Thirty Five Elm Review
Last week ML and I headed to 35 Elm St after reading about a dish there, created by chef Andrea Nicholson. My interest was piqued not by the dish but rather, the name of the chef who I had recalled worked at Senses, a restaurant we had both really enjoyed. I don't know the exact history of 35 Elm but in a past life it was an Il Fornello. I think, but am not certain, that Il Fornello in a rebranding attempt renamed the location to 35 Elm. And now I suspect that the current incarnation bears no relation to Il Fornello, other than retaining the name and perhaps some branding. If someone can add insight on this, please do.
Regardless, we really enjoyed our meal there. Started with an amuse of beef carpaccio and Israeli cous cous. Excellent bread was provided along with a terrific hoummous-like dip. Generally I am not keen on the hoummous-like dips provided by restaurants as they are often poor riffs on the authentic form. This one however was very tasty.
We split a Ploughmen's Plate for an app. Excellent in every respect. Cured artisanal meats were delicious as was ultra-smooth chicken liver pate and the vegetables pickled in house were terrific.
ML had "BBQ" Georgian Bay Trout with a lobster and wheat berry succotash, while I had a pasta special - pappardelle with braised lamb and porcini mushroom. We enjoyed both but I think the porcini flavour on the pappardelle could have been more pronounced. As a side note, one of the more amusing dishes on offer is a take on beer can chicken, using Cornish hen and Labatt 50. Also notable is a nice wine list featuring interesting Ontario wines.
For dessert we shared "Peaches and Cream", a terrific dish which included creme brulee with pieces of peaches interspersed served alongside a husk of corn filled with caramel popcorn.
Service was generally very good - some on the floor are more experienced than others - but everyone is friendly and what I believe is the owner/sommelier was helpful.
Okay, well, we went on Sunday and I have to say it was a pleasant surprise. My boyfriend's mom was in town for a conference, and had gotten the recommendation from the concierge at her hotel and some of the other conferees that had already been (including some locals). I suspect this sort of thing is where they get most of their business - being close to the Eaton Centre, the constant flux of tourists and other visitors probably keeps them busy. (I actually saw one of the professors from my building at the next table - it looked like an interview trip or visiting speaker.)
The space is kind of neat - it's a Victorian townhouse with a modern facade tacked on - the original front window has been converted into the bar. Art on the walls by local artists, and generally just kind of cozy.
I'll second what was said above about the bread - the spread they provide is very tasty. We had an amuse of some smoked salmon on a couscous salad - also tasty, and the Mom seemed really tickled, I'm not sure she's ever gotten an amuse before. :) They each had the soup to start - some sort of spiced pumpkin - and both seemed to really enjoy it. I forgot to snitch a taste, so I can't vouch for it. I had the romaine salad, which had a slightly sweet, mustard-based dressing on it. It was just okay, nothing special about it, but the bacon topping it was REALLY good stuff. I'm a complete sucker for really good, crispy, smoky bacon.
Two of us had the "Newfoundland" cod. We asked the waitress why the quotes on the menu - is the fish merely allegedly from Newfoundland? - she laughed and said she gets that question a lot, but the fish is definitely cod, and definitely from Newfoundland. Whoever designed the menu must have thought the excessive punctuation would make it look more appetizing. It came topped with braised oxtail, wrapped up in leeks, and on top of some very delicious potatoes with a truffle jus. We both thought this was a fantastic dish - the fish was perfectly cooked, nothing was over- or under-seasoned and most importantly (for me, at least), it was something I would never have made for myself at home. I love to cook and think I'm pretty good at it, so it's always disappointing when I go out and spend a lot of money on something I could have made myself better and cheaper at home.
Boyfriend had the ribeye - it came with a buckwheat fritter that was spicy (in terms of flavor, not heat) and interesting, and swiss chard that was done nicely. He seemed to really enjoy his dinner, although after snitching a bite of everything, I preferred mine. :)
For dessert, Mom and I had the maple creme caramel and boyfriend had apple pie. I really wasn't expecting much from the creme caramel, but it came with a pumpkin ice cream and praline nuts (walnuts, I think?) and it was really delicious. I didn't snitch a bite of the pie because I can't eat apples, so I've got nothing there.
Wine list is short, but I think pretty well-chosen. Weighted towards VQA, only maybe 5 or 6 each white and red. We had a half-liter of Megalomaniac riesling, at what seemed to be a very reasonable markup (about 2x).
Overall, it was a really enjoyable dinner. The menu clearly emphasizes Canadian food and local whenever possible, and you could certainly do a lot worse in that neighborhood *coughcoughBatonRougecough* for a lot more money.
Their Cornish Hen in the beer Can is a dish I would return for.
The white meat is succulent, and yet the legs are tender.
Lots of crispy bits,as well.
Slight honey coating.
Served on a generous portion of mash
Huge Cornish Hen to fit into a can.
Food is uneven at best, as the Fondue app. was just O.K.
Veggies tasted re-heated.
Three kinds of fresh oysters at very reasonable prices.$25. per dozen.
Two of our companions had the oysters, two of each, and then shared another 1/2 dozen.
Said the oysters were wonderful quality.
One of our group had the hamburger, said it was excellent, and two others the pickerel , both enjoyed their fish.
The place is strange, yet comfortable.
In the center of all of this is a wood burning Pizza oven.
Friendly, relaxed and welcome service
Amuse of fish cake, was quite good as well.
Is it a destination, probably not, but I will definitely return for the Beer Can Cornish Hen
Like the place.