Showing posts with label scallops. Show all posts
Showing posts with label scallops. Show all posts

Copetin (Toronto)


Dining at Claudio Aprile's Colborne Lane was one of my first forays into fine dining and tasting menus – a magically delicious experience where ice cream is made with nitrogen and puffs of foam cover meats. Hence, when it was announced that Origin King would be re-opened as Copetín and Aprile would be serving “inventive and elevated” cuisine, I was smitten.

Waiting about a month after the opening date - to give the restaurant the opportunity to work out any kinks – the dinner finally arrived. My first taste of Copetín’s creations wasn’t innovative at all, rather a complimentary Parker House roll that was nonetheless delicious: warm, fluffy, and as buttery as any brioche.


Told that the restaurant’s la plancha octopus ($17) was a popular dish, we had to try it. The grilled octopus wasn’t exactly soft and tender, but I don’t mind a bit of chewiness if it means fuller flavour seafood. All the accompanying items were light and summery including a crunchy jicama salsa, grapefruit segments, orbs of compressed cucumber, mint (this was a little heavy), and rich thick crème fraiche. Even the green curry paste was rather refreshing on account of it being served “raw”, where the spices weren’t cooked.


Be sure to get enough of the shaved dried cured egg yolk that tops the beef tartare ($17) – it’s delicious having a light smoky flavour and a Parmesan cheese texture except creamier. You’ll need it as the fried pasta chips are rather bland, which is understandable if the tartare is flavourful, but even the beef is mildly spiced with beef fat vinaigrette (likely not to cover the delicate pickled chanterelles). All in all, both starters weren’t out-of-this-world, but still good interpretations of the classic dishes.


As for the mains, there were hit and misses. The worst dish had to be the ricotta gnudi ($26), even though it looked and smelt amazing (compliments of the regianno broth). As it’s presented, I expected the gnudi to be soft, but the texture was almost sticky and felt like we were eating semi-cooked raw dough. There’s many ways it could be improved: made smaller so it cooks through or even if it were just hotter, who knows. Once I added the little bits of asparagus from the sea bream into the pasta, it tasted better.   


Curious how the dish should taste, a quick research brings up a popular rendition from The Spotted Pig in New York. As Serious Eats describes, “It felt almost like an under-inflated water balloon, a thin, thin skin that seemed impossibly delicate with a liquid center. I bit into it and felt the rush of warm savory sheep’s milk ricotta burst into my mouth.” At Copetín there’s no liquid centre and it’s more savoury dough than ricotta.

One staff member raved about the ricotta gnudi being her favourite dish while serving. Afterwards, she came back to inquire how we liked it. I had to be honest … the raw dough texture was just off putting. Perplexed, she noted it didn’t sound right as the texture’s not normally so mushy. Alas, she also didn’t do anything to correct for it either – no replacement dish that’s prepared correctly or offer to take it off our bill.

While the triple seared Australian wagyu striploin ($59) was decent for a steak, for wagyu it was disappointing. The Australian version pales in comparison to their Japanese counterpart, with no indication of marbling – the steak was so lean it’s no different from an aged Black Angus. Moreover, blue cheese is an ingredient that needs to be called out on the menu. With a love/hate relationship for many, it’s still rare that I actually like the sharp tangy cheese. Accordingly, it would be nice to know it’d be mixed into the smoked parsnip puree as it probably would have changed my decision on ordering the dish.


Luckily, the seafood mains were much better. The sea bream ($35) had a wonderful crispy skin; the fish’s meat was flaky and flavourful. On the bottom, the diced potato, clams, and asparagus medley was nice … all ingredients that go well with sea bream. While the corn veloute was a good choice as a sauce, it really needed more saffron as it left no taste or aroma. Despite the menu describing the dish as also incorporating chorizo and olive, it was surprisingly light tasting and overall needed more seasoning.


Of all the mains, the most impressive were the sea scallops ($39) – seared beautifully and under cooked so it remained sweet and soft. The Thai curry sauce was flavourful and fragrant, the spiciness balanced against the seafood’s sweetness. Moreover, there was contrast in textures with the kale chip and crisp taro root rosti on the bottom. Forget about everything else, I could have just eaten the scallops with coconut rice and been happy.


