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Old School style fine dining?

northerncheapo Jul 31, 2007 08:05 PM

So, my husband and I have finally decided to 'get out there' and try some fine dining in the Toronto/GTA area...spread our wings from our usual haunts like the Toronto Cricket Club dining room. So far we have tried Scaramouche (sp?) and loved the food but thought that the place wasn't that romantic/traditional at all. Next was Rain...hated it. Then Canoe...food was very good, excellent views, but what is with these "new" restaurants that have exposed ceilings, cramped tables, and soo sooo "new age"?

Where oh where are those traditional Old School kind of fine dining...the mahagony walls, the fine linens, the finished ceilings and items on the menu that I actually recognize? And exactly when did the cesear salad disappear from menus???

Any suggestions...getting tired of the Cricket club and RCMI...traditional and nice, but looking for a change. THANKS

  1. Mr Rabbit Aug 3, 2007 12:23 PM

    The dining room at the Ontario Club is pretty old school.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Mr Rabbit
      northerncheapo Aug 3, 2007 03:12 PM

      I'm not a member of Ontario Club...I wonder if the Toronto Skating, Curling and Cricket Club or RCMI have recipical privledges with them? I'll check...thanks for the reply!

      1. re: northerncheapo
        erly Aug 3, 2007 05:35 PM

        I am aware that we should not discuss member only clubs here, but I must say that I have been a member of C.C. for 30 years, and have never had poor service, nor a bad meal in the dining room,
        Their tasting menu (once a week only) is excellent.

        1. re: erly
          northerncheapo Aug 3, 2007 06:07 PM

          Really? Wow. Husband has been a member for almost 40 years (since he was 5) and I have to say that the service has consistently been horrid. Mind you, hubby can and is very picky about small minute details such as cutlery placement, napkin folding, ability to serve properly...and bigger details like just getting the dang food request correct. Even downstairs where it is casual, I can't tell you how iritating it is to have to retrieve a chit EVERY time b/c staff is engaged in personal conversation. But, again, comes with being very very picky about service. Must say, Mayo was wonderful and always got the drink right! Had our wedding there and it, too, was flawless....it's just the everyday service that grates on our nerves. I really miss their prime rib!!
          ps...hubby was there for lunch today, maybe you saw him? Wouldn't that be funny!

      2. re: Mr Rabbit
        Rabbit Aug 3, 2007 11:13 PM

        For risk of making the fur fly chez Rabbit... food at the Ontario Club is not particularly good (kind of a cross between wedding banquet and "faculty club" food). Despite the stodge-ily pleasing aesthetics (if you're into that vibe), their $35 lunch buffet is absolutely no bargain. Don't do it, northern....

        Much love (and domestic felicity) -

        1. re: Rabbit
          northerncheapo Aug 4, 2007 07:59 AM

          I'm not even going to touch this one! LOL, thanks for reply...I'll send you a Sidecar for your troubles!

      3. northerncheapo Aug 3, 2007 08:08 AM


        2 Replies
        1. re: northerncheapo
          TorontoJo Aug 3, 2007 02:45 PM

          Definitely try Chiado, or for a slightly less pricey option, hit their sister restaurant, Adega (on Elm).

          ETA: If you go to Chiado, ask to sit on the "original" side vs. the newer addition. The original restaurant is very old world -- mahogany walls, white table clothes, etc.

          1. re: TorontoJo
            northerncheapo Aug 3, 2007 06:10 PM

            Looks great! Thanks for the reply.

        2. orangewasabi Aug 2, 2007 06:36 AM

          Auberge du Pommier is pretty old school in service/function though the setting is more traditional / romantic than truly old-old-school which I consider to be pre-Cesar Salad

          3 Replies
          1. re: orangewasabi
            erly Aug 2, 2007 10:00 AM

            Personally I think (other than Italian night) that Cricket food is as good as Scaramouche.
            Maybe try Zucca.
            Upscale Italian with excellent fish, or Chaido which is considered the best fish house in Toronto.
            The service is excellent, and old worldly, at both places

            1. re: erly
              industry worker Aug 2, 2007 08:40 PM

              What about something as basic as The Keg? Still very good food for the price and very traditional. Not sure how many veggies head there.

