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Underwhelmed and Overpriced at Harbour Sixty Steakhouse (long)

o
OftenHungry Dec 12, 2007 07:18 AM

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.
Fishy!

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
Etc..

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
them.

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.

  1. T Long Dec 12, 2007 07:27 AM

    V. enjoyable reading and informative....looking forward to your future posts.

    1. orangewasabi Dec 12, 2007 07:31 AM

      awesome review!

      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.)

      1. Matt416 Dec 12, 2007 08:16 AM

        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.

        Matt

        1 Reply
        1. re: Matt416
          Fwagra Dec 13, 2007 05:30 PM

          That is appalling. Just appalling.

          They're packed right now, I bet.

        2. JamieK Dec 12, 2007 08:25 AM

          +

          -----
          Harbour Sixty
          60 Harbour Street, Toronto, ON M5J 1B7, CA

          1. Googs Dec 12, 2007 10:19 AM

            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.

            1. h
              hungry_pangolin Dec 12, 2007 06:51 PM

              Excellent review, there, OftenHungry. Good detail, and witty. I look forward to more from you.

              I could not believe the $10,800 for an '82 Pommerol. I will not describe what my body did on reading that. And Matt416's info, that it's 500% mark up across the board! No! On principle, they shall never have my custom.

              Perhaps we should have a 'hounds' night at Bigliardi's. And then send the management of Harbour 60 a thank you note.

              3 Replies
              1. re: hungry_pangolin
                Googs Dec 14, 2007 11:50 AM

                I think that's a GREAT idea Hungy P. We should send the thank you note on Bigliardi's letterhead and charge H60 a 500% mark-up on delivery.

                Did you know you can get a private room upstairs with your own bartender at Bigliardi's at no additional charge as long as you fill the seats? I've been there and done that. It's lovely.
                http://georgebigliardis.sites.toronto...

                1. re: deelicious
                  h
                  hungry_pangolin Dec 15, 2007 07:05 AM

                  As a wine drinker, the mark-up is an issue for me. Wine is part of my total experience... Gesammtessenerfahrung, if you will. Steak is not the only question.

                  "The bacon strips are always perfectly cooked". True, many of us bemoan the difficulty in finding a good caesar salad, but how difficult is it to cook bacon?

                  "Preparation is unsurpassed." It's a friggin' steak.

                  Sorry, I'm not buying it. (Literally.)

                  1. re: deelicious
                    Googs Dec 15, 2007 02:03 PM

                    I assume that if you don't have wine the prices must seem commensurate with the quality received, Deelicious. As I consider it a crime to enjoy a great steak without a big, beautiful red to go with it I will never get the same value as you. You're lucky in that regard.

                    I will note one thing though. The H60 website has full listings with prices for everything, but the wine list is mysteriously absent and has been for at least 2 days. Kinda makes me wonder.

                  2. Rabbit Dec 13, 2007 01:43 AM

                    I happened to find myself at H60 last night, so I thought I'd weigh in.

                    - First, H60 has traditionally been my steakhouse of choice.
                    - Second, I think steakhouses are generally quite boring and at the end-of-meal I always find myself mourning the much more interesting meal that could have been had elsewere for the same (usually very hefty) $$$$.

                    So:
                    - started with cocktails at the bar. One drink did not arrive as ordered (problem was quickly solved). The other was slightly off... too lemon-y and sweet, but not "wrong" in any way I could exactly identify, so I kept it (it was not entirely unpleasant and I wasn't in the mood to quarrel). The usual onslaught of bar snacks was noticeably absent??
                    - steaks were cooked exactly as ordered, buttery tender and satisfying
                    - sides were good (not excellent, but good), and portions were generous as always
                    - had difficulty finding a bottle of wine we wanted in the $200 price range!! wine we settled on was good but not excellent by any means. kind of sad to settle for a meh bottle at that price range (we did go with a sommelier's rec). mark ups are indeed criminal, as others have mentioned, but I already knew this about H60
                    - molten chocolate dessert was very good. decadent.
                    - service was excellent, as always, including a comp-ed round of after-dinner drinks

                    Cheque was $550ish. Food was good, but I would have to say I found it perhaps a little less satisfying than previous visits. Next time I need to do the steak thing I would consider going elsewhere... perhaps Bigliardi's!

                    1. s
                      Spiboy Dec 13, 2007 07:51 PM

                      Excellent review... I hate the place .....

                      1. g
                        gps_shag Dec 13, 2007 09:21 PM

                        Regardless of the quality of the steak, the real question is: why would you even think of ordering wine with that kind of markup? Due to the incredibly overblown prices for wine in virtually all higher end restaurants, I've never ordered any wine with dinner out. It's just not worth it.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: gps_shag
                          h
                          hungry_pangolin Dec 14, 2007 05:17 AM

                          I wonder... do they have byob policy, and what their corkage fee might be. Or am I being ridiculous? Corkage $500?

                          1. re: hungry_pangolin
                            s
                            Snarf Dec 14, 2007 08:25 AM

                            A point I was going to make. I never order off the wine list in steakhouses anymore. Even with a 30$ corkage fee (Morton's, don't know about h60), it's still better to bring a 20$ bottle and pay 50$ for it than to pay 120$ for the same bottle.

