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dinner tonight?

I know it's last minute, but I'm wondering if perhaps some of you with a moment this afternoon might be able to offer some advice. My girlfriend is all dressed up today, so I want to be spur-of-the-moment romantic and take her some place nice for dinner. I have reservations at Colborne Lane. Here's where it gets a bit complicated.
Over $200 for dinner, as a sweet gesture, is a bit out of our price range - but I'm willing to do it if I can't come up with something else.
Here is my ideal - good food, but doesn't have to be the best meal I've ever eaten. Also, close to a subway stop would be nice, as we live in Bloor West Village, and I would like to buy her a bottle of wine and not have to drive.
If anybody has a suggestion for a nice place (okay, maybe not an exquisite place) for me to go close to a subway stop - then I would really appreciate it.
Just so you know, I've spent the morning doing research, and nothing other than Colborne Lane (just because it's new and special) has seemed to fit - other than the location.
She will be at King and John (but by all means, no need to stay there - actually, I would rather be along the Bloor line), so I've looked at other posts for that area: Fred's Not Here, SoHo, Chez Victor at Le Germain, Crush Wine Bar. Plus I've even checked out Splendido, Susur, Starfish, JK Wine Bar etc - but besides Fred's Not Here, they're all pretty much in the same price range, so it seems to make more sense to go with CL.
In BWV I've checked out Bloom - but wasn't too inspired by their offerings.
Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
Thanks very much

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  1. We had dinner at the Globe Bistro on Danforth a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed it. It's very close to the subway and a good place to show off a fancy outfit, however dinner for two with two drinks, bottle of wine, two starts, two mains, one cheese plate and two glasses of after dinner wine (we live down the street and weren't driving either ;-) was, I believe $180ish before tip.
    ...and if you sit in the balcony you can admire the gallery of bald spots below...

    1. Cheaper than C.L., but still somewhat nice, could be described as romantic datey-places-
      Rosebud- just west of the Queen W. subway stop ---I think? check that one out- i'm directionally challenged
      La Vecchia- maybe ten-minute walk north of Yonge and Eg.
      Wish- right at Yonge and Bloor
      Quince- south of Yonge and Eg- five-minute walk
      hmmm. still thinking...

      5 Replies
      1. re: nummanumma

        Thanks so much for the suggestions. Around $200 is okay (but preferrably below!).

        1. re: tochipotle

          if around $200 is ok- you really should go to Colburn Lane!

          1. re: nummanumma

            Confession: I'm a little intimidated about CL. And I really feel like, after tip, I would be spending close to $300 there. I don't want to go and limit myself because of the cost - I would rather save it for a special occasion...if I'm going to go - i'm going all out.
            Also, I'm a novice foodie, thus, a tad ignorant about just about everything and I get intimidated in such places - thinking that I'm ordering the wrong wine etc...
            Do you think I should just get over it and go already?

            1. re: tochipotle

              DH and I went, ordered 3 plates each (the recommendation) and drank 3 glasses of wine each (don't tell anyone!) and the bill was $200. Honestly? yes, just get over it and don't be afraid to say to the server..."I just like to drink wine. can you recommend something to go with the...."
              It's better than being a poseur, right?

              1. re: tochipotle

                Well, it sounds like Coulbourn Lane will be around for awhile, so maybe save it for another night, when you're really into it--it sounds like a place that would be best when you're into it.
                On a related note, there's nothing like good eating to train a novice palate, and good servers will be happy to talk to you about the menu and make suggestions. They'll also make suggestions on wines, so ask what they'd suggest--they should know their wine list better than you could be expected to. And here's a tip: if you want a suggestion for a bottle of wine, but don't want your dining partners (perhaps your girlfriend's parents) to know the price, hold up the wine list so you and the server can see it, and say that you'd like "Something in this range" while pointing at the price of a wine with your finger. One of the things that I enjoyed about the Globe Bistro was that our server had some excellent suggestions for wine (my honey's a bit of a wine geek) and when we order a cheese plate for dessert, she checked with the sommelier and brought my honey half glasses of a white and a red wine to go with the cheese--I thought that was classy and adventurous.

