Showing posts with label shrimp spaghetti. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shrimp spaghetti. Show all posts

Constantine (Toronto)

Situated in the Anndore House, Constantine takes up much of the lower floor of the boutique hotel. It’s swanky and has a cool vibe, fitting into the Yorkville landscape perfectly. They offer a varied menu of Mediterranean dishes with Italian thrown in for good measure – from the owners of Campagnolo, La Palma, and Mercatto it’d be a shame if pasta and pizza didn’t make an appearance. Indeed, I had to order both tried and approved dishes, with some new tastes thrown in for good measure.

The grilled halloumi on panella ($11) is a little seen starter, the cheese resists completely melting and merely gets gooey when it’s licked with heat. I love the cheese's chewiness and its saltiness mellowed by the delicate soft panella (similar to polenta cake but made with chickpeas instead). With pickled chili for heat and a creamy labneh this was a great nibble to start on and would be work for cocktail parties.

Scoring seats at the “Chef’s table” I loved the way it’s set-up – two of the corners are split off in the middle so there is a sense of privacy. However, it’s a shame that none of the chefs bother to acknowledge the diners (even if they’re standing in front of you). While I understand they are servicing a large restaurant and can’t afford to have full conversations, even a quick hello or goodbye would be nice. At the very least, staff should refrain from calling these Chef’s Table seats and merely describe them as counter seating around the kitchen.

Just dress accordingly as it can get warm with the wood fire grill and pizza oven going; nothing a bottle of cold cava can’t fix! Hearing that many of their dishes are cooked (or at least finished) on the Argentinian inspired grill, we thought we should try these special dishes. Sadly, the they were also the most disappointing.

After visiting Tanto and seeing their set-up, I can only deduce it’s a poor decision to have the wood burn directly below the meat, rather than off to the side and cooking over smouldering embers (generally how a traditional asado is operated). The person manning the grill just couldn’t get the flame and timing right: the lamb ribs ($19) arrive overdone to the point the pomegranate molasses glaze turned into a candy crust and the meat was hard and chewy. To be fair, the cut of the ribs was also much too small and an uneven thickness. Even the cooling buttermilk dip could only add so much hydration.

Conversely, the fire roasted eggplant ($14) was underdone – the texture spongy and the insides still white from being raw. Having had some of the thinner end pieces, this dish could have been delicious if the eggplant was cooked longer and transformed into a soft creamy consistency. Mixed with garlic and herbs all the vegetables had great flavours, the generally mild shishito peppers a touch spicier at Constantine.   

While the cacio e pepe pizza ($16) was a little softer than expected (I can't help but recall that golden crispy crust from the zucchini pizza at La Palma), the chef certainly didn’t skimp on the cheese. A blend of three - chewy stracchino, creamy mozzarella, and salty pecorino – finished with a dash of black pepper, it’s a simple pie but allows you to really enjoy the warm chewy crust and dairy, with no tomato sauce.

The best dish of the evening was the spaghetti ($21). The fresh pasta extremely al dante (truthfully another 30 seconds in the water would have been my preference) and the olive oil sauce perfectly seasoned with caramelized garlic slices infusing it with flavour. I love how the sweet marinated Fogo Island shrimp was added quickly at the end for a few tosses, so they remained delicate and not overcooked. This was one dish we inhaled.  

After a carb-filled meal, the labneh mille-feuilles ($12) is a great light ending, even though it didn’t resemble the menu’s description. How it’s described: coffee, fig, and caramelized white chocolate. What I tasted: whipped cream, sweetened lebneh, flakey pastry, and slivers of fig throughout. While still good, I was really hoping for some coffee essence.

Overlooking the kitchen, I was disappointed to see the sheer number of plastic bags being tossed in the garbage (used to hold individual portions of the pasta, shrimp, rice, etc.). Considering the number of dishes that go out from the kitchen, I can only imagine how much waste gets generated and it made me feel guilty for even ordering the pasta. Having seen how other kitchens operate, competitors generally use plastic containers to hold large amounts of the ingredients and then simply spoon what’s required into the pan. Maybe some ingredients (like shrimp) require an element of precision, but surely for low cost ingredients, it really doesn’t matter. Personally, I’d rather have a spoonful less rice if it means being kinder to our environment. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 15 Charles Street East

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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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