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parnets are visiting in a few weeks from the prairies and whenever they come to T.O., they like to go for oysters. usually, we would go to rodneys, but i have read such good things about starfish, i was just wondering if it's worth a checking out with them. aside from the oysters, how is the rest of the menu? they like to have some seafood usually as well. any feedback would be great

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  1. Starfish is excellent. I find the non-oyster offerings far and above Rodney's. Their mains are excellent. If you've already done Rodney's, you have nothing to lose, and I don't think you will be disappointed.

    1. Beautifully cooked 'fish' dishes. Amongst the tops in TO. Don't forget the dessert also! Both their chocolate and lemon creations are heavenly!! By the way, September is the month for 'flats', so don't forget to order the French Belons and Irish counterparts when ordering your oyster selection. Enjoy!

      1. Personally, I am a huge fan of Starfish - the oysters are divine. The menu is fanatastic and always beautifully prepared and cooked well. I always make room for dessert. They are really cap of the evening...

        If I had to be picky and choose one thing - there is one draw back, i would say the menu is a little limited - there is a small handful of fish dishes & a small handful of "turf" dishes - but I have never had difficulty finding something I enjoy there. I would say if you like Rodney's - you would definitely like the food & quality of Starfish.

        1. Just went to Starfish for the first time, and the food is impressive. Terrific oysters - certainly on par with Oyster Boy. We also split a lobster and then had fish mains. Everything was terrific.

          I did, however, find the service a bit maddening. When I'm out dropping $400 with tip on a meal, I don't expect to have to ask for bread, or point out that our water glasses are empty, or ask for Tabasco (!) when the oysters show up. I've spoken with a few friends who've eaten there, and they had similar experiences with the service at Starfish.

          So...it's a great place, and it's good to see a young guy like Patrick McMullen who has devoted his life to a cuisine, won accolades, and managed to open a very nice place of his own. Very Jamie Kennedy-esque (the hairstyle, too). But I think they need to spend a bit more time hiring good servers and training them well.

          Next time I think I'll just go with my wife and sit at the bar. That looked like fun.

          13 Replies
          1. re: childofthestorm

            just so you know, starfish does source some of their oysters from oysterboy... when they're the biggest distributor in canada you can't really help it.

            and his last name is McMurray, in case you call him by name next time.

            if you're not more than three people i highly suggest the bar as service straight from patrick is impeccable and lots of fun. there's an astounding difference from being seated at the bar to a table.

            if you're going to drop a similar amount, i've always thought the 100 oysters plus a magnum would be loads of fun when booking the back room ;)

            1. re: pinstripeprincess

              Popped into Starfish tonight after having put this on my 'to dine' list for a couple of years. Was aptly and graciously served by an older gentleman at the bar. I had the fries ('bout as good as JK's in my opinon), 18 oysters and a sea scallop. Oysters were lovely, particularly the colville bay's. Dessert was ontario peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream. Top notch all around, I will be back.

              1. re: deabot

                Has original chef Martha Wright left yet? I have been meaning to try this place for so long and now I'm afraid I've missed the boat! Though from what I've heard of how the place is run, surely her replacement will be up to snuff...anyone hear where she's going?

                1. re: Recyclor

                  The chef that took over from Martha is Kyle Deming.

                2. re: deabot

                  we popped into starfish last night as well....sounds like we had the exact same order -fries, oysters and peach cobbler...honestly, the peach cobbler is worth the trip alone....starfish is our 'go to' place -definitely for their oysters & fries (yu-um!) but just about everything on the menu is fresh & excellent...highly recommend.

                  1. re: deabot

                    oh my gosh, sea scallops! you hadn't mentioned it on the blog but i am super excited to hear that. may have to do up a special trip over there to get a couple of those down before they're gone.

                    how'd you find them?

                    1. re: pinstripeprincess

                      Different....not as big as I thought they were but very fresh all the same. I also got to sample a clarenbridge bay oyster from ireland. omg, plump, huge and really briny like a taste of sea! You'll have to try one of those as well.

