Perigee Experience - Amazing!
This is a bit late as I was off last week for vacation and avoided the computer as much as possible, however a good friend and I had a lovely evening at Perigee on August 18th.
To start, we had walked around the distillery district for a while and made a stop at Soma for some Mayan Hot Chocolate and picked up some of their heavenly truffles...by all means try their 12-year old balsamic vinegar truffle - they are fantastic and the hot chocolate is incredible...
As our reservation was early (6pm), we were promptly seated at the central table, facing the kitchen and we watched the chef and rest of the staff finish their prep...
We ordered sparkling water to drink and I had one of their signature cocktails which included mango juice, coconut rum and mint liqueur, my guest had a glass of pinot grigio (2003). After discussing any dietary restrictions (I'm allergic to raw tomatoes) and dislikes, we both ordered the 6 course meal. Our drinks were brought along with an amuse bouche.
The amuse bouche consisted of a calamari tart (tiny and perfectly cooked), deep fried mozzarella tortellini (crisp coating with an al dente bite), a crab taco with avocado (too rich for my liking) and a wild mushroom strudel (flaky phyllo with woodsy mushrooms - very nice).
After the amuse we were given a plate of breads and spreads, including a lavash flatbread, sourdough and the tiniest rosemary panini (paninini?) I've ever seen. The spreads included a truffle white bean puree (kind of gritty texture with strong truffle flavour), a peppery olive oil and fresh churned butter (pure heaven).
After swooning over the fresh butter, our first course arrived, as you know, no one at the table gets the same item. My guest received tuna two ways - one as a tartare (sweet and delicate) and one cooked in a radicchio slaw. I was served striped bass with pears and radishes. The bass was buttery and delicate with a crisp seared side, very nice indeed.
For the second course, my guest received a grilled lobster tail served on a wild mushroom tart. This was a fantastic tasting item and the smoky flavour blended well with the woodsy mushrooms. I received two seared diver scallops with carrot ginger puree, sugar peas and an onion ring. The scallops were perfectly cooked (almost raw inside) and the carrot ginger puree was sweet and smooth.
For the third course, my guest was served sweetbreads poached in cabernet grape and raisin sauce served over a beet salad. I'm not usually a big fan of sweetbreads, but these were good, however they paled in comparison to the dish I got: peach cobbler served with seared foie gras. The foie gras was crisply seared on the outside and just melting inside. The combination of the foie and the sweet peach cobbler had my guest moaning with delight.
The chef, noting our enjoyment of some of the "nasty bits" came by with an interlude for us to try: foie gras mousse cheesecake featuring a foie grais mousse over foie gras pate in a parmesean crust made with melted foie gras instead of butter. This incredibly rich item would have been over the top (and quite possibly indeed made us sick from the richness) if it weren't served with a sour cherry compote and a pink grapefruit salsa. Beautiful and we both asked for a cake to take home...
We were then thankfully served a palate cleanser of a lychee sorbet (my guest) and a lemon sorbet (myself) both were astringent and refreshing.
The main course was served next, with my guest getting a smoked bison tenderloin served with vegetable ratatouille and roasted red pearl onions. The chef delivered my meal with a michievous gleam in his eye. I was served what was probably the best damn deli-style roast beef sandwich EVER. It consisted of rye crisps fried in duck fat with rare venison tenderloin, cabbage dill slaw with cornichons and dijon mustard sauce. This item was the standout of the meal and the flavours paired nicely.
For the cheese course, my guest was served a belgian hard cows milk cheese (sorry I forget the name) with an olive crisp and radicchio salad, I was served a blue cheese with white peaches and walnut oil. Both cheeses were strong and earthy and complimented their garnishes well.
We were then given a "pre-dessert" to ease our way from savoury to sweet. My guest was given a tiny scoop of sweet corn sorbet served on crisp corn bread and cilantro oil. I was served a banana fritter with chocolate ganache and yuzu juice. The combination of the rich chocolate and sour yuzu juice was fantastic!