                Finnegan suggested Foccia on Hayden, which is a great little place, with Larry, the larger-than-life waiter. If you want to practice your food and wine exploratory skills, he's the man to talk to. He loves his job, and by the end of my first meal there, I loved Larry...and not just because he kept bringing me excellent liquor...

        2. ...I've been thinking, and there's also Cava, which is on Yonge, therefore close to the subway, and has been sounding very nifty, although I haven't been myself. It's small plates, so I guess you can be a frugal as you wanna be. Also, Bar Mercurio on Bloor, between the St.George and Spadina stations is very nice, a dress-up kinda place, and would be about $100 for dinner.
          (it's just buggin' me that more suggestions aren't coming to mind, but then I don't often go to fancy clothes restaurants because fancy clothes itch too much and don't have the elastic waistband to let you really enjoy your meal)
          If around $200 is okay, then I'd take nummanumma's suggestion and go to Colbourn Lane. The Globe Bistro was lovely and the food was great (I had the venison...mmm, ultra red meaty), but it sounds like Colbourn Lane is hitting it out of the park, and how often do you get a chance to wine and dine your fancy-dressed honey on a Tuesday at a really stellar place--that'll get you huge boyfriend points...and you can eat spaghetti at hone this weekend to make up for the splurge...

          1. Can I just say, "aww. that is really, really sweet of you." I mean it! Enjoy your dinner

            1. Starfish is well below $200, last time there was only like $160 for the two of us. Strongly recommend it if you like raw seafood. But atmosphere is a bit casual and relax.

              Not sure if you are tired of going to restaurant in the financial distinct, but I was at Red Bistro (77 Adelaide inside FCP) recently, the food and service are very good with their new chef from Splendido ! Maybe you want to check it out. But CL is a great choice too(I have not been there yet but heard lots of good review).

              1. Finnegan to the Rescue!
                What about Pangaea on Bay just north of Bloor (get off at the bay subway station)...about $170 for two with wine

                Better yet, Foccacia on Hayden street (Bloor and Yonge, 1 blk. south of bloor)...bonus is that they still have their cheaper Winterlicious menu until March 31st. With the money you save go to the most romantic lounge in Toronto, the Roof Top Lounge at the Park Hyatt, 18th floor overlooking the city (corner of Bloor and Avenue Rd.) and have a couple of cosmos or apple martinis (before dinner)

                http://www.focacciarestaurant.com/ind...

                4 Replies
                1. re: Finnegan

                  boo to focaccia. Not boo to finnegan, just to focaccia.

                  1. re: nummanumma

                    I'm guessing you did not like Larry?

                    1. re: Finnegan

                      i'm sorry- I know people love him, but I wanted to have dinner with my husband, not with Larry. Personal preference I guess. I could have softened that remark up- sorry if it seemed harsh.

                    2. re: nummanumma

                      Totally agree on Focaccia nummanumma. I went with some out of town GFs a couple of months ago based on CH posts and reviews. While we loved Larry, I was so disappointed with the food. My veal parm was like a piece of shoe leather and my friends were totally underwhelmed by there meals.
                      The good thing was that Larry made the whole evening fun and we overlooked the meal while we caught up, but I missed on what others were raving about.
                      So if you want Larry, go; if you want good food, stay away.

                  2. Since you are west-enders, have you tried CRU (across from the Royal York subway station)? The food is superb and in the right price range, the room is lovely, though Joanne Kates was not complimentary about the service when she reviewed two weeks ago. Now, if I was a restauranteur in TO and JK said unkind things about MY service, there would be some serious changes made VERY fast...so maybe its all good now?

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: LJS

                      I agree with LJS. Cru looks cool, the food is good and any smart person would of gotten the service in tip top shape by now.

                      1. re: SallyCinnamon

                        AND I just looked on their website they have a prix fixe Sunday to Wednesday. Two course $27, three course $32.

                        1. re: SallyCinnamon

                          hmmm...I couldn't find a website. Could you please post it?
                          Thanks to everybody for your suggestions! I'll let you know how it turned out tomorrow...