                            1. re: Snarf
                              h
                              hungry_pangolin Dec 14, 2007 04:32 PM

                              I just checked out the website. Interesting thing is that there's a tab for the wine list, but nothing comes up. Perhaps it indicates a modicum of shame.

                        2. a
                          Aardvark Dec 15, 2007 10:27 AM

                          As I've said many times, these guys are thieves but I haven't had a better steak in recent memory. However the insulting prices keep me from going back since there are other places almost as good.

                          Bigliardi's unfortunately isn't one of them based on my last visit there in the summer. I wouldn't go back.

                          1. jayt90 Dec 15, 2007 03:46 PM

                            "It's just a $#%^&*(^?'"}+@ steak." Well, at home one could grill two Cumbrae rib steaks, Alton Brown's method ($50), open a Chateauneuf du Pape ($50), and prepare sides of creamed spinach and baked potatoes (<$10) for two, with lots of leftovers for the day after. That's $110 and the tips come afterwards!
                            That meal would be $400 at Harbour 60 before tax and tip, no appetizer or dessert, and half of this is wine mark-up.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Googs
                              orangewasabi Dec 15, 2007 05:57 PM

                              anyone know what H60 is grilling on? anything particularly special that would make it impossible to replicate elsewhere? H60 is, for me, a place to spend corporate expense account money when setting matters more than food.

                              When it's my own cash, I prefer Carmen's for taste, price & ambiance. Everytime my husband & I go to Carmen's we always leave surprised at how low the final tab is. The meat is incredible and the service cracks me up - those old guys are great! No sides, no apps, not a veggie in site and barely a winelist. We just roll out of there gorged on great meat and a litre of house with a glow on our faces from laughing with the servers and enjoying the fireplaces . . . all for a mere $150.

                              1. re: jayt90
                                f
                                Food4201 Dec 16, 2007 07:52 AM

                                I am with you this is the way to do it. I think there prices are a joke. I dont mind paying for a good peice of meat but was there two weeks ago and paid $9 for a baked potato, thats robbery. H60 is made for Corperate big wigs paying with other peoples money. Would much rather way jayt90

                              2. s
                                salad lad Dec 15, 2007 11:47 PM

                                Carmen's is great. Especially if you love garlic. Bigliardi's, too: underappreciated.
                                But the new kid on the block (haven't tried Prime yet...) is better than Harbour Sixty and their wine list lacks the mark-up. Jacobs and Co. has reasonable mark-ups, and in some cases, it seemed to only be double. And their sommelier is great. Maybe Harbour 60 removed their wine list of the website because they are feeling threathened?

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: salad lad
                                  deelicious Dec 16, 2007 06:10 PM

                                  Fair guess that H60 took the wine prices down when Jacobs appeared on the scene, but the prices have actually been gone for a long time. Last year they presented a list called "Wine Highlights" with bottles starting at about 48.00. When they switched to the new web design, they left the wine section empty....

                                  1. re: deelicious
                                    d
                                    danthediner Jan 11, 2008 06:48 PM

                                    I have never been to H60, and having read the negative restaurant reviews in the Toronto papers last weekend, I won't be going anytime soon.

                                    Ruths Chris is more sizzle than Steak.
                                    Barberian's is nice.
                                    My fave is Carmen's. Old school, but enjoyable.
                                    Bigliardi's on Church Street is good, too!
                                    George is still cranky as ever, but his food remains delicious.
                                    He's participating in Winterlicious, too!
                                    Be sure to try his Caesar Salad. :)

                                2. i
                                  itsvince Jan 24, 2011 06:52 PM

                                  We were at Harbour 60 over the weekend, on a gift certificate given to us by friends. I've figured out that there are two rules to dining at Harbour 60:

                                  1) Don't spend your own money. Everything is overpriced.
                                  2) Stick to the basic steakhouse fare. They are incapable of executing anything else. The seared tuna was cold as if it was just taken out of the refrigerator. The grilled prawn in the soupe du jour came complete with poop chute, which I realized as I was eating it.

                                  We decided to try the fois gras poutine. What a mistake that was. The fries were so so, the cheese was actually grated marbled cheddar cheese, which is considered a crime in Quebec. Gravy was one blotch fully absorbed by the other ingredients when it go to our table. The fois gras was the worst. There were only 3 small pieces on the poutine, and it was scorched beyond recognition and tasted like grilled prawns (I'm guessing they used the same grill). What they did to the fois gras should be considered animal abuse! This was nothing like Martin Picard's fois gras poutine. It was just an insult on a plate. Seriously, if you can't execute something properly, just take it off your menu.

                                  The NY Strip was very good though, and done as I ordered it. The rib eye, not so much, but still ok.

                                  For desert, we tried the Baked Alaska. It was more like a Scorched Alaska after the 1/2 cup of flaming alcohol they poured on it at the table ran out of juice. I highly recommend it if you enjoy eating carbon.

                                  With tax and tip we ended up around $300, which included a $30 half bottle of red.