              1. re: erly
                northerncheapo Aug 3, 2007 08:05 AM

                Ah, the dreaded Italian night...I hear you on that one! Cricket Club isn't bad, but I HATE the service there. It absolutely amazes me: the $ spent to be a member there PLUS the mandatory dining $ expectations, only to recieve horrid, horrid service. Only plus is when you can dine while Elvis or Tolard are skating. While I am on the tangent of private clubs, hubby just joined the RCMI and they have terrific white glove (literally) service! Cricket club could learn a thing or two from them...or McDonalds for that matter.

            2. h
              hungry_pangolin Aug 1, 2007 07:22 PM

              The OP didn't initially state that the partner was vegetarian. No offence intended, but how do you expect traditional Old School vegetarian? It strikes me as an oxymoron. The only thing that that calls up is images of Oswald Mosley.

              2 Replies
              1. re: hungry_pangolin
                northerncheapo Aug 1, 2007 08:25 PM

                Nope, not an oxymoron...just selfish on my part. Hubby pretty well accepts the fact that he will never be accomodated so he likes to go where there is old school ambiance and he has his usual grilled veggies and salad. Sometimes he gets really lucky and gets rissotto! That's why I didn't bother mentioning he was a vegetarian b/c it really doesn't matter...no offence taken!

                1. re: northerncheapo
                  kawarthagirl Aug 2, 2007 07:51 AM

                  Definitely give Truffles a try (Four Seasons)

              2. mrsleny Aug 1, 2007 06:29 PM

                The Octagon in Thornhill (on Yonge, north of Steeles) might be a bit far for you but I definitely consider it old school fine dining. They make caesar salad at your table (for two though). They specialize in steak and seafood. My husband and I used to always get the seafood platter for two Now that I've gone vegetarian, I order the grilled veggie platter (not vegan but they could probably accommodate). I totally understand about getting the short end of the stick!

                Dinner comes with garlic bread heavy on the garlic and butter and a tray of olives, pickles and pickled hot peppers.

                Have a look at their menu hasn't changed in years and probably never will!


                1. e
                  Epicure3333 Aug 1, 2007 05:32 PM

                  Scaramouche is a real toronto institution and very old school

                  if you dont want to spend the big bucks you can alwasy do teh scarmouch pasta bar, which has most of the style for half the price

                  it is always consistent and really a great spot

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Epicure3333
                    northerncheapo Aug 1, 2007 08:28 PM

                    yes, we both loved Scaramouche...it was probably the best food i have ever had in a restaurant. Husband's late mother loved it 'back in the day' and we tried it for the first (only) time this past May for our 20th anniversary. They were very good accomodating hubby's vegetarianism. Thank you for the reply.

                  2. l
                    LJS Aug 1, 2007 01:25 PM

                    I am a fan of Ruth's Chris...the downtown one...I know it is corny but I love their salads, their steaks, a really good wine list and the excellence of the service. We took our daughter's friend, a vegetarian (well, actually a vegan) there the last time she was in town and she found lots to eat.

                    1. skylineR33 Aug 1, 2007 11:26 AM

                      Old Scott House - Not my style but looks like you will enjoy something like this, they have Cesar Salad too.


                      1. Rabbit Aug 1, 2007 11:25 AM

                        The Corner House lacks the grandeur of the Rosewater... but it has an air of intimacy and civility that you might find appealing.


                        Hotel dining might be another good option for you. Truffles at the Four Seasons, or the dining room at the Windsor Arms might be suitable (Truffles gets rave review for their kitchen too, although I think there was some negative feedback on the WA after summerlicious).

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Rabbit
                          Julie McCoy Aug 1, 2007 01:21 PM

                          Corner House was the first place I thought of when I read this post. I've had great experiences there.

                          1. re: Julie McCoy
                            Beef Pattie Aug 1, 2007 05:40 PM

                            Seconded - it was my first thought as well.

