Birthday Dinner for under $300
I feel a little silly posting this, as I am a regular on the board (or try to be) and naturally follow the reviews etc. that get posted ....but lately things have been a little tight so we haven't been venturing out much beyond a few neighbourhood places.....
But I have a birthday coming up and we would like to go out for a nicer meal (not splendido nice, a bit out of my price range), but don't want to spend more than $300 for the two of us. We do like more than one glass of wine and would rather not end up "trying" to meet the budget. In addition, feeling a bit overwhelmed with the number of choices involved...
We love food, are very adventurous, and I am considering Kaiseki Sakura as the tasting menu with drink pairings seems very reasonable.
I've also considered Tati, Foxley and Harbord Room, but either reservations are not taken and/or reviews seem pretty inconsistent. Have also considered Batifole, but my wife is not a fan. We are on the Danforth, but will travel, though prefer something on the TTC so we can drink responsibly.
So given these constraints (TTC, $300 total with a few drinks, interesting to foodies, take reservations), any suggestions fellow chowhounds?
I've heard good things about Harbord Room but have never been. Tati has gotten mixed reviews, and it seems more negative than positive. Can't comment on Foxley. Been to Batifole and while I thought it was okay, it's not what I would consider special.
My suggestions would be Scaramouche Pasta Bar, Pastis or Mistura. Your budget of $300 should buy you a very nice evening at either of those spots.
Either way, have a great time and happy birthday bluedog.
I would strongly recommend Globe Bistro as well. I just went for the first time last week and enjoyed myself immensely. We started with a cocktail on the roof and moved downstairs for dinner.
For your birthday dinner, I would request a booth on the mezzanine level. The space is really beautiful and the mezzanine only has about 6 tables, so it feels special and very romantic.
Oh, and I found the red fife bread addictive!
My girlfriend took me to Amusee Bouche for my birthday last month. French bistro, great presentation, small and quaint, was Susur Lee's old place. Check out their website....voted Best Small Cellar for their wines. Should be able to do it for under $300.
Here are a few that I believe meet all of your criteria:
Didier by St Clair station
Imperia near the Yonge-Bloor subway
Zucca near Eglinton station
It would be tricky to get out of George near Queen subway within budget, but not impossible.
My SO and I also enjoy a few drinks with our dinner and I know that can (sadly) up the cost significantly. I can't recall exactly what we paid the two times we've been to Amuse Bouche (mentioned by one of the other posters) but I think you might have a tough time keeping under budget.
I second the recco for Zucca, and would also add Quince on Yonge south of Eglinton; I think you get great value for your money there, and the food is terrific, plus it's a nice atmosphere for a special occasion.
A few weeks ago, I would have highly recommended the Rosebud (although it's off the subway line so you'd have to take the streetcar), but my last meal there was a bit of a disappointment, mainly because the clam pasta was wildly oversalted. I'm really hoping that this was an aberration, because I love the place (great cozy, romantic room and really great food). If you do go, I highly recommend the braised short rib gnocchi...to die for.
I haven't been to Weezie's (King and Power, if I'm not mistaken) but people have great things to say about it on this board, and it sounds very reasonable.
Have a great time wherever you end up!
First off, thanks for all your help fellow chowhounds, I appreciate it. And thanks millygirl for your birthday wishes. As to where we ended up, special thanks to Jaimie K and TorontoJo for reminding me about the Globe Bistro, which is where we ended up. Indeed we walked there.
Long story short: very impressed. We started with a glass each of a cremant de bourgone, accompanied by 4 oysters (I love'em, my wife's not a fan), followed by sweetbreads for me, with seasonal wild mushrooms and delicate gnocchi, and a berksire pork terrine for my wife. Housemade dark bread (beautiful) was quickly placed on the table, along with a hickory smoked hummous (OK) and sweet butter. The sweetbreads were crispy, (I think) quickly deepfried/tempura-ed, but not overdone, and still creamy, with the accompanying gnocchi/mushroom sautee an almost perfect compliment. My wife's terrine was honestly more of a headcheese (not a bad thing), with thick rich pieces of pork. And while a little salty, it was nicely accompanied by a piccalilli and what I think were delicate pork rinds (my wife called them craquelins) and crostini.
For the mains, I had the evening special, which was duck breast (almost perfect, sliced into three pieces, the thickest one being just a touch too rare, but the other two were heaven), served (again) on wild mushrooms and accompanied by a goat cheese souffle. My wife had the rock hen with smoked bacon yukon gratin, fava
beans, and spring peas. I didn't taste it, but she was very happy. We had a nice bottle of Marlborough Pinot with this.
For dessert, she had a rhubarb trifle, which was the only off-note of the evening. While she loved how it tasted, it was a bit too starchy. As I said in the OP, we don't get out much these days, but the orange chocolate tart I had was sublime.
Along with a coffee and a decaf espresso, tax and a generous tip, the total came to $259. In my books, extraordinary value for what they are trying to do (locally sourced/organic), and well within our budget. Very impressed and we will be back.
Service was also fantastic, informative, intelligent, and convenient without being obsequious. Thanks to Stacey and to the sommelier for some fantastic advice and interesting choices.