                    2. GO TO COLBORNE LANE. DO NOT PASS GO. DO NOT COLLECT $200.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: mickeyj

                        after all this talk, I had to go again last night. place is going to break me ;)

                      2. Will you come back tomorrow, what you decided and tell us how it went? I hate NOT knowing!!!

                        1 Reply
                        1. Update:
                          My reservations for Colborne Lane were for 7pm. My girlfriend's meeting ran late, so thankfully time made the decision for me on that one. (I had to cancel the reservation - there's no way we would have made it on time, and they couldn't accommodate anything later.)
                          So I gave my girlfriend the choice of CRU or Globe. She chose Globe. I was happy that she chose the Globe because of all the great write ups I read and also, because I emailed them during the day yesterday and Ed Ho (the owner, I believe?) emailed me right back. (Or at least somebody did from his account...) I just thought that was pretty great for them to take the time to email me and I thought it spoke well of their dedication. We will try CRU in the near future.

                          For starters, I had the Twice Cooked Berkshire Pork Belly with Seared Scallops and Mustard Foam and she had the Baby Spinach and Frisée Salad with Roasted Bosc Pear, Toasted Walnuts and Blue Cheese Dressing.
                          The salad was really very good and it was a generous portion. The dressing was delicious and not overwhelming. All the elements were fresh and tasty.
                          The pork belly and scallops were incredible! If anybody goes to Globe - I highly recommend you have this as your starter. The scallops were perfectly cooked, the pork belly was crispy and crunchy and savory and just so damn good. Fantastic. I'm not a huge fan of foam, but this one was good and the flavours all worked so well together.
                          For mains, she had the La Ferme Chicken Supreme with Truffled Spaetzle, Roasted Wild Mushrooms, Niagara Bacon, and Natural Reduction.
                          I had the Oven Roasted Black Cod with Braised Beluga Lentils, Baby Spinach, Lemon and Brown Butter Emulsion.
                          The chicken was moist and tender and very well seasoned. It was placed on top of the spaetzle and mushrooms which packed a huge savory punch. My girlfriend said she found the spaetzle to be a bit much at the end, but my bite was fantastic! (I think mostly because of the under seasoned cod...I might have thought a salt lick was fantastic at the time)
                          The cod: as mentioned I found to be really under seasoned. A little salt would have really livened up the dish. I could not taste any of the lemon and brown butter. My piece of fish was the tail and not the nicest one at that. I found the cod and the lentils to be overly gritty and I just felt like I was eating out of a sandbox. I love cod and I love lentils. I didn't love them together last night. I cooked black cod for dinner a couple of weeks ago and my girlfriend commented that she much preferred the cod I had prepared. I'm no expert cook, I love to cook and try new things - but you would think the Globe would make better cod than me. I think it had to do with the actual fish I was served. It just wasn't a great piece. The cod we had at home was really fresh and fall apart good.