                3. re: childofthestorm

                  Hey childofthestorm, if you think your service was bad let me tell you what mine was like - They are suppose to have a special of 100 oysters for $100. My sister had it there once on a Friday and thought it was pretty good so wanted to take me there. When we called for a reservation we were told that 100/$100 was only available on Mon-Wed. We were pretty flexible so reserved for Tuesday.

                  When we got there and asked to order the 100/$100 we were rudely told that it was unavailable. When we asked for clarification since we came here on a Tuesday for that purpose we were rudely informed by the waiter that he has no control over the weather in PEI and whether oysters will be coming in. Baffled we then asked if Starfish at this moment in time did not possess 100 oysters. The explanation rudely given was that the special has to come from a particular supplier, they cannot possibly give a $1.5oyster for $1. In between all these questions we were repeatedly told by the waiter that he cannot control the weather. When we told him that we didn't expect him to control the weather, just to make the offer available when they said it would be available he said the offer has always been Mon to Wed *UPON AVAILABILITY*... All BS I say.

                  The guy was totally unapologetic. At one point in time he said he was going to get Patrick to talk to us, but after 5 minutes only the waiter returned to tell us that he could not control the weather. Lost our patience at this point in time and asked for the bill (unfortunately we had ordered a very much watered down bloody Ceaser which cost $8). Headed over to Rodneys instead and spent $300.

                  From all the other reviews, it appears that the food is fine. I cannot comment on that but I can say that their service is the worst I have every experienced anywhere.

                  1. re: bobbyjoe

                    I have exactly the same experience as yours. Without repeat one more time, I know some (may be all) of their oyster are coming from Diana's.

                    1. re: ostracario

                      It does not sound like a lot of oysters to me. You probably need 5 people or so only to eat 100 oysters and you can always skip apps. Yes, it is quite obvious that Starfish wants to bring in more "patrons" who are looking for a deal with the 100 oyster/$100 deal. Being said that, I always experienced ok to good service at Starfish. Eventhough I do not order the 100/100 deal, I don't see any problem with it IF they can handle it properly.

                      1. re: skylineR33

                        If one read the 'small prints' ( actually quite big on the black board behind the oyster bar ), one should notice the deal is for 'Malpagues' only. Like the waiter said, if due to weather, the oysters didn't arrive from the PEI then there's nothing they can do. I don't think its fair to ask them to substitute an 'on-special' item costing $1 each with others, say French Belons at $4, though they might have hundreds.

                        1. re: Charles Yu

                          I agree with Charles. While clearly the waiter handled it badly (why is polite communication in such short supply these days?), the economics of oysters dictate that in Canada only Malpeques would be feasible at $1/pop. If you want Malpeques at $1/pop there have been a few places around town offering this deal during various happy hours. ( e,g. Biff's used to but I'm not sure anymore). Indeed, if the oysters are cheap in Toronto, you are almost assured they are malpeques.

                          Having said that, assuming the story is accurate, the waiter was clearly having a bad day (to be polite).

                          1. re: bluedog

                            Yes, Biff's is still doing $1 oysters before 7 pm. Had them last week and they were super fresh and delicious.

                  2. Wow, $400....I'm planning on taking a friend there for lunch this week. Any feedback with lunch visits? Price, menu? Thanks!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Cinderella

                      Price of a meal at Starfish hinges a lot on the number of bi-valves one orders. During my last visit, I ordered 10 oysters and clams with prices ranging from $2.75 to $4.00 each. My fish entree, which, by the way was perfectly cooked and uber delicious, was around $27.00. Dessert was around $9.00 ( the flourless dark chocolate cake was heavenly ) and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc about $10.00. Yup! $100 per person is about right. I also understand lunch and dinner menu is the same.

