Showing posts with label soup. Show all posts
Showing posts with label soup. Show all posts

Merlot Restaurant (Toronto)

I love old school restaurants where the furniture is fashioned from solid wood and the walls are adorned with sconces and/or varied paintings and prints. A place where there’s a napkin, water glass, and place settings. Most of all, a place where the music blends into the background so you can still chat amongst the table.

To my delight, Merlot captures these qualities. You’ll find the traditional French favourites on their menu like escargot and steak frites, as well as interesting dishes like the “St. Tropez” fish soup ($15.50). The broth has a bouillabaisse feel spiked with more saffron and thickened with pulverized fish - personally, I would have preferred if the fish was left in chunks, so it’d feel less like eating savoury baby food. 

The texture improved once I dropped in bite-sized pieces of the toasted baguette topped with creamy rouille (a garlicky lemon and saffron aioli) and grated Emmenthal to each spoonful. Think of it as a lighter French onion soup that swaps out the onion for fish.

If there’s duck confit ($32.50) on the menu, most likely it’s what I’ll order. Interestingly, the duck leg arrives with no sauce giving it a lovely rustic homemade quality. You can certainly taste the duck and without sauce the meat has nowhere to hide, it needs to be done perfectly to taste delicious. In this case, it was.

Yet, it was the caramelized sautéed garlic potatoes that stole the show. Cooked in duck fat until a sticky and crispy crust forms, the spuds made me swoon with delight. Never swap these potatoes for fries.

The meal ended perfectly with a shared slice of tarte aux pommes ($13.50). The thinly sliced apples sat on a bed of apple sauce and a perfect pastry crust. Likely the apple sauce helps to add moisture without relying on syrup, which keep the tart light. While there’s nothing wrong with the apple sauce, using crème anglaise or some sort of custard give it a richer element. And get rid of the fruit coulis, it makes the plate pretty but takes away from the lovely apple flavours.

When I saw the handwritten check, I knew we were in the right place. I truly hope traditional restaurants like Merlot continue to thrive as they have such a lovely charm.

As we get into the summer, I’ll be returning to enjoy their patio, which hopefully will transport me to a Parisian café. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 2994 Bloor Street West

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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!

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Earls Kitchen & Bar (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 150 King Street West (in lobby of the Sunlife Financial Building)
Type of Meal: Lunch

Having only gone to Earls for drinks (a frustrating ordeal where you should arrive by 4pm unless you’re willing to wait), I never had a chance to eat anything more than pita chips with dip.

After returning for lunch, I found the experience much better. The only hiccup was a difficulty in finding our reservation because one person had already arrived and this appears to then wipe the information out of their system. Somehow, the manager figured out the empty table with one person sitting at it was actually our reservation and brought us over about five minutes later.

While we were waiting for them to figure out the reservation debacle, a staff member brought over little cups of soup to tie us over. I received a hearty cream of mushroom made with large pieces of button mushrooms and a generous topping of green onions.  Despite being in small cups, the soup was piping hot and had a nice creamy finish with perhaps a hint of brandy? It was quite delicious even though challenging to eat without a spoon.

Earls’ menu proudly boasts their signature sourdough bread is made in house daily. Since I enjoy a nice fresh chewy and crispy sourdough, I ordered the roasted portobellini and red pepper sandwich ($13) which uses it as a base. The bread was enjoyable – having a nice elasticity but still airy with a crispy crust. But, since it’s grilled with butter on the outside (yes you’ll get greasy fingers), the sour essence of it was covered. Stuffed with a fair amount of grilled Portobello mushroom, roasted red pepper and fresh spinach leaves the sandwich was filling. A sharp melted white cheddar and flavourful artichoke aioli made it more luscious, but the once healthy sounding sandwich ended up being anything but.

Accompanying the sandwich were hot shoestring fries. They were too salty for my taste, but with such a hearty sandwich I had little room for anything else. You can add an extra $1.50 for soup or salad or $2 for yam fries, which may be a better option especially given the delicious experience I had with the soup earlier.

My coworkers ordered CAB (certified angus beef) smashed burgers or entrée salads and all were equally impressive in size and looked appetizing. Overall, the menu prices are reasonable and service fairly quick. Maybe Earls can be more than an after work drinks spot after all.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

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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!