Underwhelmed and Overpriced at Harbour Sixty Steakhouse (long)
Had planned on going to Ruth's Chris, which I have not visited for years, but decided to give Harbour 60 a shot after all of the positive comments I had read.
Made the reservation late in the day so we were seated in the basement, which was fine, glad to just get a table for four and was assured the menu and kitchen were the same. Customer parking behind the restaurant was also a nice feature for a downtown restaurant.
The wine list was very extensive, but the least expensive local reds had red dots beside them in the list. These were wines that were commonly available from the LCBO, how difficult could it be to maintain stock? Even these were in the $70/bottle range, Trius was one of the labels that comes to mind. My dinner guests and I all commented on the steep markup for these common, and out of stock wines.
Want a bottle of '82 Pommerol? They have it, but you need to cough up the
$10,800 that it commands.
We opted for one of the least expensive French reds, a Merlot from the Bordeaux region with 'Cadillac' on the label? The only options were the $17 and up wines by the glass, so we tried the bottle.
Not awful, but certainly not great, and I am not talking great in presumed comparison to their pricier options, I am comparing it to sub $20 LCBO bottles that we regularly consume.
I feel there are plenty of better options at Cooper Street they could have marked up 400% and still offered for less than the $85 we paid for this wine.
The feta, olives, pickled hot peppers and bread they brought were ok, although certainly not on the same level as the starter offerings in other Toronto restaurants at this price point.
For reference some of my favourite places in Toronto have been:
Scaramouche, Joso's, Prego, Bigliardi's, Rosebud, Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar, Starfish, Auberge du Pommier, Mildred Pierce, Noce, Chiado, Golden Thai, Danforth Pizza, Pho Hung, and Sun's Kitchen in the Pacific Mall to name a few.
One of the questions I always like asking if I want a Ceasar is whether or not they can put extra anchovy on my salad, it satisfys two desires; the need to know that they make their dressing on site, and the fact that I really like extra anchovies on my Ceasar.
They claim that they make the dressing themselves, and that they use anchovies, but could not add extra to my salad for some reason.
One of my companions ordered the lobster bisque, another the parmesan truffle fries. The bisque was ok, but more of a thin stew, slightly gelatinous and having a sheen to it that bespoke some other agent than roux or potatoe as a thickener. Chunks of lobster and potatoe none the less, and I thought it smelled appealling, but the person actually eating it was less impressed, is bisque normally chunky?
The parmesan truffle fries were better than average fries to start, with ok white truffle flavoured oil, a sliver of substandard parmesan on top and a rosemary sprig stuffed among the fries, all served in a paper cone. Hey wait a minute, this is pretty reminiscent of Jamie Kennedy's offerings, but I think that someone should make a couple trips back to JK's wine
bar to get the whole gourmet fries thing sussed out a bit better.
The Ceasar salad was pretty pedestrian, same grade of parmesan as the fries and a carbonized sliver of 'double smoked bacon' on top.
The serving size was very generous.
We ordered three rib steaks on the bone and an order of lamb chops. One of the unusual things was the way the doneness was described.
Rare - blue
Medium rare - red and cold in the centre
Medium - red and warm in the centre
I believe based on this we all ordered Medium, as this is what I normally
consider Medium Rare
The steaks were HUGE, another guest used the word vulgar to describe the size. At least 1 1/2" thick and as big as your face. I cut into mine, grey throughout, I cut again (dim lighting mind you) more grey, the waiter suggested I try one more time, paydirt, but that means that more than half my steak was cooked throughout, and maybe half was red and warm in the middle. They offered to exchange it, but that would have thrown me out of sync with the rest of my party, and ( perhaps this is only in my paranoid mind ) I consider it a dangerous proposition to tell a cook that they screwed up and ask them to do it again.
The flavour and texture was ok, I've certainly had better rib steak for less, most recently
at the forgotten but not gone Bigliardi's on Church St, where you can also get
extra anchovies on your Ceasar if you request it.
The lamb serving was large but not as American sized as the steaks, they elicited
some polite comments from the person consuming them, so that's all I can say about
Sides, which are extra, were garlic mashed, spinach, both ok, and a second order of the fries.
Desserts offered a very enjoyable creme brulee, and an interesting presentation of smores,
involving a live fire at your table to roast the marshmallows on.
We ordered a round of Grand Mariner after dinner and the waiter offered to put it on the house for the issue with the doneness of my steak, very generous and good customer service. The Grand Mariner also came warmed in nice big snifters, another good point.
Dinner for four people with the cheapest bottle of red wine available?
$560 before tip.
The service was very good, eager but not quite expert.
Overall, I'm afraid I don't understand the appeal, and I don't think the meal would
have been magically transformed if we had shelled out the few hundred bucks for a
bottle of wine, which seemed average for their list.
At this price point, I don't feel that you should have to visit a second time to try for an
experience commensurate to the cost.
and now you've got me thinking about Bigliardi's -- would you say it's worth a visit?
(based on your reference list, I'd really love your opinion.)
I have had the oppourtunity to chat with Harbour 60 management at wine tastings and industry functions. They use a flat markup of 500% of every bottle of wine they sell, period. As a wine lover and sommelier, I refuse to set foot in the restaurant for that reason alone.
An '82 Le Pin would go for about $10,000, but not much else. Petrus half that.
No other Pommerol's command that kind of price.
I'm interested in how Bigliardi's is these days too. It used to be my go-to steak house for oooooh 20 years. Then when they put Champions in the bar side I stopped going. No real reason other than found it a little off-putting. I still recall with great fondness their chocolate mousse in a dark chocolate basket. I don't believe they serve that any more, but it was as romantic a treat as it was delicious.