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C5 at the ROM (long)

Dined at C5 with my wife last night. Overall, excellent experience.

C5 is located on the 5th Floor with a separate entrance off Bloor on the west end of the Crystal. The room is designed beautifully modern chic dominated by off-white colour not unlike the original Lobby restaurant (as I remembered it). About a third of the room was the lounge area which sat mostly empty throughout the night, which was too bad because the beautiful modern design makes for an excellent lounge experience.

Our reservation was 7:45pm early evening and the sun lit up the room through the almost floor-to-ceiling V-shaped windows which made it seem almost outdoor-like. The ceiling was high and uneven (due to the crystal shape) which made the room big-feel spacious. After the sun set, the room ambiance changed to a modern elegance feel. The kitchen was open concept at the "back" of the restaurant.

The menu is 3 courses plus dessert, like the menu at George restaurant (price-wise as well), though we both ordered only 2 of the 3 courses plus dessert. For appetizer, my wife ordered the Dungeness Crab salad and I ordered the grilled foie gras on top of a ravioli (forgot what it was called). My wife absolutely loved the crab and my dish was very good though the foie gras was overcooked. We talked with the couple next to us and he had the C5 Raw Tasting which he said was absolutely amazing even though he didn't normally liked raw food!

I had the rib eye special for the main and my wife had the bass fish which she said was excellent. My 5 oz steak was cut into 5 small pieces and was excellently flavoured. The guy next to us ordered the strip loin which he said was the best steak he has had in a long time.

Dessert was excellent as well. I had the panna cotta which was firm in texture and very good to taste. My wife had the waffle dessert (forgot the name) which was quite original and she said was fantastic! We were also served 2 amuses and the 2nd one was after the dessert - some kind of a banna bread pudding cake. Very nice!

Service didn't start off very well but got better as the evening went along. The waiter - a very nice soft spoken gentleman - forgot to give us bread (we had to ask another waiter) and forgot to tell us about the specials until we were in the middle of ordering. The wine (we ordered by the glass) we wanted on the list wasn't available, however, the lady who took our wine order offered to let us taste another on the wine list before ordering which was very nice. She also, without asking, was very quick in getting my wife a bread knife after it was accidentally dropped on the floor. This attentiveness was very much appreciated, thank you!

Overall, C5 was an excellent experience (much better than our last Susur experience at not nearly Susur's prices) and we would definitely recommend C5. In fact, my wife was so impressed that she booked C5 for next Saturday with her parents.

Overall, compared to other Toronto restaurants: Food = A/A+; Service = B; Ambiance = A

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  1. Great review! How much was the meal?! Thx!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Charles Yu

      About $170 for 2 people and we both had a glass of wine each. Had we ordered a bottle of wine the dinner would've been over well over $200 as their wine list was pretty expensive. Then again, my rib eye special was $42 which was more expensive than anything on the menu. All in all, their prices were similar to George.

    2. Yes, thanks! Have been curious and waiting for a detailed review.

      1. Thanks for review. Is it busy on a Saturday night (wonder how hard it is to get a reservation) ? How's the food compared to George, which do you like more ?

        1. My experience was the same as yours. We sat around 7:15 at the corner of the restaurant, probably the second best view of the place. This was on saturday, so we might have been close to each other.
          i've posted my review which is also quite long on my blog.

          ps. I was able to get a reservation on short notice, and the place was never full throughout the night.

          1. Both George and C5 are excellent but I thought the food at C5 was better. The ambiance is completely different though - C5 is bright, elegant contemporary while George is dark, casual relaxing. Suresh is correct that the place was never full throughout the evening, so I don't think reservations is presently a problem. Unlike other restaurants such as Bymark or Lobby which opened with lots of fanfare, I don't think C5 has done much self promotion as no one I've talked to even know of the restaurant. It's kind of a little secret of the ROM right now, but word may slowly spread if they maintain their high food quality.

            Suresh, where's your blog? I'd be interested in hearing your review.

            1 Reply
            1. re: syoung

              Didn't post the link because anything I post here usually gets canned. the link is in my profile, but let me give it a shot;

            2. I don't agree. I found Susur and George are much better....if you were to pay that kind of price.. you would expect a little bit more..the lounge is quite nice at C5... however, when u walk into the dining area, it brought me back to my highschool time...(it looks like a cafeteria)...food... i can't say it's bad....but u know....i think C5 still have a long way to go in order to compete with George and Susur. It is just a restaurant at a museum....

              4 Replies
              1. re: huiel

                A cafeteria? Your description would suggest benches (none), shared tables (again, none) and everything tightly packed together (exactly the opposite, actually). What I experience was a large room with minimalist black/white decor, soaring white ceiling with angled walls/windows, and gorgeous sunset views of the U of T campus and western stretch of Bloor St.

                Maybe if Daniel Liebeskind decided to design highschools, this would be true... but this sure as hell doesn't look ANYTHING like the cafeteria at my school. What DOES look like a cafeteria is the main ground-floor cafe... but that's hardly fine dining.

                1. re: tartiflette

                  I agree with tartiflette...No way did I associate that with my highschool caffeteria except that they both had an open kitchen in common...

                  1. re: Suresh

                    Well, there IS a cafeteria-style space in the basement called the Food Studio. But while there's an open-style kitchen at C5, there's nothing cafeteria-like about it.

                2. re: huiel

                  I don't understand how you can say the lounge is quite nice but the dining area looks like a high school cafeteria? They're of similar modern chic design and integrated with each other in the same large open area.

