I have to say upfront....I really wanted to like the Citizen. I really, really, really wanted to like the Citizen. In fact, after my first visit there, I kept on my rose coloured glasses, thinking that this restaurant will get things ship shape in no time resulting in a great place to roll in for a great meal every week or so. Alas, disappointment reigns.
To start, the decor is ok. The booths are comfortable enough, the stain glass..well, not so great. The cake displays that are empty and sticking out like a sore thumb.....no idea what those are for. The place definitely reeks of Restaurant Makeover quick fix and slap dash. That's fine, considering this location has been turned over more often than underwear on a two week canoe trip. I'd make sure it would be a going concern before glamming it up myself. And if you look about that block, the glammers aren't going to be rushing to Queen/Broadview. Don't get me wrong, I love my grunge, in fact, too much gentrification makes me want to move, but I digress.
Visit 1. OK...it was hot outside. Inside was hot too. No A/C? Guess not, though the fans whipping air within 12 inches of my face did help to keep the sweat down. Unfortunately, it also made my eyes water. Get some A/C willya. The menu seemed interesting enough, I picked the sardine appie and the risotto. Now, I love sardines, they're pretty fabulous done right. I was expecting them to be fresh... nope. They were however, incredibly salty. Yes, I know, they're sardines!!! But these puppies were incredible. That salt burn in my mouth was pretty intense. I'd recommend lightening them up, just a thought. The salsa and bread that came with it were just fine, thank you kindly. I then moved on to the risotto. At first, I thought I was suffering the after effects from the sardines, but no. It was very salty. The texture was great, everything else was great....but can I remember what was in it? Nope....just salt. I did alert the manager, who mentioned that the "pasta water" hasn't been perfected yet. Ummm....ok.....get on that buddy. As I was simply starving, I did finish about two thirds of it. What can I say, I wasn't about to stick around for another 30 minutes inconveniencing my guest as something else was prepared. He did take it off my bill without my asking. At this point I didn't bother with dessert, it was time to go get some water. The wine list is pretty good, we stuck with a nicely chilled white wine.....can't recall what, but it was pretty good. Just what was needed on a hot, hot night in a hot, hot restaurant.
Visit 2. This time, it was me, my girl and another couple. The weather was quite pleasant and comfortable, so we strolled on over the bridge and hit the Citizen for my second try. Again, the place was pretty warm......not quite sure why, but it was just on the warm side of comfortable. It was also pretty empty, and we were there at 8pm or so, it never did pick up. We settled in and ordered our wine. Unfortunately, when it arrived, it was much like the restaurant, on the warm side. THE WARM SIDE!!!! Our waitress suggested putting it in the fridge.......I nodded rather eagerly at that suggestion, and knowing our boozehound tendencies, told her to throw another one in as well. OK...so here we go.
My guests..well two of them had the risotto. See Visit 1 above. Salty, salty, salty. And this time around, cold, cold, cold. The presentation was crap as well, it looked like it was just slopped in, risotto running up and over the sides. Great, the wine is hot, the food is cold and looks like gruel. My girl, being the forthright person she is, called later to say how disappointing the experience was. Umm...he mentioned the pasta water again. Dude, fix it, STAT!!!! He did offer a drink or appie the next time we went. Well, I know I won't be going again. My other guest had the sardines. Yes, I did warn him, but he went for it. He couldn't get through them. He then had the pasta with green beans.....which was like the risotto, cold. It too, was just slopped in....no presentation whatsoever. Crikey! I was starting to feel like an eejit for recommending this place.
What did I have? Well I can't remember the appetizer. Why you ask? Well, I ordered the duck confit as my main. This is one of my favourite dishes. Done well, nothing makes DowntownJoe feel more contented. When my main arrived....I was shocked. Total, complete, goggle-eyed shocked! This wasn't duck confit, it was sparrow confit. On my plate was one...yes...ONE!!! miniscule, overdone, stringy duck leg. I just couldn't believe it. So...appetizer, sides...whatever.....this is the straw that broke the camel's back. I just couldn't wait to get out of this place.
This place has been receiving a great deal of hype lately. Lots of pretty decent reviews from more learned folks than I. All I can say is, that was then, this is now. The Citizen is a definite no return for me. The mistakes they're making are beyond basic. I would have expected the service and food to be improving with time. The exact opposite is the case. Save your dosh and go somewhere that knows what they're doing. What am I saying, save your dosh and go somewhere that will at least give you hot food and a decent amount of it. If you go to the Citizen, why not just stay home, order in some KFC and flush the leftover $150 down the toilet. You and your stomach will feel better about it.
LOL, the underwear on a canoe trip....I gotta remember that one Joe!!! We had considered checking this place out a number of times, thankfully we always ended up someplace else. Anyhoo, this pretty much settles it for me....I don't think I will bother to go. There are soooo many other new places to try, or even better, old favorites to revisit.
I found the food at the Rosebud to be too salty as well. I think the chef smokes, which might explain it.
It's too bad you had a lousy experience. I went last night and actually had a very good meal, as did my friend. The decor seems thrown together, I agree, but I prefer that to something overly stylized (whatever goes on the walls, you'll end up paying for in the bill).
I had the steak tartare, which was excellent, Very nicely seasoned with interesting condiments like grilled peppers and sweet jelly. The toast points were also tasty. I started off with a Tuscan melon and lettuces salad, which was delicious. The lettuces were slightly bitter and the dressing a bit salty, so the whole thing reminded of prosciutto and melon.
The service was friendly and courteous. It wasn't hot out, so we didn't need AC. I would go again.
I wanted to add that my friend's side of green beans with chick peas was almost inedible. We barely touched it, but that was an odd aberration compared to the rest of the meal. My friend has the braised short ribs (meat and potato special), and she really enjoyed it. Obviously something funky is going on in the kitchen when things are so hit and miss.
My problem with the Citizen has been consistency: one item is so fantastic you want to eat ten of them, the next is mediocre. I've had the nearly inedible, oversalted anchovies too (and yes, I know they're supposed to be salty, but these were like eating pure fishy rock salt). One week the Panzanella was amazing, full of big chunks of beautiful heirloom tomatoes, hunks of a nice rustic bread that were loaded with olive oil and tomato juices, and arugula; the next week it was a gloppy mess of bread and tomato mush, with wilted greens.
On the other hand, the service has always been really friendly though... And, I had a really nice heirloom tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad there recently, with an ok (if simple) beet risotto. The funny part of the meal though was I asked for some bread to mop up the last bits of the salad, and got a couple of slices of white sandwich bread on a plate (think Wonderbread!) =:-|
They do have to fix the AC problem. The lack of AC (or more accurately, the poor performance of the AC system) on a hot day does make eating inside at The Citizen pretty much unbearable. We did it once back in August when it was 30+ degrees out and some in our group were literally drenched by the time they'd finished their main courses.
from what i heard they are trying to address the problem...it might be from changing vent systems during reno...but they say that should only be done by "furnace professionals" for that specific reason...a jack of all trades is not supposed to mess with that stuff....oh well....hopefully it won't be freezing in winter......
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