Senses Restaurant: Recommendations?
Hi Toronto CHers,
I have been extended a generous invitation to dine at Senses this weekend and am looking forward to it. Has anyone already eaten there since chef Patrick Lin returned to the helm? I'm particularly interested in reviews of the chilled lobster medallions and black cod entrees... and all of the appetizers!
Thanks in advance for your help!
328 Wellington Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 3T4, CA
Yes, I ate there shortly after Patrick rejoined.
Haven't been back.
But the main problem was the service - still as disastrous as ever. Poor wine list - adequate food - certainly not up to what I expected from Patrick.
So I have been waiting for him to settle in.
Some friends went recently - described the sevice as appalling and the black cod dish as "the worst black cod they've had in Toronto" - both small portion and overcooked.
You did ask!
I went to Senses on this past weekend. While I wouldn't say it's one of the best restaurants I've experienced in Toronto at that price point (Scaramouche, I'd say, does it better), my dining partners and I left very satisfied.
We started off with truffled lobster pasta, which was decadent and intensely flavoured - apparently Chef Lin invented this dish while working at Truffles in the Four Seasons years ago and I can see why he still makes it.
One of us ordered the cod, in spite of the warning above - estufarian, either I'd like to know where else you've had better cod dishes because I have to try them all, or I think the kitchen has worked out some kinks... because it was delicious. The cod was very fresh and excellently prepared, and the 25-year-old balsamic added a lovely zing to the firm flesh. We were all in agreement that it was a delicious dish. The accompanying crab gratin was super rich, so it had to be eaten in tiny mouthfulls, but it was definitely enjoyable.
I had a steamed barramundi - it was delicate and delicious, and so subtle in flavour compared to the cod. The steamed vegetables it sat on top of were lovely, as was the interesting pine nut / vegetable casserole on the side (in a cute miniature Le Creuset round French oven).
The duck, in my opinion, was the weakest of the mains that I sampled. The fat wasn't rendered sufficiently but the duck meat was tasty and the foie gras delicious.
The chef was kind enough to prepare a sampling platter of his desserts. While none of the desserts were mind-blowing, they were solid. I loved his take on panna cotta, and the banana cake was syrupy and rich. The ice creams (coffee and chocolate) were super dense and intensely flavoured. And oh my goodness, the macarons! We were given four with the bill and I quickly snatched the green pistachio one - how delicious! Best macaron I've ever had in Toronto, by far (the freshness likely had a lot to do with this...)
The chef, Patrick Lin, was a charming and knowledgable host. He made the evening more special for us with his attentiveness.
I hope other hounds try this place out as I'd like to hear some other feedback.
I'm a great Patrick Lin fan. I even visited his restaurant in Hong Kong when he was there. Had a special birthday in the private dining room/chef's kitchen at Hemisphere's. Went to the dinner he cooked as a guest at Lai Wah Heen a couple of years back when he did 'old' and 'new' versions of classic Chinese dishes (complete with a booklet explaining what he did). An astonishing meal - one of my best ever in Toronto. And hence my reluctance to respond to your first post - only replying when you followed up!
But our meal there was not up to par. And wishing won't make it so. And service was pretty bad - as it has been at all my meals at Senses over several years.
Incidentally the cod comment came from a friend - not a personal comment. He added that he'd had black cod (cooked) at Aoyama the same week - twice the size and half the cost (there may have been some exaggeration!). But he also said the service was terrible.
As I said - encouraging - but the menu you describe, however accomplished, doesn't stand out as being a 'Patrick Lin' menu - more of a 'Hotel Dining Room' menu.
I'd rush to see (and taste) a 'truer' Patrick Lin experience.
You're absolutely right, estufarian - it was a very tame menu with only a few interesting options (the geoduck clam appetizer sounded quite lovely... maybe next time).
Service was fine this weekend - we had no issues whatsoever with our server(s) and they were actually quite polished and knowledgeable.
Well, if you ever find such a 'true' Patrick Lin experience, please do share ... I would love to try him out when he's free to do what he pleases!
Thanks for the post. I really enjoyed my dining experiences at Hemesphere's and have been waiting to hear good things about his latest stint.
Estufarian, what a coincidence to me that you mention Donostia, I'll be there for 4 days in the fall as a detour of our travels in France. I just clicked on your name and noted your favourite restaurant - it will be closed when I'm there!
Then try for Mugaritz - will be a 'love-it-or-hate-it" experience - and a very talented sommelier to match the wines. (My # 5 all-time). Lamb's Trotter with a Salted Caramel sauce was my highlight.
And consider Exteberri - about a 90 minute drive, south of Bilbao (45 mins from there) but worth it for the best grilled food - maybe in the world! (My #8 all-time). We had Dove caught that morning.
I tried Senses for the first time last night and was hugely disappointed :-( I had the foie gras for apps. Portion size was ok but there was just no balance to the dish. All I could taste was salt, salt and more salt. One piece of the foie was caramelized well but the other slice was not seared well..it turned out limp and lifeless. I couldn't even finish it (gasp!). It came with a pate which was crusted on top with something salty as well. For my main dish, I had the halibut with dungeness crab. The crab was nice and creamy but generic. The halibut...my oh my, the worst piece of halibut I've ever had hands down. It was tiny, about half a inch thick, smaller than a deck of cards and was definitely taken from the tail end of the fillet. I just cooked some nice thick halibut fillets last week so I couldn't help but compare. In addition to that, it was overcooked and coated with this salty sweet sauce that completely overpowered the fish and everything else. I think my tastebuds were numb after having all that salt. Dessert at least was better. But then again, it's pretty hard to screw up creme brulee.
Sorry for not putting up a post earlier to save you from a sub-par meal, ctl98. I had a meal there a while back, but that was before I started posting reviews on CH. I found the meal was not worth the hype - and though I am sure Patrick Lin is an accomplished chef back in his other establishments, it just did not translate in Sen5es. The meal was not bad in any way, the one I consumed, but it was just very average - and for the price, it was not a good experience at all. Even with the desserts, I was quite disappointed. The macarons were the only saving grace of the meal IMO (they were the best macarons I have had in this city). The rest of the dishes I do not even remember because they were just so average. I believe I had his 'Peking Duck' that was supposed to be hung to dry for days with hot oil poured over it for hours and hours... tasted like plain ol' roasted duck with very average skin(IMO). I understand the concept of pouring the hot oil to 'crisp' up the skin. But it just fell flat. One reason may be that all the effort was wasted because the duck was then thinly sliced and a sauce poured over the duck. If that was how the dish was to be plated, I do not see the point of going through all the trouble of perfecting the skin. I had his truffled spaghettini in Truffles and found that dish absolutely marvelous - however, when I had it at Sen5es a few months ago, the dish did not evoke the same emotions for me. But to each their own, and I know that many people enjoy his foods.
Overall, I felt that the Sen5es has a treat to all your senses, except one - taste. And for a restaurant and food, that is the most important sense of all.
Here were some photos of that meal. Forgive the quality - bad lighting and old photos - not that used to the camera's settings just yet at the time.
Sen5es flatware: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Truffle foam Spaghettini: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Dessert tasting menu: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Cheers and (future) Happy Eating!
Thanks for reminding me about the macarons, BokChoi! You're right, they were very good...the only thing that stood out from that meal. But the meal was so bad it made me even forget I had macarons. Good thing my meal was paid for by someone else's expense account. I would have been upset to pay that much money for a bad meal.