                    2. I'm not sure about lunch prices...I mean, we had three dozen oysters, a 2/1/2 pound lobster, and then five fish mains (at around $25 apiece). It adds up. But it was pretty gluttonous, and I could imagine having an excellent light lunch for two, maybe a dozen oysters followed by lunch specials.

                      Hopefully the service will be a bit better than what we experienced.

                      1. I work just down the road from Starfish, so the temptation to drop a couple of oysters for lunch is always there. If you don't go overboard it perfectly possible to have a very decent lunch for $40.00.

                        1. Made it to Starfish today for lunch. I must say that the crowd there is very much older but the food was great. It was my first time ordering and eating oysters and it was a fun time. The entrees were excellent as well. More than what I would have spent for lunch normally but definitely a memorable lunch that left two tummies very happy.

                          1. I've dined at Starfish many times over the past several years, I love that place. Although I too find the service a little lacking, especially in the past year or so . They are all friendly, but always seem to be scambling when it gets busy. We always seem to remark thet they need more staff, since I still pay full pop even though they are short staffed and I'm not getting what I deserve as far as service goes. The past few visits the owner has been completely missing in action and it really didn't seem as though anyone was in charge. The matter of sitting at a table vs. the bar really shouldn't matter. At an oyster bar the bar makes sence but here the bartender is ... well... to say the least rude. Everyone I know loves the food and great oyster selection, the chef really seems to know how to make people happy, nice portions, lot's of vegetables, and not too expensive. But sometimes I feel as though I've been taken when I it's not delivered in an attentive way.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: phisherking

                              You are absolutely right but what you are saying is not unique to Starfish. Every restaurant that has an 'Off Track' location is coping with those problems. Starfish's location is a bit isolated from the main track and therefor they can only predict their business by the amount of reservations they take. If they get 30% reserved on a week night they will schedule their staff accordingly. If then they get a lot of walk-in traffic they are in trouble. What can you do, it is a no win situation. If you over staff they can't keep their servers because nobody makes money on a slower night and you as a restaurateur will be continuously looking for new wait staff. Very dicey biz...so I just forgive them and enjoy the good food.

                              1. re: phisherking

                                We have been eating at Starfish for years. Probably about once a month. Not at all for the last 8 weeks and it was due to the service. The last time we had dinner there they tried to turn the table so quickly they didn't even offer dessert or coffee. Placed the bill on our table without asking. It put me off abit because this time we were with friends from out of town and we always rave about the place. On top of it, we are regulars and the server knew us. That sucked.

                                But, I have to say the food is fantastic. The oysters are great. We are always happy with the quality of food but the service sometimes feels rushed. (But the last time was over the top) And so we have decided to spread our money around abit these days and eat at some of the other places in the 'hood.

                                1. re: Apple

                                  This is why I love chowhound, to hear stuff like this. Thank you for posting. Starfish has been on my "to dine" list and will remain so, but so nice to know about "back stories" like this.

                                  1. re: Apple

                                    Did it happen to be summerlicious when you last dined there?

                                    1. re: OnDaGo

                                      This is the kind of thing that really floors me about this place! The service is just not there, and it shouldn't matter if it's summerlicious or not. Especially since you have paid for dessert in the the 3 course set price!!! I gave up on the place based on the service too. The quality of the food has always been high, anybody know where the chef went? I'd like the opportunity to enjoy that cooking elsewhere.

                                      1. re: OnDaGo

                                        Don't get me started about summerlicious. (sorry, I know there are people out there who live for it, but not me.) It has been my experience, that even the most well managed restaurants are manic so I think you can plead a little understanding when it is summerlicious.

                                        I think the point is, in general - Starfish has great food but the service is usually wanting. Summerlicious did not cause Starfish's service issues. The service at Starfish is pretty consistently so-so regardless of the time of year. I've never been in food service but I think fatboy44 has a point about it being abit "off track" Makes sense to me.

                                        1. re: Apple

                                          Funny, I've only been to Starfish once, and our server was fantastic, even though it was during Summerlicious and the place was packed.