                                  It was very cold sitting next to the window since it was about -15 outside and the windows are crap. Not that impressed with the servers either, I've seen better at Swiss Chalet.

                                  1. f
                                    foodguy68 Apr 4, 2011 11:52 AM

                                    I cannot agree more...I was there on Saturday night and when I left I had the very uncomfortable feeling of being soaked. It's not just the menu pricing, but beware of anything that does not have a definitive price. Example? ...how about a Kettle one vodka and soda....$15 plus tax?....are you serious?.....how about a dozen "market price" oysters....these were tiny, probably 120ct....$72?....that's right, Seventy two dollars.....for that money I should definitely not be crunching on shells, which I was with the first one I put in my mouth...

                                    Although the meats were of very high quality, and cooked as ordered, the sides and accompanying sauces were very over-salted and uninspiring.

                                    Dinner for TWO with a $88 bottle of wine, tax and tip, no dessert or coffee....$500.....FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS

                                    It really is not about the money....we go to the best places in town, including Bymark, Splendido, Colboune Lane, Kaji, Cava...

                                    I would not rush back, even if someone else was picking up the tab.

                                    -----
                                    Splendido
                                    88 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1G5, CA

                                    Bymark
                                    66 Wellington St. W, Toronto, ON M5K 1J3, CA

                                    Cava
                                    1560 Yonge St., Toronto, ON M4T 2S9, CA

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: foodguy68
                                      s
                                      sumdumgoy Apr 4, 2011 03:11 PM

                                      The only steak house I would go to on my own dime is Jacobs.

                                      It should be obvious that virtually all downtown steak joints are nothing more than tourist traps in or near big hotels or close to the business district. The travelling public rich and poor see steak as a safe option and steak houses grease the palms of the concierges with free meals or cash.

                                      I have been to Jacobs twice and thought the wait staff, steak and sides were close to perfect. The only fault on the first visit my meat was slightly over salted and as I was a guest did not send it back. Otherwise, everything was better to much better than any steak house I have ever been to in the city and I have been to them all.

                                      On both occasions I/we took great wine and Champagne ($30 corkage) which would have added about $1500 to the bill at the other well known places.

                                      The blow out celebration dinner for 4 (my dime) was about $450 inc. corkage, tax and tip. The wine I took had been waiting patiently in my cellar and was far too good for a home cooked meal!
                                      Thank God for corkage!

                                      1. re: sumdumgoy
                                        estufarian Apr 4, 2011 04:34 PM

                                        Jacobs website says nothing about BYOW - neither is it listed on the most current list (jlunar's).
                                        I've not been recently since a sub-par experience and unsatisfactory wine list. But if the corkage option exists I could consider it again. Is this generally available or are you just a 'good customer'?

                                        1. re: estufarian
                                          justpete Apr 4, 2011 04:56 PM

                                          Its surprising that you had a sub-par experience. Can you expand a little? It's my go-to place for steak - the service is mostly good, sometimes excellent, they have the best caesar salad in the city, and they know how to cook a steak - I'm left wondering what your issues were.

                                          Ps, with regards to Harbour Sixty, I'm not certain I've ever read a single positive review.

                                          1. re: justpete
                                            estufarian Apr 5, 2011 08:06 AM

                                            It was a 'group dinner'.
                                            Main course was a trio of meats/steaks (included Wagyu - don't recall the other two).
                                            Wagyu was unlike any other I've had - wasn't even apparent which piece was Wagyu. Two of the three pieces were almost tasteless - literally hardly any beef flavour. Third piece was way overcooked for me (really tough - but to be fair, we didn't have the chance to order by doneness).
                                            Really no incentive to return, although I've noted the positive reviews by others in this forum, so might consider a return with a nice bottle in tow.

                                            1. re: estufarian
                                              justpete Apr 5, 2011 08:40 AM

                                              I've had Wagyu a few times - and wasn't overly impressed - including during Chef David Lee's last week at Splendido - but that's a different discussion.

                                              I think giving it maybe one more try would be a good idea - they have the best steaks in the city, in my opinion - other than Splendido's dry aged 70 day ribeye. And the doneness of their steaks is always very accurate - something even places like Morton's can never get right (whenever I've been dragged there) I've only had one tough peice of meat from Jacob's & Co in countless visits - and it was the one time I decided to venture away from ordering ribeye (I ordered striploin instead for some odd reason).

                                              I think I just talked myself in to a visit to J&C tonight. ha.

                                              -----
                                              Splendido
                                              88 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1G5, CA

                                          2. re: estufarian
                                            jlunar Apr 5, 2011 06:31 AM

                                            I didn't know either! Too early to call right now, but I will check later today if no one else already has!

                                            ---
                                            http://www.corkagetoronto.com -- for free or for a fee, bring your wine!

                                            1. re: jlunar
                                              a
                                              acd123 Apr 5, 2011 06:57 AM

                                              The corkage is $40. I did it a few months ago.

                                              1. re: acd123
                                                jlunar Apr 5, 2011 08:10 AM

                                                Hmn... will still call tonight - $30 seems the most recent (sumdumgoy's post), but you've got $40...! Maybe it's less now?

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