The Fifth...(another long one from me)
Yesterday hubby and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. Our real celebration will be in September when we head to San Fran for a few days R&R and stops at Gary Danko, Quince, Venticello and Myth and then onto L.A. to visit our son and friends. But we decided we'd go out for a nice dinner last night to at least acknowledge the event. We weren't looking for a Splendido experience and we wanted to try somewhere we haven't been that is a beautiful outdoor dining spot.
So we dressed up and headed off to the alley to take the freight elevator up to The Fifth. We were greeted on the front steps outside and our name was whispered into a mouthpiece announcing our arrival upstairs. The wood lined freight elevator was "furnished" with oriental carpets, a chandelier a small table with a tip jar stuffed with $5 dollar bills...at 7:00 p.m....yeah, right), some mints and business cards as well as Homer's Odyssey which appeared to be the reading material of the dour young man forced to spirit people up and down all night long. Upon arrival we were warmly greeted and escorted to our outdoor table on a lovely patio with a great bar area laden with bowls of gorgeous nibbles including homemade cheese sticks, cheese puffed triangles and amazing buttery thin bread sticks, none of which were ever served to us at our table until I asked a bus boy who was happy to oblige. There was a pianist playing and singing a great mix of music which provided an unexpected nice touch and later in the evening one of the hostesses sang a few tunes too...nice voice. The tables are covered with old brown poly/linen tablecloths which have seen better days and the cutlery (two forks, knife and butter knife) are rolled up in a poly/linen beige napkin. Water and wine glasses are misplaced on the left of the setting. About now I suspect most readers are thinking I am micro-commenting. But there's a reason, if you stay with me...
Gorgeous bound menus and the wine list were presented, cocktail orders taken (flute of champagne and 15 year Macallan neat), though we weren't asked if we want water and had to request flat bottled (no lemon or lime offered). Waiter returns with drinks and asks if we want to order wine...??? Huh? We just got our cocktails and are reading the menus. The menu, as some have pointed out clearly indicates The Fifth now considers itself a steak house. Not the least bit inventive the apps include the uninspired shrimp cocktail, crab cake ($21 for 1), oysters (choice of 5 for $18 or 10 for $36...???), steak tartare and the usual predictable salads, mixed greens, caprese, maybe a few other apps not memorable to me. Mains were steak - NY strip (USDA), Rib steak (Canada prime) $55, chateaubriand for two, filet, 2 sizes though oz not indicated and waiter didn't know when asked, nor did he offer to find out, a couple of fish dishes, lobster and steak and lobster combo. Choice of sauces such as bearnaise, mushroom etc. available for additional $2...??? Choices of sides were numerous and included green and white asparagus, green beans, onion rings, creamed spinach etc. plus garlic or wasabi mashed potatoes, frites, potatoes gratin and a few other items all $8 each. Bread basket was a nice mix and fresh presented with good unsalted butter in lovely covered silver plate serving dish with domed lid.
Uninspired by the menu I chose 5 oysters to start followed by petit filet, hubby chose crab cake followed by rib steak, sides ordered include potatoes gratin and creamed spinach. We tried to decide between two bottles of wine...a 2001 Chateau Lacoste Borie, Pauillac $90 or a 2003 Napanook Blend from Dominus Cellars ($110). Because all the reds on the wine list are very young we ask the waiter which one is drinking better. His answer was, "They're the same only the "tear-woir" will taste different"....sigh....alas no sommelier. We ordered the Napanook, asked for it to be decanted and had to stop the waiter from overfilling the appropriate Reidel Bordeaux stemware. After an hour it was quite soft and drinkable.
The oysters were delicious and served with freshly grated horseradish, proper shallot mignonette and gauze wrapped lemon half. But the full bottle of Tabasco lying down right in the middle of the plate was odd and off putting in this setting. The crab cake was fine, but topped with a disc of something green and unidentifiable, said hubby.
The sides arrives first but included frites which we didn't order. Didn't really matter, though we mentioned we didn't order them, to which we received a shrug. Steaks a few minutes later...mine about 6 oz, which though ordered medium was well done, grey throughout. Hubby's rib steak (again I mention $55) was about a 1/4 inch thin and ordered medium RARE and was also well done to the point of grey. They politely were sent back. I had to ask that the sides be taken back to be kept warm (or perhaps for $24 to be prepared fresh?). Steaks and new sides, again with frites arrived 20 minutes later but we were enjoying the music, the wine and each other and there was no clock ticking. Hubby's steak cooked perfectly. Mine now about four oz and just as well done to being grey. I ate two bites. The sides...well the frites were cold, soggy and limp with oil and unsalted, certainly not double fried, the spinach was blanched spinach, unseasoned and placed in a bowl of cool half and half. Where was the emulsified dream it should have been, with a touch of nutmeg, some sauteed onions? The potatoes gratin were fine, cold, but fine. Peppermill never offered to us or anyone else we noticed.
We were however despite our disappointment with the meal, delighted to strike up a conversation with a lovely, charming and effusive mother and daughter at the next table which in many ways made our night as we had lots to talk about. It also took our minds off the lousy food and service. The service actually ceased after the dinner plates were removed for almost 30 minutes before dessert menus arrived. But we didn't care by then. The lovely ladies both ordered fish, each a different type. When their plates arrived they were given the same fish, but one was double the size of the other. The mother indicated this wasn't what she'd ordered and the deliver-er told her, "Yeah we were out of what you ordered so we just gave you this instead." !!! Nope, they never even told her they were going to decide what she was going to eat! Wowza!
We finished this unusual evening with a tasteless warm chocolate cake, tea ("Oops, sorry sir we've run out of green tea, how about Earl Grey?") and a port. All for $350 before a gratuity!
The Fifth? One word...schizophrenic. Wait maybe two words... schizophrenic and BAD!
Thank you for the review. Considering the circumstances you took everything in stride. There is no excuse for a Steak House to serve you a steak not cooked as ordered. Seems like The Fifth hasn't just taken a few steps back but it's fallen a few stories.
Thanks for the well-timed review, GRobin.
I had a mediocre experience at The Fifth last winter. But I was about to give it another go next weekend (with my sister)... because the patio really is so beautiful, and my experience was not as truly bad as yours.
But I think we'll go elsewhere. There are just too many other options in Toronto...
Wonderful writeup! Guess I'll have to delete it from my 'to try' list. Sure hope James Chatto will read it too. Can never understand why he gave The Fifth 3.5 stars whilst a great restaurant like George gets only 3!!
Thankfully,you have the "real" celebration to follow.
Seems like you turned the corner for good after entering the elevator,only to find yourselves in a dystotic fairy tale on a nice patio, looking to the beverages and other patrons for some respite.
Unfortunate there was no hallway for you to run down and receive the meal that should have been...
Thanks for making me smile and chuckle(as I often do when someone has a talent for recounting an experience)