Colborne Lane - 45 Colborne St.
Accomplished would be tautological in its self-evidence. Fabulous would be to chi-chi in that it would be expected.Confident, well one can easily imagine in the taste and flavours why that would be.
One should not be surprised by the rather engaging Claudio Aprile, with hands so large in his gregarious welcome that I am reminded of Mike Bonancini Welsh and rugby playing roots. A ready smile and food that mixes flavours and ingredients in such a way that the smile is whimsically broken out into a broad grin at the fare presented.
One naturally acknowledges a staff well trained, a kitchen that's very young, and like the man in charge eerily creative! I think I will return very soon to refresh my palate which I thought was becoming a tad jaded until last night's meal.
An interesting menu that is conveyed to us as being one that should be ordered in 3 parts. While all well and good, my too often simple mind wanders, even as the knowledgeable young server provides guidance on ordering.
Great spot in what is looking like an almost crowded street for restaurant and bars. Early days, yet wonderfully creative food, beautifully executed and exquisitely presented at a price point that equates to substantial value
I started with the lobster ceviche on a bed of sliced saffron new potatoes and herbs, followed by a rare tuna with wasabi foam and iced soy. One of my dining partners shared his crispy wokked squid (yumm) and I must admit this will be my first dish on the next occasion....
In fact I think I could easily go for 3 appetizers; but the main courses are also wonderfully
appealing. My triple seared tenderloin ( apparently seared then dipped in soy, followed by a second sear dipped in sake possibly and the final sear) with braised beef rib and a blueberry and parsnip sauce was quite wonderful.
However when a quality and inventive chef as Mr. Aprile beams with enthusiasm as he discusses the hoisen braised pork belly that accompanies his pork tenderloin, that's been braised for 36 hrs you got to know you have to try some.
I did and I will tell you next visit, this will be one of my dishes.
The food was sublime, the pricing ridiculously reasonable for what one was receiving, the portions of appropriate size that even a chap of my estimable bulk and appetite did not find wanting. My rather jaded taste buds were livened last evening and so I must applaud
the young man and his wonderful staff, front of house and back.
Dishes were around $15-$25 each. They recommend 3 each, and they're similarly sized to dishes at Lee. Bottles start at around $50 or so.
Claudio has indeed trained his staff very well (with the exception of a server not knowing that one of the desserts existed on the menu). The menu is not really divided between appetizers and entrees but they will offer recommendations on which dishes would be good to begin with depending on what you want to order.
The entire menu is an adventure in molecular gastronomy, and from what I hear, there is more to come. I was lucky enough to have gone with a few people and was able to sample 11 different dishes. There were some I prefer over others (squab, tenderloin, sea bass) but everything was at least somewhat interesting.
I will be returning next week with three foodie buddies to try for a repeat performance. Knowing them I am pretty certain that we will be able to try enough dishes between us to cover maybe 12-16 dishes. I didn't even look at the wine list as I had capable buddies and the wonderful services of Kirby our sommelier for guidance ( hadnt seen him since the late 90's); but will take the opportunity to peruse the list at length on the next visit.
A repeat visit will find several changes. The reported 3 part menu is already down to one part – there are no subdivisions.
But overall, very promising, although my review (which is totally truthful) may be biased as they recognized me from other restaurants I frequent, whose staff have now resurfaced at Colborne Lane. Consequently, I can’t be sure that the treatment I received will be experienced by everyone.
Enter past a long bar – that gets very crowded later, enabling you to get very friendly with multiple people as you try and exit. The restaurant also seems tailored to groups – a central 14 seater table divided by a support beam into a 6 and an 8 was actually populated by several couples, rather than a group. But to be fair, although the table is continuous, the individual chairs are placed a reasonable distance apart (I’ve been seated closer to neighbouring tables in many cities, including Toronto). It’s just a bit unsettling, as if you’re towards the centre, the servers have to gallop around the table to pour wine etc. But what do I know about restaurant design?
But, of course, you’re really interested in the food!
It’s VERY complicated.
Crispy Wokked Squid + Caramelized Peanut + Asian Pear + Green Peppercorns + Chinese Black Vinegar + Chinese Sausage + Pomello + Thai Basil + Spiced Mango.
Or, Peking Duck Breast + Confit Chicken Wing +Butternut Squash Flan + Hot & Sour Glazed Gooseberry + Licorice & Burnt Honey Sauce.