                          Now I've got to talk about the service. We were really disappointed with our server. All the other staff were excellent - friendly and professional. Our waitress didn't really have time for us, as she was much more concerned with her tip from the table of 6 behind us who were ordering champaign and other assorted bottles on the corporate account. I suppose just bad luck on our part, but we were willing to spend a lot more there (therefore increasing her tip) had she given us the time of day. She was smiley and bubbly without much substance - I don't want to be too harsh, it's not that she was unfriendly, just obviously more enamoured with other patrons. As you all know, I need a little help with the wine. When asked her what would pair well, her response was 'oh all our wines are great and they all go well with everything' as she was walking away. Uhhh...not quite what I was looking for. She really pressured us to order our starters and mains right away - before she even got a drink for us. (Although, admittedly we were trying to figure out what wine to try, and finally gave up and ordered a beer and a gin and tonic to start). By the time we had the chance to order our drink, our starters were just about ready. Our drinks arrived, and the starters came on their heels. (I was a bit disappointed with this, as I would have liked to at least try my hand a pairing a wine.) We had to order our wine from the food runner, as our waitress was AWOL. I had an Argentinian Malbec, which was fantastic and my girlfriend had a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, also very good. (I know, I know Malbec is a red...but it was lighter!(ha!) I'm actually not a huge fan of white, but would have tried it if the waitress could have offered some advice.) Once we had finished with the mains (and I would have ordered another glass of wine by now - if anybody had cared to ask) our waitress came to as about dessert. I was interested in the cheese plate or the shoo fly cake, but I asked her if there was anybody else who could help me with a wine selection for the cheese - remembering that Twinkly Terrapin had said that they had such nice help with that. She seemed a bit annoyed (maybe I was annoying asking about which wine went well with the dish?) and steered me towards port. I guess she sensed I was starting to get a little frustrated, because she offered to bring me a sample of a wine to try - which was very nice of her. She brought a Pinot Noir that I actually didn't like very much, but was still a nice gesture. And to be honest, by this point, we were tired of trying to get her attention to order, so we decided to just get the bill and go home. In other circumstances, I would have ordered a lot more wine and two desserts - and maybe even a whiskey (I do know my whiskey!!) - we have done so in the past at many restaurants.
                          I'm not sure if I was just expecting too much from our server, sorry if me being a newbie is offensive, but we tried not to take up too much of her time (and didn't). The dining room was busy and it seemed she did have a lot of tables. Maybe another server on would have helped? Also, maybe from spending time on chowhound...and gratefully getting all of your advice, I thought the server would be more helpful with the wine. The evening was not a total loss though - as it's worth the trip for the pork belly and scallops alone.
                          Thank you to all of you who made suggestions. I will keep them and try them all in the future. And I will go to Colborne Lane (if I can ever get a reservation!).
                          PS And my girlfriend looked gorgeous.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: tochipotle

                            Awww... loved your PS. :) Thanks for reporting back on your evening. No need to apologize for being a "newbie" -- there is no reason to feel bad about anything. A good and knowledgable server would have taken the time to make wine pairing suggestions. It's quite possible that your server was covering up her lack of knowledge about the wine list.

                            If you ever go to the Rosebud (and please do, it's a great spot), all of the servers are great about helping you to choose wine. It's a casual, but funky spot with great food at really reasonable prices. No pretension in sight!

                            1. re: tochipotle

                              i just wanted to drop in and say myself that you shouldn't be worried about being a "newbie". by all accounts you didn't sound like you were stepping on toes and i think that if a server isn't absolutely knowledgable about wine they shouldn't hesitate to offer the services of another wait staff or the sommelier at that! i do find that in a way it's a small fault of this board... you hear about someone else's fantastic service and you're hoping you'll get the same but to no ado....

                              if you get the chance, go to amuse bouche. i found the service there incredibly accomodating and the atmosphere is just wonderful for a couple. very cozy (read a bit tight in the seating arrangements) but there's a great red/black decor that keeps it trendy yet absolutely romantic.

                              1. re: tochipotle

                                this is too late for your lovely dinner. But a nice place for you to try when you want to do some wine exploration would be George.

                                We have really terrific service re the wine there. We were a bit complicated because we wanted wine pairings with each small dish course, and smaller pours i.e. 3oz, because we wanted to match with every course plus the two of us were not having the dishes in each course.

                                Our waiter made a point to ask us what our general preferences at the begining i.e .would you like to explore some whites, do you want any sparkling etc. Then he introduced every pairing by bringing over the bottle (s) and telling us about each vineyard.

                                While I didn't love all the pairings, I really enjoyed the education and the service and the introduction to new wines. They were very responsive to our enthuiasm and interest - wine expertise not at all required.

                                1. re: tochipotle

                                  I was at Globe on Saturday and we also had a waiter who seemed to be MIA at times. After finishing dessert, we had to wait about 30 minutes to ask for the bill! I had the pork belly and scallops as I had them last time and liked it, then the caribou leg for my main. My wife and one other had the 12oz dry aged steak, and another friend also had caribou. We all thought the food needed more salt, and there were no salt and pepper shakers on our table or any other table I looked at.

                                  We had a great Penley 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon. If you need help selecting a wine, ask Adrian.

                                  The first time we were at Globe, there were maybe 10 others eating during the course of our dinner. Now, it's very busy.

