Czehoski - New restaurant on Queen St. W
Finally decided to try the new Czehoski restaurant, a beautiful space that used to be a butcher. Despite the name food is haute western-european with some unique twists in presentation and unusual ingredients.
The space is small like most Queen W restaurants but beautifully done. The back dining room is wonderfully comfortable and the perfect mix of warmth and elegance. The front area serves as the bar while the open kitchen seperates the front and back. We went on a Monday night around 7:30PM and was immediately seated- the dining area had only 2-3 tables but closer to 9 PM it was 3/4 full.
To start our server recommended the espresso gnnochi which was supposed to be the classic pasta but cooked with espresso with lamb and other items. We opted to share the 'duck parfait' instead. I will try anything that finds a different way to serve duck. Presented like a classic parfait, it was in a tall fountain glass with three layers. The bottom was a coulis-kind of sauce with fresh apples and other fruits to give a nice sour-sweet flavour. The bottom layer was cool, which constrasted with the warm duck 'scoop' of shredded duck meat, which was very soft and moist and finally topped with radicchio leaves and pinenuts. Overall very interesting and fun to try, but ironically the duck was the most dissapointing- it lacked texture and flavor but the radicchio and sauce at the bottom made it enjoyable. Apps are 7-9$
A had the 'low-temperature' blade beef steak which was paired with corn off the cob and fingerling potatoes as well as dark green leafy veg whose English name I can't recall (I believe it's a Chinese vegetable). At first bite the steak was dissapointing, each slice was difficult to chew (because it was 'low-temperature' you're not asked how well done it was to be but it was medium-rare to medium) and it was obviously of poor cut. I told the server and was slightly dissauaded when he tried to tell me that it was simply a section of the steak. I was firm, and he brought it back. The chef ended up coming back to the table and explained that they just got new grain-fed cuts of beef (or something) and that he was very sorry. The steak was on the house and he even got me another martini! The second one was better but unfortunately not what I would call a 'good' steak it still was slightly tough at the edges. The marinade is interesting though as it's flavored with tobacco and gives it a delightfully smoky and distinctive flavor that goes well with steak. The corn was very sweet and actually shucked off the cob and the fingerling potatoes were nice and not too much. Again, with this dish everything but the main attraction (the steak!) was good and I may try it in the future when they have a better handle on their quality of meat. The steak was 25$, entrees were around 18-25$
My friends had a chicken leg stuffed with prisciutto and another trout. All of the dishes were beautifully presented.
For dessert we (3 at the table) shared the vanilla mousse. A simple teacup filled with mousse and topped with a few pieces of white chocolate, lemon foam, and hazlenut oil. The hazlenut oil didn't come out at all, but the lemon foam offset the mousse wonderfully. The mousse itself was excellent- light texture and perfect balance of creaminess and sweetness that was a wonderful finish.
Did not have wine that day but tried several martinis. They tend to use a lot of fresh fruit in them which is a welcome change over the usual minscule garnish. I loved my martini, called the Olivette which was Rye, amaretto, sweet vermouth, and bitters.
Service was superb, very nice and accomodating without any pretentiousness. I only remember better service at Flow. The 'newness' of the restaurant shows through though, as they seemed to be overstaffed as there was always several serving staff hovering in front of the kitchen which looks a bit odd. The less forgiveable thing is that we happened to notice one of the kitchen staff *eat* something while working! That was quite unsettling for us. But beyond that our server was highly attentive, always filling our water and available to take our order at all times. I really appreciated the chef coming out to explain the problem with the steak and not making me feel uneasy in sending something back.
Total bill came to about 147$ for three people. I hope the review doesn't sound too condemning because we enjoyed eating there greatly. The (young!) chef has very dynamic twists on some dishes that aren't really tried right now in most Toronto restaurants and you can tell that the restaurants is trying extremely hard to ensure all it's customers have a good time. I'm confident that the kitchen will smooth over it's staff and food quality issues in time and will present a flawless experience. At the moment it's very good, and I'll certainly be returning a few weeks.