It’s a bit intimidating – but actually works very well nearly all the time. Some components are presumably extremely subtle as I couldn’t detect them (e.g. the hot & sour glazed gooseberry did not have any detectable glaze and was actually a physalis, rather than a true gooseberry). But, overall, every dish worked well – sometimes exceptionally well. Most dishes had excellent textural variations as well as a balance of flavour components. I would happily re-try all of the 6 dishes (plus dessert) we sampled as each was packed with flavour and enjoyable. And although, at first glance, some portions seemed small (i.e. appetizer sized) we actually left comfortable full. I’m reluctant to highlight specific dishes, as I usually prefer to visit a place at least twice before reviewing, and it already seems that the menu is changing after less than a week in operation.
But, having tried Claudio Aprile’s food on several previous occasions, this is undoubtedly his best performance to date. Previously, I found that his ingredients seemed unrelated – dishes which seemed to have a theme would suddenly include a jarring note or ingredient that just didn’t fit. None of that here. In fact, no real sign at all of the molecular gastronomy that was anticipated in various write-ups. An occasional foam (almost mainstream now) and some application of relatively unusual (but scientifically relevant, based on flavour research) ingredients, such as the licorice in the Peking Duck dish. But almost everything seemed to be, and tasted of, the ingredient as described.
The wine list seemed to feature relatively mid-range markups. Higher than some, but not too outrageous. Even if (after only a few days open) the vintage on the bottle didn’t match that on the winelist!
Service was excellent – to the point of being overbearing – it’s a little distracting watching the server sprint around the table to pour more wine or water. But at least they DID keep on pouring – not just leave the bottle there for me to pour. Full marks for that.
And also, significantly, prices were very reasonable for what we received. Individual dishes ranged from $10-$20, giving a total cost of just over $200 including wine and taxes (not gratuity). That’s about half what you’d pay at Splendido, Susur or Perigee, and in line with Lee, Fat Cat, Chez Victor etc.
Absolutely I will return and will probably go early to better appreciate the food, as it becomes more of a scene as the evening unfolds.
Went to Colborne Lane for dinner last night and it was outstanding... good or even better than the reviews above. Between the two of us we tried the potato tart, crispy wokked squid, peking duck breast, tea smoked squab, triple seared beef tenderloin, lamb ribeye, spicy chocolate fondue, and apple strudel. Not a single letdown amongst all of them, but I think the tea smoked squab breast + foie gras + quince crepe was my favourite. Unbelievably good... I almost ordered another. Service was also a standout, friendly but professional and always in control. Loved it... we will certainly be back!
I had a chance to drop by the bar at Colbourne Lane and try a few dishes. Since most menu items have been described, I'll highlight a few I loved. I’ll describe the dishes I just loved slightly more than the rest, because everything was outstanding.
Lobster Ceviche - Generous slices of ultra fresh lobster on perfectly cooked fingerling potatoes. You forget what perfectly cooked potato tastes like until you get one. A tiny lime quarter (Japanese?, I forget) squeezed over top that gave an intense citrus note. Topped with the most intense tasting corn crisps to balance the texture on top.
Intensity of flavours is the theme here, but perfectly balanced.
Next was Peking Duck Breast served on butternut squash fan. If you order this item taste the flan on its own, it is a incredibly smooth, light as a feather and a melt in your mouth treat. The duck was beautifully cooked and served with a 40(?) hour sous vide chicken wing that tasted like 100 chicken wings in one.
The squid with Chinese sausage is a fabulous combination accompanied by a tart mango sauce and sweet black vinegar sauce. I know, I expected sweet mango and tart vinegar so it was a nice play on the senses. Pomelo and Thai basil on the side played fresh flavours against the spice.
And dessert, the spicy ice cream is lovely. Beautiful creamy vanilla, but then wait for the burn, a delicate burn but certainly there and a few seconds after it's been in your mouth.
Service was outstanding, professional and friendly with a new staff obviously excited about the quality of food being served. I'd say hurry up and get there because these prices can't last with the obvious extraordinary effort and thoughtfulness put into the menu.
We ate there tonight.
- They were out of the ceviche, too bad for me.
- We had lobster bisque, tuna, potato tart, caramelized vegetables, squid, duck, pork, trout, lamb, hen, chocolate fondue, cheese plate, Thai spicy ice cream and spice cake, and lemon tart.
- We had a reservation for 9.30 but weren't seated until 10.20 which was really, really annoying. No seats at the bar, no beverages offered; we were irritated & hungry. Once we sat we were given a glass of prosecco, but it wasn't identified as late-seating compensation -and even if it had been, it wasn't much. No-one ever apologized :-(
- The food was terrific, really good. Balanced flavours, lovely, exciting in spots.
- We paid IIRC about 450 before tip for 4. This was three dishes each, plus one bottle of wine and two glasses of port, plus dessert. Dishes in my opinion are smaller than Lee, but 3+1 is fine; we left neither stuffed nor hungry.
-On the whole, I enjoyed it. I'll go back. It *was* noisy; my parents wouldn't like it. But I would go back with friends.