- Chili Feb 25, 2001 10:20 AM
I would like to hear people's thoughts on the better steakhouses in Toronto. More specifically, where can one find the best STEAK in Toronto? Looking down the list of messages, this topic was brought up a long time ago, but I think it may be time for an update.
My personal preference is Harbour 60. For pure quality of the steak, it is untouchable. However, I have heard people speak highly of Barberians. This is interesting since I really don't like Barberians steak at all. It is obviously a matter of personal preference, but the style of steak served and the way it is prepared seems to me quite different at Barberians. It is highly seasoned and appears to be grilled, rather than broiled at extremely high temperature. My preference is the latter - which I think is the way it is prepared at places like Ruths Chris, Mortons. I always order ribeye and the marbling of the Harbour 60 steak was far better than Barberians.
As an aside, I loved the wine list at Harbour 60. If you are willing to consider a bottle in $60-70 range, they have some superb Australian reds (e.g., Penley Estate). However, I did think the dining room was kept way too dark...you almost had to feel your way around your plate! The service was very good and professional. They did inadvertently (I think) present me a bottle of wine from a different vintage than was listed on the menu (I guess if I could read the vintage on the bottle, it couldn't have been that dark in the room!). But when I noticed this they were very polite and it seemed like an honest mistake.
I have not been to Mortons and I went to Ruths Chris so long ago that I really can't remember how the steak was.
Any thoughts out there...?
Never been to Harbour 60. I'm told they have Washington State Lamb (which seems to have disappeared from Toronto), so If I go I'll have lamb. Didn't know about the wine list though. I think Barberians has the best wine list in Toronto, so have eaten there several times. Liked the steak well-enough, but I rarely go out for steak; prefer to have something more 'exotic'. Hated Ruth Chris. Haven't tried Morton's. My steak-eating friends swear by a place way out on Queen St East (but I can't recall its name - will post when I find out). And the best steak I ever had was in Santa Barbara (Chuck's Steak House of Hawaii), so maybe I'm not the best authority on red meat - mind you, both times I was there I had absolutely stupendous wine at very fair prices. And for those who want an 'occasion' at reasonable cost, the Keg Mansion is pretty good, and you get out for $100 for two even with wine.
re: Alan Gardner
@1610 Queen St East.
I've never been but several people have told me this is where they go to EAT (as opposed to dine on) steak. It's a neighbourhood place - sort of a steak diner, but they cut their own meat (no prepackaging). I was told they used to cut the meat from a side of beef in the diner itself, but they've now moved down the block and do the cutting in the basement!
Typical comment ' I never go downtown for steak, it's half the price and just as good at the Tulip'.
Not sure if they even take reservations - and this is all hearsay, but from several people.
Couple of things
1. Harbour 60 does broil their steaks (actually they broil to seal then finish in the oven)
2. Barberians does grill
Re the Tulip - finally got around to trying this. It's the Chowhound steak place. Formica tables, some booths (cloth upholstery, not vinyl).
Here's where you go to eat (not dine). All meals come with mashed pots or home fries (no french fries, no baked pots) - but the portions are so huge you won't have room for the sides anyway!. Wine list is best avoided (3 selections). But the meat is perfectly cooked as ordered and you're in and out within an hour. The T-bone was 20 oz, the porterhouse 24 oz and the cost for both all-in including side of mushrooms and fried onions plus 1/2 litre of 'wine' was under $80. We were there around 5 pm and by 6 pm the line-up was extensive (no reservations).
This is not a place for dining - but if you have to have red meat you'll pay about half what it would cost in a typical Toronto Steak House - and still have a doggy bag containing enough meat for another meal!
I went to Barberian's (Elm St.) the other night with my boyfriend, and we both loved it! Our waiter was very efficient and professional. He wasn't super friendly, but he wasn't rude either. Both our steaks were cooked to perfection. I had the filet mignon, and it was very tender. Neither one of us ordered a baked potato on the side, but I will definitely try it the next time I go! A couple at the table next to us had it, and it looked great. The waiter brings out all the toppings for the potato, and he will add what you ask him to. The onion rings were delicious! They were dipped in fish & chip batter, quite a treat! We also had the apple beignet with vanilla ice cream on the side for dessert. It was good, but very oily.