                          2. re: Rabbit
                            northerncheapo Aug 1, 2007 08:43 PM

                            Yup, did the Windsor Arms hotel in June and it was alright. Ambiance was great with the private 'cabana' type rooms. Service was average-ish. Food was not bad...hard time accomodating husband's veganism so he had to just be a vegetarian that night (it's only a cholestoral thing so he can be flexible with vegan/non vegan). We originally went there looking for the Three Small Rooms, i think it was called, but it is gone. Recommended by his late mom who used to be quite the fine diner back in the day. Thanks for the reply!

                            1. re: northerncheapo
                              embee Aug 1, 2007 08:51 PM

                              I could cry about that. In my personal experience, Three Small Rooms was the best restaurant Toronto has ever seen. But it has been gone for decades now, and the current Windsor Arms has no connection with the old one in management, ambiance, or soul. Indeed, it's a new hotel with an old name.

                              You might want to try Romagna Mia on Front St. I've had good food and service there, though Chowhound reviews have been quite mixed.

                              1. re: embee
                                northerncheapo Aug 2, 2007 07:23 AM

                                Yes, my late mother in law always spoke very highly of the Three Small Rooms. We were very disappointed to find exactly what you described, but we tried anyway. Did you scroll up and see my 'review' of Rosewater? Thanks for the reply!

                          3. r
                            regale Aug 1, 2007 11:23 AM

                            I think you would enjoy Richlee's (avenue/lawrence)

                            1. j
                              jgloverwork Aug 1, 2007 07:55 AM

                              How about La Maquette on King Street?


                              The room looks out over a beautiful secluded garden courtyard with patio seating. Personally, I find the menu a little conservative - but it sounds like it could be perfect for what you are looking for.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: jgloverwork
                                northerncheapo Aug 1, 2007 08:27 AM

                                Mmmmm....this place looks promising! Thanks for the tip, I am putting it on our 'list'! BTW, I love that their ceilings are dry walled,lol!

                                1. re: northerncheapo
                                  embee Aug 1, 2007 09:08 AM

                                  La Maquette is also a lovely place, but I would never go there for the food.

                              2. a
                                ace123 Aug 1, 2007 07:08 AM

                                Traditional Old School fine dining? You may want to try:
                                Duncan House - Yorkmills & Don MIlls
                                La Castile - Dundas E, Miss
                                The School - 14th & Birchmount

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: ace123
                                  millygirl Aug 1, 2007 07:43 AM

                                  Ewwh no, not The School. Yuckk! There is traditional and then there is old and tired.
                                  Sorry but everytime I walk in there I feel like I'm about to enter a funeral home. I used to work in that vicinity and went there once to many times.

                                  1. re: ace123
                                    Olivia Aug 1, 2007 09:23 AM

                                    Duncan House is definitely old school, but not a great place for vegetarians. The one time I was there the vegetarian entree was a revolting melange of overcooked pasta and overcooked boring vegetables in dull tomato sauce.

                                    If you're an omivore though, hey, DH is certainly very nice.

                                    1. re: Olivia
                                      northerncheapo Aug 1, 2007 12:20 PM

                                      Husband is unfortunately very used to getting the short end of the stick when we dine. As he calls it, "Oily pasta and veggies at highly inflated prices"...Next mission is to find fine dining to please BOTH of us. He is always stuck ordering side plates. Doesn't help that he's not only a vegetarian, but a vegan. Thanks for the recommendation.

                                  2. o
                                    obstructionist Aug 1, 2007 06:11 AM

                                    Sounds like you need a steak house. You will probably find the most traditional ambiance at Tom Jones or Barberians. I also like Carmen's, but it's a bit kitschy.

                                    1. Rabbit Aug 1, 2007 05:05 AM

                                      What about Harbour Sixty, a very beautiful steakhouse with great service and excellent food? I also agree that Barberian's might suit you. Steakhouses are a good bet for the kind of atmosphere that you describe - and most have easily navigable menus - including caesar salad.

                                      And, this isn't a challenge, but while I can understand how some people just don't like the vibe at Rain, I would hardly call Canoe "new age."

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Rabbit
                                        northerncheapo Aug 1, 2007 06:54 AM

                                        Yah, "new age" was the only word i could come up with to describe the way non-traditional restaurants are today: exposed vented ducts, jailhouse chik bathrooms with tea candels, fusion this and foam that. I suppose I did use the wrong word,lol. Thanks for Harbour suggestions, i will look at it!