                                  FD

                                2. I see no need to qualify this review with any "newbie" apologetics... fantastic report!!

                                  Food sounds mostly pretty great, but I'm sorry to hear about the crap service - I got annoyed with your server just reading this review. You know, Mr. Rabbit is a total wine snob (I'm much less knowledgeable and will happily drink swill), so he pesters servers all the time with wine questions because of genuine, dork-y curiosity... I think any good server in a place that claims to know its wine shouldn't have any trouble with a little wine-talk. So frustrating.

                                  Wonder whether this would be worth mentioning to the owner, who otherwise seems impressively on top of customer service with the prompt emaling?

                                  Can't wait for your next review... I'm very interested in CL too!

                                  1. Thanks for getting back, honestly, articulately and FAST! I don't think you expected anything that anyone else wouldn't have under the circumstances, in terms of service.

                                    In fact, I am beginning to wonder if this poor service isn't starting to be TOO common a feature of "upscale" Toronto restaurants. I am thinking that they simply cannot get/keep good well-trained wait staff because there simply are not enough of them. Every single fast-food place in town is desperate, retailers have ads placed on the doors, even in fancy places like Willim Sonoma, the newspapers/internet sites are jammed with ads for these postions.

                                    It seems as if there is a problem with these entry level type positions, then the ultimate result is just naturally a shortage of ALL service staff. I hate to say it, but the last really great service we experienced here in TO was at Ruth's Chris where they train the heck out of their staff according to US guidelines. Since then I have eaten in good, even great restaurants, with superb food reputations, in the city on an expense account at least 30 times in the last 6 months and had a terrible run of mediocre servers with all the problems that you (and Joanne Kates) have spoken about.

                                    In any case, I am happy for you and your girlfriend...

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: LJS

                                      We had fantastic service on the weekend at Bellini's in Yorkville. Actually I wouldn't say it was fantastic so much as exactly the kind of service one would expect, attentive and efficient, without being overbearing. It was interesting how much the service impressed us all, as we are unfortunately used to having bad service, even as you say in places where you would really think the service would be excellent.

                                    2. I'm sorry your server was teh suck! Any restaurant that employs a sommelier should have it drilled into their staff that "all our wines are great; they go with everything" is NOT an acceptable answer. And learning about wine by reading is like learning about sex watching Internet pR0n--she don't work like that so much. The only way to learn about wine and good food is to go out and enjoy it, and a good restaurant with a good wine selection should be the place you can do that. It's unfortunate that a crap server prevented you from being able to do that, and from eating and drinking as much as you wanted to--that's just wrong! I am glad that you enjoyed other parts of your meal. Great review too! Some things can be done through writing and reading ;-)

                                      The honey and I decided that when we go back to Globe, we'll sit in the bar area, as the dining room was a bit too grown-up for our tastes. Hopefully this will also give us access to the sommelier, and more importantly, the bartender. I really enjoyed my main when we were there but I could happily make a meal of the appetizers--I'll definitely try the scallops and pork next time.

                                      You're a really good chowriter--I hope you keep us informed of your further studies in chowing. And ditto on the "Awww" for your PS...

                                      1. don't know if this is an option for you- but with no rezzie at C.L.- just pop in and eat at the bar. We did that last night and arrived at 9:30- no problem-o!

                                        1. Thanks to all of you for your feedback - I will keep your suggestions, and go to the restaurants as soon as I can! I took Rabbit's advice and I emailed Ed Ho (pretty much a truncated version of my post). What a fantastic response I got from him. Kudos to him. He took responsibility for the service, stating that nobody had ever complained about this server before and while not making excuses, he said there were some issues with staffing last night. To be fair, our server did have a lot of tables. He offered to personally help me select wine in the future and asked for a second chance - which we will gladly give him. I am so impressed with him. Everybody should go to Globe as soon as possible! (and order the pork belly and scallops!)

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: tochipotle

                                            Great review and good to hear of an owner that responds positively to complaints, I for one find that refreshing.
                                            Should you in future be looking for something that in the Hood food wise I'be found toro to be quite good the times I've been (Bloor and Jane S. side of Bloor), I believe I may have mentioned it before in another post.
                                            Keep up the Reviews and let us know when you go back to Globe