They are known for their wine selection, and an extensive one it was! The waiter brought us a spiral-bound book that had 90 pages worth of wine!
Not much has changed since the last time this topic was raised imo.
Personally, for me, the best steak in Toronto is at Jacobs. Was there last night, had a 54 day wagyu (australian) aged bone in striploin. Sublime. I have had their 40 oz porterhouse, which at that time was aged 64 days. They print their menu daily as they age in house. Therefore their steak availability in terms of cuts/age change daily. Ask if they have anything special not on the menu, sometimes they have high grade japanese beef in house, in you want to drop $150 on a steak. Also they bring out a selection of salts and sauces with every order, the volcanic rock salt is very good.
Prior to Jacobs I was with you on Harbour 60, I still love it...but Jacobs is a notch above yet imo.
Barberians...not even in the same ballpark. The steak is good, but I consider Barberians like I consider the steak at the Keg or Hy's, it's good, but not sublime.
Jacobs is the best. The only thing I don't like about this place is the price. If price is not a matter, go to Jacobs. Besides the steaks, I once had a baked potato with wagyu brisket. that is really really good.
Barberians is also good, but not as good as Jacobs. Ruth Chris is similar to the Keg except the service and the room are better.
Let me 3rd or 4th another raving review of Jacobs & Co. I think you described it perfectly--it's sublime steak. I think they are hands down one of the best steakhouses we have in Toronto today. I find that Jacobs is for people who really know and enjoy food. Harbour 60 to me is a place more to be seen spending an obscene amount of money than anything else. Yes, you'll get a nice steak but you'll also spend lots of $$$. And I'm pretty sure that if you compare apples to apples or in this case steak to steak at both Harbour and Jacobs, you'll come out cheaper at Jacobs. Plus to me, service at Jacobs is usually excellent from what I've encountered. I eat at Harbour when I have to for business, but I eat at Jacobs when I want to enjoy my steak. I also for some strange reason, feel the same way at Harbour as I do at Via Allegro--which is to say kind of Godfather-ish. The reno turned out nice at Harbour, but I still prefer the room at Jacobs--and most especially the bar/lounge piano area downstairs at Jacobs.
Very little difference? OK, let's see:
Harbour 60 Apps:
Foie Gras $39
Shrimp Cocktail $36
Lobster Mango Salad $36
Steak Tartar $30
Jacobs & Co
Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail $19
Wagyu Steak Tartar $22
Lobster Cobb Salad $18
Most expensive side dish at Jacobs: $12
Most expensive side dish at Harbour: $40
I can't begin to list all steaks but pretty much every steak is more expensive at Harbour that I can see on the menu.
Where you also find a huge dollar difference between the two is wine. Harbour's markup is legendary and high. Jacobs has just as good a wine list, in most cases, less expensive.
Now, I don't write this to pit Harbour 60 against Jacobs & Co. in terms of price alone, but when a poster outright makes a general statement like, "our bill is always higher at Jacobs", without much truth basis to it, I think it's unfair to a place like Jacobs which I very much enjoy.
I go to both and enjoy both.
I ALWAYS enjoy Jacobs better for some reason, and magically, unlike deelicious, I ALWAYS leave Harbour 60 with a higher bill at the end of the night.
Dollar for dollar, service for service, each time if I had to pay my own money, I'd always choose Jacobs. I just find that after I eat their steaks it's what a steak should taste like in my mind, and I just don't feel that gross heaviness that I sometimes feel after other places eating steak.
re: Restaurant Dish
Thanks for the analysis Restaurant Dish.
I love the extra details at Jacob's also; the muffins when you leave...and the assortment of salts, etc.