In time, Copetín will offer a tasting menu at the kitchen counter – you simply call in to discuss budget and menu preferences and the chef will create something special. Sadly, after our mediocre meal, even the promise of a customized menu isn’t something I’m dying to return for. Maybe it’s because I was too excited for the experience to begin with, hoping to re-live the Colborne Lane days. Or perhaps it’s due to staff members hyping up the experience too much - from the moment we walked in every dish was amazing or the best thing ever… the enthusiasm is great when the food can meet expectations, but makes things worse when it can’t.

In fact, it’s partly why we chose the caramelized tres leche cake ($13) for dessert. After a staff member implored us to save room to try the rosehip bavoir, the same person who loved the ricotta gnudi, I knew we didn’t have the same taste so went with the safer option instead. The tres leche was a decent ending: there was a nice char on the cake, the mole gelato an interesting sweet & savoury combination, and the caramelized bananas & smoked peanuts adding some crunch.  

Note to self: visit new restaurants with low expectations - don’t get too excited and definitely don’t let past experiences create anticipations. In my defence, Copetín’s website is also misleading, describing the cuisine as “inventive”. Having tried seven of the fifteen dishes, nothing stuck out as unique – octopus, beef tartare, and steak are all popular dishes on many menus.

Instead, the website is better off explaining that Copetín means community; as Chef Aprile explained in various interviews, it’s a drop-in casual environment he hopes to create in the new restaurant. I can see Copetín meeting this mandate, its King East location is central and staff members are welcoming and friendly. So maybe you’re not going for inventive or elevated food, but you’ll find a few good dishes and certainly a beautiful comfortable environment to enjoy them in.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 107 King Street East
 Website: http://copetin.ca/

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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!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:

Copetin Restaurant and Bar 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.


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____________________________
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 Beech Tree on Urbanspoon

Castle Terrace (Edinburgh)

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Address: 33/35 Castle Terrace
Website: http://castleterracerestaurant.com
Type of Meal: Dinner


When we visited on a Friday evening, it was a packed house at Castle Terrace; with its laid back atmosphere (for a Michelin restaurant) the dining room was humming with conversation and laughter. Unfortunately, tables are placed fairly close together so you wouldn't want to speak too loudly or risk disrupting your neighbours, but does offer the opportunity to check out what everyone else is ordering.


The amuse bouche for the evening followed a comfort food theme.  The trio consisted of a crab meat ravioli, miniature slider and a liquid Caesar salad.  The crispy ravioli and slider were pretty looking and tasted good, but the most inventive and delicious of the three was the small Caesar salad capsule, which we were instructed to eat in one bite.  As soon as you bite into the half dome, your taste buds are greeted with a blast of garlic sauce.  When paired with the smooth jelly dome and crispy crouton on the bottom, you can certainly see why the chef describes this as a Caesar salad.

Next, arrived an espresso cup filled with the chef's take on a baked potato - smooth cheesy mashed potatoes top with disc of more potatoes (?) and a hint of bacon dust.  As tasty as creamy mashed potatoes can be, but we were still reminiscing about the liquid salad.

As soon as the seared scallops (£19) were placed in front of me, I knew I was in for a good meal. They were a fair size with a beautiful crust that even Mr. Ramsey would be proud of and just cooked so that the middle held a bit of the translucence.  I wouldn’t have imagined making scallops Indian style, but Castle Terrace topped theirs with a light curry sauce (poured table side), placed it on a bed of fragrant curried basmati rice and placed a small disc of naan bread beside each.  

There was just so much to try on the dish! The small pieces dotting the left side of the plate were dried pineapple and raisins, not something I like but thankfully they didn't mix it into the rice. I did enjoy the slivers of fresh coconut topping each scallop adding a light crunchy slaw to each delicate Orkney scallop.  This is certainly as dish you have to try if you like flavourful seafood.