I was really hoping that if you were resurrecting this thread that it would be about something newsworthy - Coca, Czehoski's new tapas restaurant across the street! My friends tried it last week and really enjoyed it. So far, I've only tasted some of their offerings at the Food and Wine Show. I'm looking forward to trying Coca - any detailed reviews for us yet?
re: Food Tourist
A review on coca.
im new to this whole food forum thing, but i just got home from eating at coca and decided to google it and see what others reviews were like.
after reading this thread i figured id put some input regarding my dining experience rather then start a brand new thread on coca.
i could be labeled a "foodie" yes, but i am a cook first and foremost.
i could care less if the service is great or horible. if the food isn't up to par, thats all i remember.
i went to coca with a fellow chef of mine looking to just be fed the chefs selection. whatever they thought was the best dishes , (read freshest) as well as what dishes makes this restaurant stand out from the others.
As a cook for many years, we love feeding this sort of table.
Industry or not, people who trust the chefs to send out a blind tasting menu is the best kind of table in my mind.
i get a tingling sensation just at the thought of it.
and of course you're going to bring out the big guns for these people.
so this was our meal.
Fennel black peppered olives
Chorizo w/ i think some sort of spicy japanese hot mustard sauce
Salt cod croquettes w/ mayo
Chicken wings w/ blue cheese sauce.
Horse sirloin(i think) skewers
Beef cheek croquettes
Chili prawns w/ bread.
Flatbread with duck confit, some type of cheese and poached pear.
Charcuterie and cheese plate.
now i am greatful that they were up to just feeding us, some restaurants just dont understand what this tasting menu thing is, they are just used to selling an app, followed by a main, but this day and age, and with Nathan as the executive chef, i figured this wouldn't be a problem, which it wasn't.
so, they accepted this mission and my cooking buddy and i were getting ready for what we hoped was going to be a great meal. (i think all chefs get a little giddy going out to eat somewhere nice as we rarely ever get too.)
the first course was good. a mild cheese, gooey on the inside, a light breading on the outside. i appreciated its simplicity.
i was hoping the chorizo was going to be homemade, but it wasn't. which is fine because it was a surprisingly better then average supplier bought chorizo. the hot mustard sauce went well with it.
the fennel olives were a bit brash for me. very salty olives, paired with even stronger seasonings like black pepper and i will assume, fennel pollen, which if anyone has used is very very potent. i liked the ingredients they seasoned with in theroy but im not sure if they marinate a bunch ahead of time or do it a la minute, but it would have been nicer if they were a little more subtle or used milder olives.
the salt cod croquettes were tasty but dull. i think they were suppose to have truffle with it, which was non apparent, and they were definately not salty. which is a shame. sometimes you can over soak them and take away from there nice saltiness.
the prawns were supposed to be chili prawns, which i figured meant spicy. they weren't. Perhaps there was some espelette pepper in the oil, but the flavor was non apparent.
a nice surprised was the hint of vanilla on the prawns. also, i must add that the shrimps were cooked perfectly. the thing that made this dish was the warm bread that came with it.
i have been sent chicken wings before , but they were always full of flavor and served unique. these ones were just chicken wings with blue cheese dressing.
very not exciting. not even lolly popped for easy dipping and eating.
i only finished these to not be rude.
it seems that beefcheeks are very popular these days and getting a lot of press.
these croquettes were first just too much of it. they were dry, fried to long and served with a dribble of sauce that i didn't have a chance to taste because it got sucked up by the dryness of the meat and breading. this was a very disapointing dish.
although there was one bite where i got a nice jellied piece of fat which was great! i only wish every bite was this succulent.
When i think of sardines, i think simple. Grilled, oil and salt and pepper maybe some fresh herb.
these ones looked nice but were mushy, hard to eat as i was busy picking little bones and what felt like tiny bits of scales out of my mouth.
the skin was soft, like it had been steamed almost. and anyone who eats sardines knows its best when they are crispy on the outside, even to a point where you overcook the inside slightly which also helps weed out the tiny bones.
horse skewers were nice, seasoned properly, a little tough. but nice if you've never tasted horse before.
the cheese/charcuterie plate was very blah. . spicy chorizo was nice but the bayonne ham was dry and i think there was some cured horse on there if i remember correctly which was the only think i really liked on the dish.
two of the three cheeses were horrible. they were served at the right temperature, but two of them looked and tasted like they were pre-cut. and dried out on all sides, to the point where there subtle flavor had no chance of being tasted. it tasted like i was chewing on erasers. the third was like a roquefort cheese. hard to screw up in my mind even with carelessness.