For dessert, my guest received a hot chocolate custard with marshmallow whipped cream and sour cherry coulis. I received a lemon citrus napoleon with lemon poppyseed melba toast and wild blueberries. I love citrus and blueberries and enjoyed every morsel of this dish. The chocolate custard was not overly rich or sweet and was a nice combination of flavours.
When the bill was presented, we were given a dish which had a homemade marshmallow (tiny, perfect and delicate), a piece of candied ginger and a lemon biscuit.
Throughout the evening, the servers were attentive without being intrusive and took care of our every needs. The chefs were pleasant and detailed in their descriptions and made the evening a very enjoyable experience. Both of us agreed that we would go back to Perigee for a special meal in an instant!
Now I'm worried...I'm coming up from Boston this week and was looking forward to Perigee, but it sounds like Perigee is flaky now :-P
Food Tourist: what did you think was better than Perigee in Boston? I've been to quite a few 'modern cuisine' places here and they don't sound as intriguing/brave as Perigee, both in terms of food ingredients and the concept of a chef getting your preferences...
Hey Spike... you should still go for it. I can't imagine any restaurant getting 100% support from an entire city full of food lovers (though Splendido may come close). I think there are enough people who love Perigee, and the experience is unique enough that you should try it for yourself and judge. I've always had a great evening, even when there has been a dish or two that I haven't cared for.
If you go, please report back on your experience!
Spike, I went to Clio in March (with 3 non-foodie friends who only ordered drinks and appetizers!) and was so impressed with both the service and the food. The server was so attentive and sympathetic and although they wouldn't let me have the tasting menu, she treated me like gold. The uni and lobster cassolette was divine! And I loved the shiso mojito. I'd have to check my notes to see what I had for a main course and dessert. Obviously, I go for unusual tastes and ingredients; I get bored easily with the same-old ingredients. The meal I had in the fall at Perigee just wasn't memorable. I'm looking forward to trying Kaji soon, too.
I'm glad to hear all the positive reviews; however, last fall when I went with a group of friends, at least two of us were underwhelmed with its mediocrity. I'm reluctant to give Perigee a second chance because $200 is a lot to spend on another potentially average meal! I plan to finally try Splendido and Susur sometime in the next few months instead. I hope those won't be disappointing. Frankly, any upscale meal I've had in the USA (Seattle, Miami, SF, Boston and NYC) tops anything I've had in Toronto, and I normally don't say such unpatriotic things!
re: Food Tourist
Wow! Them's fighting words!
But I agree on some points - two disastrous meals at Perigee with uninspired wine matches. On one occasion, two in our party ordered "no organ meat" and "any organ meat you have". They received identical dishes - and one contained organ meat! Strangely they didn't always get the same wines (although I think that was probably bad service as other people at the same table also got mismatched servings of the same wines).
However, please post on your Splendido/Susur experiences. Susur is an inspired, artistic, and almost eccentric chef. He's always interesting, but occasionally you'll get some misses. Unfortunately the service can be pretty poor. But in those situations, please speak up (and politely - after all this is Canada) and it's amazing how it improves.
And Splendido is currently firing on all cylinders. For me, easily the best restaurant experience in Toronto right now. Food, wine and service are all top notch. This year I have 2 Splendido meals in my top 5 but indeed the finer North American experiences are possibly better - but consider what you pay in the US. Taking that into account, I'd only rate Jean-Georges (for lunch only, not dinner) in the same league. The food at WD-50 and Manresa are also excellent value and top quality, but the service at both places falls below Splendido. Love both Boston & Seattle for fish (and Toronto can't compare for fish, I agree) and haven't been to Miami, but would love to find better 'dining' at comparable prices in NY and SF - especially SF which, to me, seems to have slumped recently.
