visit). Whereas breakfast is showcased in the basket of carbs - mini cranberry scones, croissants, pain au chocolate (chocolate croissant) and a soft crusty bread arrives alongside butter, flavoured whipped cream cheese and tomato preserve to spread across them.

The rectangular slabs of terrine were delicious, the fattiness and saltiness well balanced so it wasn’t too heavy for the first meal of the day. Of course, the juicy grainy mustard was a great addition and I could have easily just eaten that with bread. Similarly, the thinly sliced cured ham was salty and fresh and great that it was non-waxy. The sole meat product that was too strong for my taste was the chicken liver parfait – but it’s a personal preference as I’ve never been a fan of liver and my friends enjoyed it. Lastly, the small bowl of pickled vegetables and olives helped cleanse the palette after all the meat, cheeses and greasy carbs.

A big scone lover I was a bit disappointed with the small sized ones from Splendido - truly they should be categorized more as a cookie than scone. Although they were flavourful and buttery, it lacked the fluffy centre that makes scones so delicious. Generally, I’m not one to shy away from butter but the greasiness of the croissant turned me off… sure butter is nice but when it soaks into all the flaky layers so that the middle sort of sticks together when you bite into it, that is too much. Needless to say none of us actually needed the pats of butter on the board. The crusty bread was more up my alley since I actually got to use the delicious cream cheese and light refreshing preserve with it.

When they called to confirm our reservation, Splendido asked about eating restrictions and special occasions. So, they also had a plate of soft buffalo mozzarella and sliced avocado ready for my vegetarian friend. Having snuck a taste of the cheese it was soft and fresh – what a commendable personalization for guests!

After the platter had some time to sink in, it was whisked away and our second course arrived. The mussels and frites intrigued me and having recently had a great experience at Beer Bistro a couple of weeks earlier, I was looking forward to having them again. Splendido’s cooking liquid/sauce was simple with shallots, fennel, merguez (a type of sausage) and white wine. It needed a bit more flavour, I had saved a piece of bread to dip into the broth and found it relatively bland.

Moreover, if this is an item they plan on serving into the future it’d be nice to invest in the proper dishes – a deep pot for the mussels to keep them warm (mine quickly cooled with the shallow dish) and smaller bowls for discarding shells would be nice. All in all, they weren’t horrible. The mussels were a good size with a hefty portion of them and the fries piping hot, crispy and delicious, so with a couple of changes the dish could easily be improved.

By the second course I was getting full so didn’t even want to eat off everyone else’s plates so the comments of the dishes below are based off observation and my friends’ comments.

The open face lobster sandwich ($5 supplement) mixes in fairly hefty chunks of lobster with avocado puree and celery. The mayonnaise incorporates ginger and tarragon giving it a nice fresh taste, which was needed to cut through the buttery grilled cheese style bread. I did have one of the black pepper and lime potato chips but really couldn’t taste any of the seasoning; these were okay but the fries much better.

Not much was said about the Cumbrae’s flank steak and eggs except that the pat of beurre de Paris (a compound butter) was a nice addition. From what I could see, the steak was cooked to a decent medium doneness. Having had a taste of the side kale salad it was dressed lightly and sweetened with some dried cranberries.

Somehow it never seems to be brunch without eggs benedict, a tried and true favourite. Splendido switches out the ham with a choice of smoked salmon or avocado. My friend commented that the English muffin the eggs were sitting on top was very crispy. The poached eggs also seemed to be expertly prepared and simply oozed as it was cut into.

Our service that morning was as impeccable as my dinner experience a year earlier. Brunch also seems to be a popular sitting for the restaurant with almost all the tables occupied by the end of our meal. So if you’re in the mood for a two hour decadent brunch, Splendido could be the place for you. 

Overall mark - 7.5 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!

Bier Markt Revisited (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 58 The Esplanade
Type of Meal: Dinner

The Bier Markt has long been a popular destination, especially for larger groups in the downtown core. With over 150 types of beer available, there’s bound to be something to satisfy all tastes. Even for the beer challenged (like me) there are plenty of easy drinking brews – I personally like the Stiegl Grapefruit Radler, which is refreshing (tastes like grapefruit juice), affordable (only $5) and low in calories (88 for a 12oz portion).

While visiting during Oktoberfest, I felt a celebration was in order opting for a pint of a German brew and pork schnitzel ($24). The schnitzel is huge and easily shareable with the addition of a salad or appetizer. The meat was thin and crispy, but could have been cooked a touch less to allow it to be juicer. The lingonberry jam helped a bit and the fruity sweetness went nicely with the pork. There was also a Leffe Brune Abbey Ale demi-glace on the side as well but I couldn’t acquire the taste for it.

The highlight for me (and what Bier Markt should consider offering as a side) was the spatzle on the bottom. Covered with melted gruyere (?), it was comforting and delicious, akin to a German mac n’ cheese. I thoroughly enjoyed the toasted crust encapsulating the soft spatzle mixed with a good portion of cheese.

My friend ordered my go-to dish - the Bangkok mussels ($21). It arrived looking and smelling as it always has - a generous portion of mussels cooked in a flavourful broth made of lemongrass, chilies, coriander, ginger and shrimp. Moreover, the soup is perfect for dipping fries into.

Another friend tried Bier Markt’s steak frites ($32), which contained a decent sized striploin topped with butter. In the end, she noted it tasted okay but a little lean. 

For dessert, the four of us shared the chocolate, pecan and bacon waffle ($9). I know, it sounds like a lot of for one dessert! The hot fluffy waffle was covered with a warm milk chocolate ganache, candied pecans, sweet caramel coulis, whipped cream and crumbled bacon. Although I wasn’t a fan of the bacon (crispy pieces instead of soft blobs would work better), I still enjoyed the rest of the dessert. With it’s big portion, this is great for sharing (pictured below is only a quarter of the waffle).

All in all, this dinner experience was in line with all my previous meals. There’s a consistency to their food quality and presentation that you can come to expect. During the day, Bier Markt offers a lunch menu. You can refer to my post on my lunch experience from earlier in the year here.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more -

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!