                  We'll have to agree to disagree about it being in the same class as Susur and George. I suppose, being a new restaurant and chef, it has to earn its status which it has not yet. However, as for it being "just a restaurant at a museum"... well... I guess L'atelier de Joel Robuchon is just a restarant in a NY hotel or Per Se is just a restaurant in a NY shopping complex. Yeah, right!

                3. Great review syoung. I'm thinking of taking my wife there this thursday (kind of a surprise meal out). Since we have to eat early (around 6:30pm) in order to get back to relieve the baby sitter, do you recall around what time were you actually able to see the sunset? Is the service slow paced enough such that we can finish up by 9pm or so? Is a table with a sunset view worth it (I could try to postpone the surprise a week or two)?

                  1. Tried C5 on the weekend, I must agree that it was really excellent. Beautiful room and the food was fantastic. Great service too. I would highly recommend!

                    2 Replies
                      1. re: Royaljelly

                        I had the tomato and mozarella gazpacho/salad, I forget exactly how it was described on the menu but it was the best version of this dish I've ever had, baby heirloom tomatos in a smoked tomato gazpacho with fresh cheese, it was amazing. Also had the black bass, really good too. All of the flavours were really clean and fresh, I was very impressed. Shared the special dessert, it was three small peach desserts.

                    1. I've been reading Chowhound (with pleasure) for a long time, but am new to posting here. A recent experience at C5, the restaurant at the Royal Ontario Museum, prompted me to sign on. The postings here are largely positive, but I notice they're not recent. My husband and I, and two foodie friends from out-of-town, had an abominable experience at C5 last week.

                      The service, beginning with the hostess at the door, is pretentious AND incompetent, a nasty combination.

                      As for the food...my first course, a seared tuna dish from the chef's tasting menu (available on its own, without ordering the entire menu), arrived on a cold plate and the tuna also was stone-cold, as though the entire dish had been composed in advance and stored in the fridge. The fish was sitting on a salad of peaches and mushrooms. I am not joking. I don't often send food back, but I did on this occasion, after tasting it. One of my friends ordered a pasta dish which was extremely salty. She soldiered through most of it, saying she doesn't mind salty food, but then decided there was too much salt even for her. My second course was lobster dish with a "crispy poached egg" on top (crispy due to a breadcrumb coating). When I cut into the egg and the yolk oozed, it was cold. Okay, not as cold as the aforementioned tuna, but it certainly was not warm...not even a bit. When I asked the server, politely, what the temperature should be of this particular dish, she stammered, finally blurting out, "Well, it's NOT supposed to be piping hot." I didn't expect piping hot, but certainly was not prepared to be served a cold poached egg. They offered to re-do the dish, and I agreed. I was brought new cutlery, my dining companions finished eating, the servers cleared all their plates and attempted to clear away my new cutlery too, and I was still waiting for the new lobster dish. When it came, it was exactly the same temperature as the one before it, a fact I relayed to the manager. By this time, I was so hungry, I ate, albeit resentfully.

                      There was nothing memorable about the rest of the food, and it does not at all live up to the quality of the previous restaurant at the museum, JK-ROM.

                      My husband, who is a wine writer, was not impressed by the list and he found the mark-ups to be exorbitant.

                      As we were leaving, I handed over the ticket for my coat, and they couldn't find it. They made several attempts, trotting out the wrong garment each time. Eventually, I was asked to go to the cloakroom to identify which coat was mine.

                      The mark of a good restaurant is not one that makes no mistakes, but one that knows how to manage the situation when mistakes are made. C5 failed miserably.

                      It was a very disappointing experience, and I would discourage you STRONGLY from going there.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: enjoygoodfood

                        It's unfortunate that you had such a bad experience. I have spoken to numerous colleagues and friends who have visited the C5 in the last month and every story has been largely positive, both on the food front and the service. two friends have even gone as far as booking their corporate christmas dinner at C5 this year due to the success of their group dinners.
                        the wine is definitely over priced, but I've found the service impeccable and most agree, hit or miss i guess.

                        1. re: Suresh

                          I'm stunned to read so many good reviews for this restaurant. I had what could be considered one of the worst dining experiances for a restaurant of this supposed calabre ever. The first dish was so blah that I don't even remember what it was. The main course was so librally salted that even I, a lover of salty foods, could only take a few bites..... I found the service to be extremely pretentious and rude. It seemed as though we were imposing upon these people to seve us and it was a chore they did begrudgingly. The wine list was limited and grossly overpriced and the atmosphere was trying for something....I'm just not sure what! I would never darken their door again.

                          1. re: jmt

                            Haven't tried it. Walked in once with kids in tow (it's in a Museum), and received look intimating that perhaps we were in the wrong place. No suggestion that they would accomodate requests or offer something age appropriate at prices commensurate with reduction in ingredients or prep time. Simply, we were told that the menu was the menu. A friend took his young'un and ordered something plain (pasta). Yes, it was grudgingly delivered, but when the bill came, it was priced as a glitzy main.

                            We walked across the street to the Gardiner, and were instantly told that not only were there options not on the menu for kids, but that the kitchen could also do some adjustments or adaptations if necessary.

                            Will I go back and try C5? Who knows. Right now, it looks like the future subject of a Ramsay's Nightmares episode. Too precious, doesn't understand the clientele, can't accomodate, and is trying to compete in a space outside it's principal market. Prediction? Slingshot effect, and the food will go from high end kitsch to lowest common denominator steak frites in 6 months.

                            1. re: Snarf

                              In C5's (partial) defense I remember going in somewhat tentatively as we were young 20-somethings in very casual dress but were just looking for a place a grab a quick drink before heading elsewhere and I was curious.

                              The server and the bar staff were extremely friendly and balanced the somewhat forbidding atmosphere and cold decor. I'm hoping to find the time for lunch sometime this week, will report back!