this one was disapointing and tasteless.
the bread was dry, cheese was lame, duck confit was dry, and the pears were just bland poached pears.
i worked Italian restaurants for a few years and there are a few guidelines with this sort of dish.
if i was to serve this dish, id either serve it with a stinky cheese or something sweet like mascarpone. the pears would be poached sweet with sugar, port, cassis...somethng to contrast a stinky strong cheese. and the duck would be glazed and seasoned well before serving. Little chunks of even duck confit cant withstand the oven without drying out which in my mind defeats the whole purpose of cooking it in duck fat.. the bread would have some olive oil drizzled on it and some fresh cracked pepper. this was a lame attempt at something that can be done so well with just a little bit of sensibility.
All in all, a huge disappointment.
A lot of deep fried things, things with either no sauce or a lame sauce.
Most of the dishes lacked severely in seasoning. Which is rare for a tapas place that is suppose to pack a punch with these small dishes.
No effort in presentation.
I would recommend going to torito’s for Spanish tapas if that’s what your looking for.
You might get a slightly overcooked fish or meat here or there, but its definitely much better done and affordable.
re: Grant van gameren
Thanks, Grant! Great first post. Here's my review of Coca:
We seem to agree on various points, including the beef cheeks. They pre-marinate the olives and have them sitting out in dishes behind glass at the bar. Yes, the wings could have been more exciting but they were moist and perfectly crispy, which is better than most places including Duff's.
I look forward to trying Amuse Bouche to check out your food!
I have no idea if what you had was prepared sous vide or not, I do know, however, that sous vide has been around Toronto since 1988 - it's not new. Here is an abstract of what David Kingsmill had to say in a Star review in February 1988.
"Le Prestige, Cuisine Francaise, at 102 Yorkville Ave., is owned by Georges Merguet, a Frenchman who worked with sous vide in France before coming here and who brought with him a sous vide chef, as well as all the equipment used there.
Poached salmon sous vide is as good as you will ever have it: perfectly moist, perfectly wonderful. Foie Gras from Quebec is silky smooth and rich on the warm salad. (The salad greens, by the way, are not done sous vide. Nor does sous vide work for grilled steaks.)
For the restaurant eater, sous vide is its own quality control. Only the best raw foodstuffs can be used. If the food is off, even if you can't detect it before cooking, the vacuum makes the food taste even more off. On the other end, however, great food gets better with the sous vide method. ..."
re: George W.
Sous Vide (also known as Cuisine en Papillote Sous Vide). the sous vide cooking method was created for longer shelf life, storage and fast service of food. the method is not much different from canning except for the temperatures used. the interesting thing is that chefs have made it sound like some new form of cooking but it has been around for a long time. but hey...if you can make something old and relatively unknown trendy....why not. check out the link below. cheers
re: George W.
Thank you for your reply.
It is funny that you mentioned fois gras.
The fois gras dish was similar to the salmon.
Almost tasted like marrow.
I would bet that this is what is happining at Susur, however I never did get a proper answer from the always harried staff, and I am not about to do this method at home.
Was delicious in any case.
Some of the other courses, not so successful.
e.g. apple horseradish soup.
by the way, I complained once before about the service at Susur.
The service and servers were in top form, but it is still not a relaxing atmosphere, as there is constant movement. Felt as though I was watching a beehive
The noise level, as well needs some attention.
Am I crazy, or does anyone else have this problem with Susur?
I ate a delicious salmon with morel dish at susur last night.
The salmon tasted like a warm flaky sashimi.
I inquired as to the method of cooking, and the server told me it was quickly fried.
I told him that there is oil whatever on the salmon, and could he check further.
He came back with possibly baked (absolutely not) or steamed.
At this point I gave up.
Could this be the secret of my succulent salmon?
Sous vide requires a couple of pieces of equipment.
First a reliable way of sealing the meat without bacterial access (usually only feasible commercially using vacuum packing - no home units available yet).
And also a stable temperature 'bath' - has to be extremely accurate as you have no way of checking on the contents as they're vacuum sealed.
If you want more details on how this may be realized, check on Alinea restaurant in Chicago which opened in May and was designed to have a series of 'sous-vide stations' all at different temperatures (electronically controlled) so that different foods can be slow cooked at different temperatures.
Not surprisingly, food inspectors are finding some of these developments 'troubling'.