                                          However - the woman who brought our desserts had a real snarky "hey, I'm just joking - but maybe not" sort of attitude. She asked which of us was "the smart one" who ordered her favourite dessert - suggesting that the one of us who ordered the other dessert was dumb, I guess.

                                          And when a woman at the table next to us asked if she could have hot sauce for her oysters, the female server snapped "Sure, if you want to ruin them!". While I'm in agreement with her that oysters are at their best completely naked, if a customer wants hot sauce for their oysters, then just shut up and get them some damn hot sauce - especially when you serve them with lemon, horseradish, and cocktail sauce!

                                  2. Yeah, well, Tabasco tends to be popular, and many oysters places (including Rodney's) bring it out without being asked. I realize that oyster purists claim I shouldn't be putting this and that on the oysters but whatever. I want it the way I want it, and this was the first time I've had to ask for Tabasco.

                                    They are very nice at Starfish, absolutely. But at that price point I shouldn't have an empty water glass for more than five minutes, and I really don't think this is unreasonable.

                                    1. +

                                      100 Adelaide St E, Toronto, ON M5C1K9, CA

                                      1. Starfish. I was there for my wife's birthday and we are big seafood lovers. I made reservations and we were told we could have a spot at the bar.

                                        The good news, we did get our spot at the bar. . .and it was a great spot to watch Patrick shuck like mad. The bad news was, we were told to order our oysters immediately as it was going to take at least 40 minutes from that moment. We ordered up a round of about $100 worth of bivalves and a few things from the kitchen. Someone else mentioned the watered down drinks and I have to say, my caesar was pretty unmemorable (but that's not why we were there). . .we got our oysters, our waiter ignored us all night and then eventually returned to see if we wanted more oysters...we did, and we were about to order up another $100 bucks worth and were told it would be another 45 minutes! We declined and within 2 minutes our bill hit the bar...no asking if we would like dessert, and no offer of coffee. . .

                                        The place was busy and Patrick was obviously slammed (there were still empty tables in the back room however). He kept declining help with the oysters yet was way behind and obviously losing money (at least ours). He might want to re-think his hospitality if he wants to sell his book. . .he didn't chat up anyone at the bar, and in response to questions from patrons he would utter no more than two word answers. Maybe its time for him to take a break and chat with his patrons. This was our second trip. . .last time we ordered the 100/100 and they were out of bread and some of the oysters!?

                                        We won't go back. . .I have never been ignored at Rodneys or Oyster Boy. . .or anywhere else for that matter. . .I mean if he was nice to us we might have even bought one of the books stacked so neatly behind him. . .shucks!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: godzero

                                          Seems like they need a good manager or maitre d' to keep things moving smoothly. They have all the right elements except good delivery.

                                          1. re: jayt90

                                            That is a real shame and it kills me to hear this kind of stuff. I really hope he reads this board, but probably not. We've had great service every time we've been but judging from this board - it was probably just luck which I'm thankful for cause I love it there.

                                        2. My girlfriend and I dined at Starfish last night for my birthday after I found out about it on Chowhound. Simply put, it was the greatest seafood meal I've ever had. Also, now that it's October, 2008, the comments from November, 2007 regarding service no longer seem to apply (at least last night). Our waiter was courteous and answered all of our questions, despite it being a busy night (it was Toronto's Nuit Blanche / city-wide art show).

                                          We had the shucker's choice dozen oysters, split a salad, she had lobster, and I had the Lake Huron bass. We split a toffee pudding for dessert. All in all, the food was amazing. Oysters were served with two made-in-house sauces (a champagne & shallot sauce and a seafood sauce) that were subtle, but perfect for oysters since they didn't overpower their delicate flavours.

                                          The bad: the salad was nothing special - just some mixed greens tossed woith some olive oil and white wine vinegar and not worth the $9 cost - and it took a few minutes just to get some salt and pepper delivered to the table. That's it though.