Thanks! I agree that the wine pairings at Perigee were uninspired. Glad to hear your experiences at Susur and Splendido and am looking forward to dining there. Regarding dining in US, you're right about the prices being higher there - but at least the exchange rate right now isn't too bad! Dahlia in Seattle was very affordable and yes, fish was the highlight! I have tried Nougatine, the affordable version of J-G, but obviously it's not as good. I guess omakase at Nobu doesn't fit our price range here... the black cod at JK wine bar was pretty good but not the same! PS I haven't been to SF since 2002 so maybe things there aren't the same.
Do you mean the Manresa in Palo Alto (near SF)? If yes, reports on the SF Board lately have been mixed.
I was very specific about what I would not eat at Perigee, and got nothing that didn't align with my requests about what I wouldn't eat. Had I gotten a dish with bananas, say (one of the few foods I asked them to stay away from and which were in at least one or two dishes served to others that night); I would have immediately sent it back! Did your party do that when the organ meats were sent?
If I ever get that email with the menu etc, I will post the wine pairings (I asked for that as well) and let others judge for themselves....should have taken notes...
As I have noted in other reviews, wine prices are most definitely NOT higher in the US than in Canada! I saw bottles on some of your lists for around $40 or $50, that I could buy in my neighborhood grocery (not that I would) for less than $10 or so. Smoking Loon Merlot for around $40 (that was at Thuet if memory serves, btw, NOT at Perigee)...you have got to be kidding me!
And again, thanks for not only posting about your trip, but continuing to follow the discussions. It encourages us to keep recommending stuff to visitors.
Yes, the Manresa in Palo Alto - was there last Fall and resolve to return once I can find a deal on airfare (it's been more expensive this year for some reason - probably fuel costs).
At Perigee we didn't return dishes - there were four of us so we just switched between us. And this wasn't an allergy, just a preference. The bigger problem was the identical menus for people who expressed desires for complete opposites.
But, on my second visit (yes, I did return after several rave reviews on various food sites) this time with someone who had an allergy, that person was served the wrong food - fortunately we did realize it and absolutely it was returned. So my second visit could have been potentially disastrous. Strangely, in Toronto, Perigee seems to be the only 'fine dining' place where my experiences differ from the consensus. Obviously I like some places more than most contributors, and others less - but I can usually rationalize the preferences. But at Perigee, both visits were really poor and at those prices I'm not encouraged to try a third time.
Also sorry you didn't receive the menu - but that's not only a Perigee issue. It happens to me regularly, particularly when travelling, - maybe they don't think it's worth it to take the effort for people from out-of-town.
And a comment on wine prices. I don't like it either but I don't think it fair to judge Canadian restaurants 'in general' on this issue. The markups here are generally 2-3 times cost and in the US it may even be higher. The fundamental problem is that restaurants in Canada have to pay retail prices (OK technically there are some tax adjustments) whereas in the US they pay wholesale prices. That's what causes the net difference. That's the price we all pay for Government control of our retail alcohol system - and don't get me started on that one!
I was glad to hear about your experience too, Food Tourist. I was at Perigee this past Saturday night (as was a different poster above) and we left disappointed, and a tad depressed!
We hadn't been there in about a year and a half, and this was my birthday dinner. After a year of being house bound with our first child, Perigee was the IT dinner for the summer for my husband and I.
Our first experience there was exceptional and we've recommended Perigee to many, many colleagues and friends since then. We had one server that first time and each dish was presented like a masterpiece. Wines were truly exceptional and the sommelier took the time to explain the pairings with our tasting items. We felt truly well taken care of by the serving staff and rated it as one of the best dining experiences possible in Toronto.
This previous Saturday night was entirely different. Our reservation was for 8:30 which is prime time in the kitchen and they were definitely in the zone. What marred the evening was the service which seemed perfunctory and rushed. There was a constant rotation of servers, and we asked to speak with the sommelier twice before we stopped another person rushing by, which turned out to be him. He merely asked us if we wanted the wine pairings and that, was that.