                                        1. re: Rabbit
                                          thenurse Aug 2, 2007 07:48 AM

                                          My Mom (63) was surprised at the atmosphere at Canoe when we went for Summerlicious. She was expecting old school, and thought it was quite casual.

                                        2. h
                                          hungry_pangolin Aug 1, 2007 12:46 AM

                                          What about Barberian's? That's pretty old school. Does it get more so?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: hungry_pangolin
                                            northerncheapo Aug 1, 2007 08:33 AM

                                            Been to Barberians and was nice, yes. I failed to mention my husband is a vegetarian, LOL! Thanks for suggestion.

                                          2. f
                                            foodieinTO Jul 31, 2007 09:20 PM

                                            I think you might like the Rosewater on Toronto Street.

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: foodieinTO
                                              embee Jul 31, 2007 09:22 PM

                                              It's a beautiful place, but would they really recognize the items on the menu?

                                              1. re: embee
                                                northerncheapo Aug 1, 2007 08:43 AM

                                                Now, this is more my speed! Great suggestion both of you. I am not looking for a challenge here (I really am an easy going person) but I laughed at "would they really recognize the items on the menu". I guess I kinda came across as a bumpkin (no offence to the bumpkins out there) and didn't think it necessary to post my cooking/eating credentials to qualify that we do, in fact, have a very good understanding of cooking and food. Can't be the daughter of an Italian father and a Belgium mother without knowing a thing or two about food,lol.

                                                Rosewater food menu and wine menu look very nice and I thank you for the suggestion. Now I will show my Bumpkin-ness...what is a supper club anyway?

                                                1. re: northerncheapo
                                                  embee Aug 1, 2007 09:06 AM

                                                  Actually, I can't take credit for that line, since I was quoting you:

                                                  "Where oh where are those traditional Old School kind of fine dining...items on the menu that I actually recognize?"


                                                  1. re: embee
                                                    northerncheapo Aug 1, 2007 12:15 PM

                                                    LOL...touche! Yes, although I do have an extensive knowledge of food, I am severely limited when chefs start 'fusing' things together and I can't recognize what the heck it is. I do appreciate the Rosewater recommendation: Hubby and I have a reservation tonight at 7:15...I'll let you know what happens!

                                                    1. re: northerncheapo
                                                      northerncheapo Aug 1, 2007 08:35 PM

                                                      Embee...just got back from dinner at Rosewater and it was very nice! I had the pan seared halibut which was presented with citrus and foam something or other. Fish was excellent, foam I could do without (my usual complaint...not that it was 'bad' just not my taste). I just ate around all the 'do dah' stuff to find a beautiful tasting fish. Hubby had, gasp, mushroom risotto. Very good! He started witht he cesear salad with tofu sesame dressing (very good and happy to see good ole romain lettuce, thank you Rabbit) and I started with the bocochani cheese and tomato salad with balsamic sauce. Was very good! We both found the old Gas company building to be very very beautiful and rich in history. Service was average (waiter crossed the line from 'friendly' to 'familliar' which I hate) but was alright overall. They had two flutes of pink champagne waiting for us at the table when we arrived as it was an anniversary celebration AND they treated us to a lovely plate of dessert on the house which we took on the outside patio. Ended the night at Reservoir Lounge jazz club. Very nice evening overall and I thank everyone for this recommendation.

                                                      1. re: northerncheapo
                                                        foodieinTO Aug 3, 2007 07:17 PM

                                                        I'm so glad that you enjoyed your evening. Happy Anniversary!

                                            2. i
                                              industry worker Jul 31, 2007 08:47 PM

                                              I would say keep hitting golf/country clubs or hit the UK. Scaramouche is about as traditional as Toronto to gets. A fabulous restaurant btw.

                                              To answer your question, I think caesar salads disappeared circa 1985

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: industry worker
                                                northerncheapo Aug 1, 2007 08:32 AM

                                                LOL...Cesear salads are alive and well in my household. I agree, we are probably the 'club' kinda diners hence why we are trying to expand our horizons. But I guess i am old school at heart (and I'm only 43!). Thanks for reply.

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