                                          We loved it and will be going back soon.

                                          15 Replies
                                          1. re: pgroom

                                            I am oh so sorry to add the bad news. I started out as a massive fan of Starfish. The early years were great. I ate there about a month ago with 5 friends (chefs) and it was, literally, one of the worst dining experiences of my life. Patrick was out of town, which clearly should have nothing to do with anything, but the entire evening was awful. Food, service, you name it - depressingly poor. Waiters were yelling at each other, it took over 30 minutes to get oysters, appetizers came before oysters, mains were wrong & grotesquetly over-cooked. We ended the evening going to College St. for dessert because we were still starving. Think I've said enough. Run, run as fast as you can directly to Rodney's. Rodney's will never let you down.

                                            1. re: Prok

                                              The above two posts point out the inconsistency of the place. Under staffing, poor organization, lack of room control, are bad enough, until even more people come in and the place is hopelessly behind. No wonder the waiters snapped or yelled.
                                              The pity is Starfish has so much potential, and they continually blow it, yet remain popular. A visit to an east coast seafood roadhouse, putting out bushels of simple broiled fish, would be instructive.

                                              1. re: jayt90

                                                Wow!! To read such negative review on one of my most favourite restaurant in town - I'm stunned!! I sure hope Patrick is reading all these and taking notes! Overcooked mains! now that is a first for Starfish!! Since their opening 6-7 years ago, I must have eaten there a few dozen times. Never once have I had an overcooked fish there! Did they change chef again? When Martha Wright was there, their fish dishes were the best in town!!

                                                1. re: Charles Yu

                                                  I wrote a similar negative review about a year ago, with server issues to the extreme.
                                                  After attending a private function with Patrick personally shucking several types of oysters, and other raw delights, I have been tempted to go back, but now I will hold off.

                                                  1. re: erly

                                                    Toronto restaurants are notorious for bad service. This I understand and have tried to tolerate. However, BAD FOOD, thats another matter! Especially when its happening to a consistently good restaurant and one's favouroite! Need more confirmation fast! I'm planning to head down this week for some 'flats' - 'tis the time of the year!!

                                                  2. re: Charles Yu

                                                    Whoa, whoa, whoa. Overcooked fish entrees? This is highly disturbing - I was planning to check it out next week. May have to rethink this - anyone else have a good/bad experience? Need more info!!

                                                    1. re: BokChoi

                                                      I think I have said this in a previous post, but I have never had bad service or bad food at Starfish.

                                                      I almost always sit at the bar and the service from Patrick or one of his shuckers is always second-to-none.

                                                      The last time I was there the food was the best I have had... seriously good actually.

                                                      I was feeling under the weather that night and couldn't eat everything... but it was truly delicious... oysters, scallops, smoked sturgeon, pork-stuffed squid, berkshire pork chop... it was all so good.

                                                      And to top it off Patrick even gave me a gratis copy of his book "Consider The Oyster"!!!

                                                      1. re: BokChoi

                                                        Nothing to worry about. The fish at Starfish is excellent. Just go and judge for yourself!

                                                        If they happen to have tarakihi in the fish specials, order it -- it's a wonderful fish from New Zealand.

                                                        1. re: TorontoJo

                                                          Great thanks Non_Doctor and TorontoJo. I hope they are on their game the day I go. Thanks for the rec on the fish plate to order, TorontoJo.


                                                          1. re: TorontoJo

                                                            Yup! The Tarakihi I had there was amazing. Perfectly pan seared and placed on top of a bed of pea sprouts with a yummy broth/sauce.

                                                            1. re: Charles Yu

                                                              Looking forward to trying it.

                                                              1. re: BokChoi

                                                                Bad food and service?! - FALSE ALARM!!!!!!!
                                                                There are more to fear about the current financial market than the food coming out of Starfish's kitchen!!