On the other hand, my main of seared hampe of beef (£25) was back to a more traditional offering. Yet, it was presented in an extraordinary fashion and made me sit back for a moment and just take it in before diving into taste it.  From left to right on the plate, a piece of roasted carrot & spring onion, slices of the beef sitting on top of a phyllo pastry filled with crispy ox tongue and lastly a sweet potato mash rectangle filled with bordelaise sauce, mini carrots and a ravioli filled with beef jus (?).

At first, I found the beef to be a bit tough, only to realize when searching "hampe" later for this blog that it was a synonym for skirt steak.  In this case, the beef was actually cooked wonderfully as it was quite tender for this cut of meat and the dish provided a good portion of it. The pastilla (phyllo wrapped ox tongue) was also fairly large and quite delicious. For anyone who has ever had the Chinese pork floss (often found wrapped in glutinous rice or topping congee) the ox tongue had that texture but was moistened with sauce.  Although the flavour was fairly condensed, it didn't have a hint of offal to it and just resembled a gamier beef like bison.

Meanwhile, my husband ordered off of their seasonal menu starting with the crab (£17) which arrived cannelloni style piped into thin shavings of avocado. It was a refreshing dish, much lighter than my scallops, with diced mango and roasted red pepper mixed into the crab filling.  Certainly delicious and beautiful but I did not have order’s remorse.

Being adventurous, he ordered the special of the night, grouse (£33; a type of wild fowl), for his main.  You could tell that these weren't raised on a farm as the menu even warned that the game based dishes "could have traces of shot" in it.  Generally, I'm a fan of gamier tasting meats but even I could not warm up to this dish - breast or leg.  It was either the bird or the bread sauce but there was an unappetizing bitter taste in the dish.  

The only bearable part was the pan fried gnocchi sitting under the legs, served separately, but even these were slightly tainted with a gross aftertaste. My husband ate it and enjoyed it as an "experience" but agreed my beef was the better choice.

Luckily, the meal for him ended off on a sweet note when we ordered the caramel soufflé (£11) to share. Made to order, it arrived at the table towering over the ramekin.  Castle Terrace takes the cake for the most beautiful soufflé I’ve seen. Our server scored the soufflé and then poured a warm dark chocolate sauce on top so that it soaked into the middle.  A generous portion of honeycomb (or what you may know as sponge - the crunchy sweet candy in the middle of a Crunchie bar) and scoop of vanilla bean ice cream topped everything.

The dessert was positively decadent and made to be shared as we couldn't nearly have eaten it to ourselves.  The soufflé was airy and moist and undoubtedly the best sweet version I've ever had. Normally, I prefer my soufflés on the drier side, but even with the addition of the dark chocolate syrup and melting ice cream the structure still remained intact.  The honeycomb was also a smart choice adding a crunchy contrast to the smooth soufflé.
It appears that both of the Michelin restaurants in Edinburgh we visited have some sort of table side cart.  When my husband ordered a scotch (some year of Lagavulin for £11.50) the waiter wheeled over an entire whisky cart and poured it table side - perhaps to entice the other patrons and a great conversation starter.


 Coffee or tea, served with petit fours, will set you back £4.95. During our visit, the selection consisted of a pistachio cream cookie sandwich, a coconut chocolate macaroon and a chocolate filled with pineapple jam.  After such a delicious soufflé all were a bit of a disappointment and a bit sweet.

Castle Terrace did have their service down pat.  Despite being more laid back and casual than Martin Wishart, the servers just had a bit more polish. For example, they remembered my water preference (ice) compared to my other dinner companions (sparkling at £4.50/bottle) without having to be reminded.  It’s these little things that make all the difference.

I did notice a random £1 "charity" charge added onto the bill.  It's unclear what this is exactly for, but after shelling out so much for a meal what's another £1? And perhaps it's a way of having diners look back at the meal without guilt... sure I've splurged and ingested quite a number of calories from the decadent dishes, but in the end I helped someone out so surely all that would be negated right?

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!


