Toronto's Balsam in the Beach reviewed
The Chowhound moderators removed people's comments about a review by Toronto Star food columnist Amy Patakis of the Beach District resto, Balsam in the Beach. They posted a notice saying these comments would appear instead here in Food Media and News. So... here's a link to that Star review I was about to post in the Toronto/Ontario board. I hope it's not cut here.
I don't have much respect for either Kates' or Pataki's reviews since I usually can't tell whether I will like a restaurant from reading the published review. This review is different. I will avoid this place until people whose palates I know personally, and who are more willing to dine speculatively than I, have good experiences there.
I don't particularly trust Pataki's palate. I don't think the review itself was written well. We can quibble endlessly about the scope of the wine list or the perceived value at the price point. If the published review of Balsam was based on one visit, it is shameful and should not have appeared.
But if that review of Balsam was typical of several meals, it is SO bad that she is skating very close to libel if it isn't true. A review that bad rarely makes it into print.
I missed the deleted comments, but the review is a little strange. It describes the place as "the Beaches.....only fine dining restaurant" (presumably a touch of sarcasm) and says the cost for two with wine, tax and tip is $120. Surely that's neighbourhood pricing (wherever there are tablecloths).
Coincidentally this is the second place I've eaten at recently which Amy Pataki has 'slammed'. The other place was Susur where the day before the review appeared I had a meal that was entirely different. At least this time my dishes were the same - on paper, at least.
I had the P.B and J (I agree - too cute by far) - but wasn't offered any Earl Grey Tea & Balsamic reduction with that course (it doesn't appear on the menu either).
Could it be that Amy misunderstood? Also every dish she had was on my menu - so what were the comments on the daily specials all about? Service was certainly patchy - but at $120 all-in that's normal for Toronto. And the Astaire/Cat In The Hat comments look like they've been inserted (or should have been deleted)by a bad editor - nothing to do with anything else.
It's hard to argue with the review of the dishes (that discussion belongs on the Ontario Board), but this seems to me to be a particularly sloppy review.
I can certainly admire critics calling them as they see them, but I would prefer less quipping - especially if the food is bad - instead I feel there's a responsibility to be constructive.
24 seats and only 4 wines by the glass - isn't that comparable with most neighbourhood places? How many would be acceptable - and what are the markups like (that's information I can use).
"Let's throw it together and see if it sticks cooking" - one of the dishes I had was seared scallops with bacon foam, tomato concasse, dijon, horseradish - surely that's a 'new' twist on the tired old bacon-wrapped scallop appetizer. Hardly a "let's throw it together" approach (note I'm not reviewing the dish - it may be horrible - rather I'm deconstructing the review).
"I'd rather put a fork in my eye than eat Balsam's pappardelle" - do I need to comment on that?
I think this is a bad restaurant review - regardless of the quality of the restaurant!