                                                                Went there tonight straight afterwork for some in-season oysters and a quick early dinner. Service was very engaging and friendly. To start off with, I ordered 12 oysters which included PEI Glidden point and Colville Bay, West Virginicas from BC and Irish Galway and Glanarden. The PEI oysters were HUGE, the size of a Blackberry phone! On steroids may be? Ha! For mains, I had the 'Lake Huron Sturgeon with braised red cabbage, potato fondant and creme fraiche sabayon'. Being a lake fish, the sturgeon needs to be cooked all the way through. However, to my amazement, the fish was still ultra moist and juicy. As for the texture, it was kind of spongy/chewy, not unlike garoupa or monk fish. All in all, an excellent piece of perfectly cooked fish with a wonderful mouth feel.

                                                                Conclusion: Food is as good as ever ( 2001 to present! ). Any concern is unfounded. Possible kitchen slip-up may be during a packed Saturday evening?!

                                                                BokChoi, you'll be fine! Enjoy!

                                                                1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                  Hi Charles. how do you think of the fish main entre ? I think I like it more before the chef change. I really like the sauce they match with the fish back then.

                                                                  1. re: skylineR33

                                                                    So far, after Martha has left, I have tried their Tunisian Sea Bream, Lake Huron Pickerel and then yesterday's Sturgeon. All of them were very tasty. Whether its broth or sauces. None of the fish were overcooked!

                                                                  2. re: Charles Yu

                                                                    Thanks very much for the speedy report, Charles Yu. The SO is in town this week, so I have a bunch of restos lined up for us to try. If all goes well, we will be visiting Starfish and will report back.


                                                  3. I went there last year post hockey (instead of a pitcher and some wings). 3 of us had a couple pints of Guinness, a couple Bushmills each and shared 3 dozen oysters. It was $60 each and I wish I could do it after every hockey game.

                                                    1. I finally tried out Starfish after wanting to visit for an age.

                                                      Gorgeous oysters (East Coast) and an amazing lobster. Disappointing dessert, even though highly recommended.

                                                      The real shame of it, and what spoilt an otherwise lovely evening, was overworked waitstaff. I believe there were two people on, and the dining room was busting. It took an age to get the starters, an age for the mains, no offer of drink refills or reorders. It was a strain to get attention. Bill came ages after asking. Original euphoria of food had definitely worn off by the time we paid as we were just desperate to leave.

                                                      Such a shame! The meal was almost perfect.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: Suburban Gourmand

                                                        Last night, amidst the financial turmoil, the restaurant was surprisingly fairly busy. However, they do have 5 wait staff working the floor. Only two people on?! It must be fairly late and the rest must have gone home?!

                                                        1. re: Charles Yu

                                                          As I said, I believe there were two people on the floor, but I know for sure that there was only one in the entire front section because we kept trying, trying, trying, and trying again to get the poor girls attention. She looked very stressed out trying to deal with everyone. She was all over the restaurant. We were there at 7.30pm and left at around 10pm, so I wouldn't see that as late...more like prime time?

                                                          1. re: Suburban Gourmand

                                                            You never know in a restaurant maybe a waiter cut themselves and and to go home, or someone called in sick the last minute. Many things can happen to put the restaurant in the shit for one night. From the sounds of it from other posters it is not a regular occurance...

                                                      2. Was specifically recommended Starfish as being one of the very best places in Toronto for seafood. However, the service was poor, and the menu was very limited indeed. No space at the bar and very noisy. I did not find my food/experience at all memorable, and this is not a place I will return to nor recommend.

                                                        1. For future reference in case someone does a search, Starfish will be closing at the end of August 2014 and relaunching in October under the new name of Pearl Diver.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                              1. re: JennaBean

                                                                It wasn't stated explicity but since it is a "revamp" rather than mention of a sale, I think it will still be owned by Patrick.

                                                              2. re: bluefirefly

                                                                If you love oysters , don't forget to buy one of Patrick's oyster shucking knives. I have an original one and bought the new design (actually got 2). The new one is even better than the original. Makes shucking a breeze!