Castle Terrace Restaurant on Urbanspoon





CLOSED: Ici Bistro (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 538 Manning Avenue
Type of Meal: Dinner



Ici Bistro has a chef that certainly sounds French – Chef Jean-Pierre Challet.  Having been born and raised in Lyon, it’s refreshing to eat creations from individuals who have actually lived and breathed the lifestyle.  At Ici, the menu offer classics with a twist of fushion – think flavourful sauces and rich ingredients synonymous with French cooking but also additions of guacamole, ginger and Asian pear.


To begin, an amuse of salted cod and butternut squash fritters were presented.  Served warm, the fritters were soft, doughy and had a nice brininess from the fish.  






Ici has a fairly limited menu but each dish can be ordered as a small or large portion, allowing you to customize what you want as a starter. With the exception of the scallop, all dishes and prices listed below are for the small option.  Although many of us opted for two small choices (rather than one small and one large) we were more than satisfied as the dishes are so rich that it’d be hard to eat more of it.


My starter of avocado fritter, crispy squid and guacamole ($15) was very tempura like with the various nuggets of fried goods.  The guacamole was extremely citrusy but leant itself to being paired with the fried squid helping to cut through some of the oiliness.  The avocado “fritters” were actually just pieces of avocado battered and fried so I wouldn’t actually consider them fritters.  They were okay, but a bit much when there’s already guacamole on the plate, a different vegetable would have been preferred.


In tasting my friend’s lobster bisque ($16) I found it was very gingery from the minced pieces they put in the oil topping the soup.  It was calmed down once my friend had the chance to mix it into the bisque.  The presentation was nice with the crème fraiche foam (?) and the fried shrimp on top.


Duck is one of those proteins I love but never cook at home.  So, when I’m out and it’s on the menu I love to get it.  The breast in Ici’s duck magret ($22) was rendered well giving it a thin layer of toasted skin while the meat was a nice medium and tender.  The cherry wine sauce covering it was tarte and delicious, I just wished everything could be hotter (although it’s likely because they had to rest the duck prior to cutting). On the side, was a plump duck confit ravioli, though based on the thin wrapper is more like a dumpling, which was filled with flavourful confit meat.  Another strong tasting element was the truffle croquette; as soon as you broke through the bread crumb coating an ooze of chopped up truffle with cheese/cream flowed out.  The creamy truffle mixture actually went well with the slices of potatoes and green beans, the sole elements of the dish that were more neutral tasting.


My friend’s scallops ($36) were exquisitely presented in a tower form, cut in half with a layer of king crab in between then sandwiched in slices of crispy Asian pear.  Overall, was delicious with the scallop cooked well.  I found the pear accompaniment intriguing but the scallop’s flavour was masked by the other ingredients.  On each side of the scallop were a poached lobster claw and a potato and spring onion (?) risotto.


Having been slow cooked for four hours, the braised beef ($21) was tender despite the lean cut of meat. Sitting on a bed of mashed potatoes with a vegetable medley on the side the small portion was still quite a substantial meal.  Little nuggets of deep fried bone marrow mixed with slivers of beef were intense despite their size – I had a quarter of one and as soon as it hit the tongue a beefy fat flavour flooded everything (so watch out before you pop an entire one into your mouth).


For dessert we ordered two soufflés ($16 each) to share - grand marnier and chocolate griottine.  They were beautifully risen and each served with a sauce to pour in - vanilla custard for the grand marnier and a dark chocolate ganache with the chocolate griottine.  The only bad element was the pieces of fruit inside the batter - big pieces of orange rind and drunken cherries.  Personally, I hate fruit in desserts (with the exception of sponge cake, cheesecake, pies and crumble). Especially with the light bubbliness of a soufflé, the harsh pieces of fruit somewhat ruined it and I had to pick them out.


Despite having a relatively lean staff, service was friendly and attentive. The only strange occurrence happened when we asked the server a question about the menu; she had to revert to the lone waitress to answer that instead. Really, everyone who works for a restaurant should really know what they are serving.   Nonetheless, I enjoyed the experience and left full and sedated.

Overall mark - 8 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!