Wines came and went, sometimes after each dish was half eaten, and other than a "This is a Gewurtztraminer, 2004" -- no other information or reason for the pairings.
My husband had one dish which was a whimsical idea but the flavours were masked in the Caesar vs. Caesar -- deconstructed caesar salad, no anchovy at all, with two west coast oysters in a parmesan crust, and a Caesar drink deconstructed as a shot with an east coast oyster. The parmesan crust was so over cooked that the oysters had no taste at all and were mushy, and the Caesar drink shot was so spicy that the oyster was wasted in it.
The main for my husband was a beef tenderloin which truly, was like butter. But the sous chef was perhaps having a bad night at his station 'cuz I saw him plate that dish and it was butchered blocks of meat by the time we saw it.
On the upside, the seared foie gras with the peach cobbler was brilliant and well balanced and my smoked maple and juniper duck breast was heavenly.
My point is that we didn't feel like we had a special evening at all and we were just part of the serving assembly line; and for a $200+ dinner, I think some attentiveness and a bit more care would have been nice.
Splendido now tops our list for not only their gracious service and amazing food (I think you get exceptional value from their tasting menu) but for always making us feel like our overall dining experience was to be relished.
we had a similar experience @ perigee as you mentioned. The dishes had the inspiration but were executed poorly. The foie gras course - the cheesecake presentation was a good idea but lacked taste. The peach cobbler presentation again, great idea but the piece of foie gras as a travesty.
My boyfriend had mentioned that he did not like liver nor the taste of it and was served squab which the chef described as - tasting like liver(!?!?!?!)
the bison tenderloin however, made up for the rest of the meal as it was spectacular.
The fish course was good but the oyster course was meh as you described. We had anchovies on our caesar i remember as I quite enjoyed them.
We were sat at our table very promptly - but it took over 15 min for anyone to come take our drink order and another 15 min before the server came around to ask about our food preferences. Slow on the ball that night. Other tables that were seated after us were served first. Tsk tsk tsk.
We had a mediocre experience there - i'm not rushing back. I prefer kaji over perigee anyday.
I wasn't overly impressed with Susur the last time i was there
I usually keep a diary of interesting food experiences I've had and request a copy of the menu from the restaurant if it's something that has particularly piqued my interest.
I agree with Food Tourist that a number of meals I've had in the USA have topped my experiences at many places I've been in Toronto. As I don't drink wine (due to problems with sulphites), the wine pairings being uninspired does not bother me.
I've been to Susur on a number of occasions and the past two times the service has been unfriendly and bordering on the downright rude. I have also come across instances where the dishes sound like an inspired idea to begin with but were near inedible due to the clash of flavours...yes they looked beautiful but food is to be enjoyed and tasted, not looked at.
But heck, my favourite tasting menu dining experience was at the French Laundry...NOTHING I've had since has beaten that...
Yes, I have to agree. This was the best dining experience I had on my recent trip to Toronto....I was also there on the 18th, having grabbed a last minute spot for one at the center table...and for this I owe a debt of gratitude to TorontoJo, since she urged me to reconsider my choice of George over Perigee, in the following thread:
Thanks to her comments, I went back again to look at Perigee's website, realized that it was dining with a full view of the kitchen (my favorite way to dine alone), took a look at the weather report (which was threatening rain) and decided that a patio wasn't that big a deal, and made my reservation at Perigee. Am I glad I did: this was my most enjoyable fine dining experience in a long, long time, and more than worth saving up my Conference per diem and chipping in my own money to experience!
I was puttting off writing a full report, because when I asked if it was possible to get a list of what I was being served (to avoid having to take notes) the server asked for my email and said it would be sent to me. I haven't gotten any email yet, so this lack of follow up (assuming it isn't yet to come) is really my only complaint about the place... I won't even gripe about the wine prices (as I have in most of my Canada reviews this summer) because actually, while they were high, I didn't think they were out of line, and the pours were *very* generous. In every case I got more than the 2 ounces stated per pour on the menu: in most cases it was more like 4 ounces...and all of the pairings were excellent, varied, very well thought out.