And yes, I haven't had the same "heaviness" after a great meal at Jacobs. Once, at the Homestead resto in Manhattan I woke up ill early in the morning after a client dinner where everyone seemed hell bent on eating enough meat and fatty food to cause heart disease in one sitting!
re: Restaurant Dish
My bills are always about equal at both places. I think it is due to the fact that Jacob's generally has a larger selection of more expensive (and in my opinion) better steaks available for purchase. Sure you can buy a 42 day aged angus 6 oz tenderloin for $40, but that is not why I go to Jacob's. I go to Jacob's to eat steaks like my Australian Wagyu bone is Sirloin, which was around $75. The average steak that Harbour 60 has available is USDA Prime, aged usually about 40 days, and selling for $50. They have Kobe and it is expensive but few people order it.
As for sides, the average side at Harbour is about $11 and feeds an army. Jacob's is around 12 and feeds a slightly smaller army. The side that is $40 at Harbour is a huge slab of foie, remove that and there is really no difference between the two.
The wine list at Jacob's has about a 10-15% less mark-up than Harbour 60's, but it is no where near as large in terms of selection. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem finding a nice wine to buy at Jacob's, and I am not generally a fan of huge tomb-like wine lists, but the carrying costs of that tomb-like selection, for those that want it, gets reflected in the price of the average bottle.
I would think that for the average consumer going to Jacob's or Harbour 60, barring purchasing some of the higher end seafood appetizers or the huge slab of foie at Harbour, your bill is going to be fairly similar at both places. They are both expensive.
IMO, however, you will have the better steak experience at Jacob's.
I tried to choose similar items to compare and it just so happened that some of those items were just that expensive at Harbour. I differ slightly with you about portion sizes - while yes, Harbour's sides are sometimes "jumbo" size, I don't always want or need a portion that large (especially with clients, weird sharing sometimes) and also I tend to find everything a bit too salty for my tastes at Harbour and I like things pretty salty.
I also slightly differ on your wine analysis of both places. While I haven't ever compared the same wines at both places, I have noticed that Harbour's wine list is somewhere between 100-300% markup. (I've also noticed this at reds bistro btw).
I don't mean to leave the impression to anyone that Harbour is not a first-rate steakhouse, because it is. They do things very very well there. I just think, for me, that Jacobs does just that much better a job.
But there's enough steak to go around for everyone...
Jacobs is pretty good and likely the best steak house in the city.
Whether you get a sublime or merely very good steak depends largely on luck.
They have a tendency to both overcook and (grossly) over salt.
The next time I go to Jacobs I will order my steak one level down in doneness i.e. Rare instead of Med. Rare and request no added salt on the steak.
Because they cook very hot (1800F supoosedly) the steak continues to cook and it only takes a penny's worth of salt to ruin a $121 Porterhouse.
I'm a bit surprised they haven't gooten this down yet, it isn't as though they opened yesterday.
My two cents:
- Harbour 60: Great steak, best service at a steakhouse in Toronto, very pricey but wonderful experience. I've had filet minion, sirlion and lobster.
- Barberians: Good steak, pricey. Value reasonable for me.
- Ruth's Chris: Did not enjoy it on two occasions; had porterhouse and rib-eye. Sides were not flavourful.
- Morton's (Toronto and Mid-town NY): The shtick with the cart was interesting, but the steak was only mediocre. Asked for rare and got medium.
- Tom Jones: Great steak, lovely atmosphere. Pricey but reasonable value.
- House of Chan: Underwhelming.
- Carmans: Hasn't been good since the fire. Tux and fancy chargers don't make up for mediocre food.
- The Keg: Good steak, safe at almost any location. Rib-eye, Baseball, Sirloin, Porterhouse are all fine. Price / Value proposition good.
- The Tulip: Over-rated for a poor piece of meat done on a flat-top.
Our go-to choice:
- Senior's Steak House: Good Steak (Sirloin, Rib-eye), sides included (Potato, Garlic Bread, Pickles, Teramosalata, Tzatziki, Sautéed Mushrooms). Wine is cheap by comparison to most places, and value is high.
When I'm an eater, it's Senior's, when I'm a diner, it's Harbour 60. I'll try Jacob's and see if that opinion changes.