So, great wine portions. and to answer ddelicious' question: portions were not very small, but nor was I totally stuffed, though I was definitely just the other side of satisfied by the end. I was happy just to walk the block or so to the main street from the Distillery to catch a taxi, and then collapse into bed...
As for the menu I had, I can't remember all of the details without notes or that email, but I got the six course menu, and highlights included:
-a bellini with fresh peach nectar to start: excellent, but I probably would have skipped it if I had known how generous the wine pours would be.
-same lobster that Mike got; delicious, perfectly cooked;
-the sweetbreads on beets, which I thought was outstanding, but then I didn't have the fois gras to compare them with... :-)
-a pork belly that made me swoon (I love pork belly, and the Chef was pleased to see how my eyes lit up when it was put in front of me);
-my main course was a venison 'pot au feu', which was absolutely stunning. Probably the best venison I've ever eaten. However, I put the dish name in quotes, because I don't think it was traditional: I believe the meat was roasted before being combined with the lovely, perfectly cooked vegetables...but, it is possible it was just seared first (?) In any event, it was tender and delicious.
-I also had the lemon citrus napoleon; and those are flavors I love as well, although the lemon filling was a tad too sweet for my taste. Probably the lease successful course for me. Not that it wasn't very good: it was; it just wasn't a standout.
-I also got a biscuit or cookie and the perfect little marshmallows with my bill.
Service throughout was outstanding: informative and friendly without being overbearing, and timing and pacing was spot on. Moreover, the entertainment value of eating while watching the kitchen, being surprised with each course, and having the chef come over periodically to describe his dishes and give and get feedback can't be overstated. I had a lot of fun, enjoyed every minute, loved the food, loved the wine, and definitely would return in a heartbeat! Yes, also highly recommended. Thanks to all the hounds, and especially to TorontoJo, for this recommendation.
You're welcome! I'm so glad you made it to Perigee and loved it as much as I do. I love that it's fine dining that isn't stuffy or somber. I love the interaction with the kitchen, though I can certainly understand if some people would rather not see their food being prepared.
If you're ever back in town and uncertain whether you want splurge for another 3-digit meal, make a reservation for Perigee's dessert tasting. Totally decadent and quite reasonable ($40?).
Now susan... we just need your report on Chiado. I got the impression that you weren't overly impressed. :)
I did get the email with dishes and wine pairings...here you are, with a few additional comments:
TUNA DUO WITH TUNA TARTARE ON FOIE GRAS MAYO, GRILLED RADDICHIO, PICKLED ONION AND A BALSAMIC DRIZZLED BREAD CRISP PAIRED ALOND SIDE COLD POACHED TUNA ON CHERVIL AND FOIE GRAS SAUCE, TORN RADDICHIO, BARBEQUED ONION BALSAMIC CROUTONS
DOMAINE PAUL BLANCK, PINOT GRIS, “PATERGARTEN”, ALSACE, FRANCE 2003
>Well, guess since I didn't remember this even though the OP had it, it wasn't the most memorable dish of the night...
MARSALA GLAZED, GRILLED NOVA SCOTIA LOBSTER KEBOB ON SAUTÉED WILD MUSHROOMS AND FRESH CHERRY TOMATO IN A PUFF PASTRY VOL-AU-VENT ON VANILLA MARSALA GLAZE
BOUCHARD FINLAYSON , “CROCODILE’S LAIR” , CHARDONNAY, OVERBERG, SOUTH AFRICA 2002
BRAISED PORK BELLY ON A SALAD OF HONEYDEW MELON WITH GRAPEFRUIT, JULIENNE OF SNOW PEAS, STAR ANISE AND MUSTARD SEED VINAIGRETTE AND A FERMENTED BLACK BEAN AND BROWN SUGAR JUS
ST. URBANS-HOF, PIESPORTER GOLDTRÖPFCHEN, RIESLING KABINET, MOSEL SAAR RUWER, GERMANY 2003
BRAISED PROVIMI VEAL SWEETBREADS WITH A SALAD OF WILD ARUGULA, TOASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS, GRAPES, RAISINS AND PICKLED BEETS
ALBERT MANN, “VIEILLES VIGNES” AUXERROIS, ALSACE, FRANCE 2004
LYCHEE AND SAKI SORBET WITH PLUM JAM
RARE ROASTED RACK CHOP OF NEW ZEALAND VENISON, CARVED OFF THE BONE, ON A POT AU FEU OF VEGETABLES IN A VENISON BROTH
AZIENDA AGRICOLA BIANCHI, GATTINARA, ITALY 1999
> my memory was correct that this wasn't a traditional pot aue feu. It was outstanding...
VIEUX BRUGES AGED BELGIAN COW’S MILK CHEESE WITH FENNEL AND GREEN OLIVE SALAD, BLOOD ORANGE MARMELADE AND BLACK OLIVE BREAD CRISP
HENRY OF PELHAM, CUVÉE CATHARINE, BRUT, NIAGARA PENINSULA, CANADA N. V.
GARAM MASALA SUGAR DUSTED MEXICAN STYLE CHUIROS WITH TAMARIND AND WHITE CHOCOLATE CRÈME ANGLAISE
>This one didn't do much for me, but I was started to feel fairly stuffed at that point...
NAPOLEON OF LEMON, LIME AND ORANGE CURDS WITH POPPY SEED MELDA TOAST, CITRUS SALAD, FRESH WILD BLUEBERRIES AND WILD BLUEBERRY COMPOTE
ST.STEPHEN’S CROWN., 3 PUTTONYOS TOKAJI, HUNGARY 1999
The service was excellent on my visit, very unlike Kai's experience below, which would have disappointed me as well. From the perspective of a visitor, especially one dining alone, it was more appealing than Splendido, which struck me as being more like something I could find back home. With the possible exception of sitting on the line at Boulevard (where one can see the plating but not all of the kitchen activity), I can't think of any place comparable to Perigee's overall package in the SF area...
Your menu certainly sounds good - I love most of those ingredients - lobster, churros, yum. However, my experience also included great-sounding ingredients with disappointing results. Our group of 7 were seated away from the kitchen, so I can imagine that as a solo diner, the view must have been great. I, too, got the sweetbreads (prepared differently) but they were blah. (The sweetbreads at Peller Winery were also blah. The best ones I've ever had were at Les Halles in NYC. I can still remember the exact taste - I have a sudden urge for a road trip! My mom swears by the sweetbreads at Cafe Jongleux in Montreal.)
Just a slight caution.
Both the tasting menu and the 'accompanying wines' are now the most expensive in Toronto (for example more expensive than the equivalents at Susur, Splendido, Sen5es and Truffles). Of course, if it's wonderful then good luck to them, but everyone should be aware of the costs.
I left satisfied but not stuffed. The first few courses were what one would call "small plates" and gave enough to give a good representation of the flavour but not fill you up.
The main course was slightly larger (I got two medallions of venison tenderloin on the "sandwich").
You have to realize that the chef does tailor your items to your dietary needs and likes and dislikes. One of the questions we were asked were if we had aversions to seafoods, meats, game and organ meats.
My concerns were of whether the flavours would clash, especially the game and organ meats, but they were paced and the flavours seemed to flow well. It was a very well paced meal...
prices changed recently..
5 = $95, 6 = $115, 7 = $125
We went on saturday night and had a similar menu to what Mike from Hamilton had.
We didn't get a dish presented with the bill though. Has anyone else gotten this before?
Perigee certainly is one of the best dining experiences in Toronto... will have a review with pictures soon.