Celestin - jump start on summerlicious
Enjoyed an early summerlicious dinner tonight at Celestin. I have been to some sad, tired, ho hum summer and winterlicious events, but the dinner tonight at Celestin is a great example of what can be done with local produce for $35.Four apps ranged from the usual mixed greens through to a spicy bisque. SO had the bisque, I had the house cured salmon with buckwheat pancake and red caviar ( the other app I believe was a ravioli - can't remember those details). A nice touch for my hungry SO was the inclusion of 2 appetizers that are popular, from the regular menu for an extra cost - The braised rabbit ravioli and the Quebec farmed foie gras tourchon. This (the rabbit ravioli) worked for us as a joint appetiser with the other first courses. We both had a broiled half lobster with Dungeness crab gratin. It was wonderful. Was tempted to try the lamb ribs- the house made pea essence sounded great. I think the vegetarian option was a risotto with mushrooms and wild leeks - can't remember the mushroom type though. Dessert was a choice of dark chocolate parfait or strawberry raspberry concoction with (I think) kirsch gratin. We both had the chocolate but the strawberry dessert passing by us looked worth trying.
There was a good choice of wines available by the glass - although the cheapest was $9.95. However the servings were very generous.
What can I say? Its always problematic to try to cater for large crowds, but I have to admire the spirit that Celestin has in making the effort to deliver good food within a budget. It is not an easy task.
We had a good experience tonight. I know that they are expecting a good turn out, though they do have some spaces left - especially early evening. We plan to return.....I have to try those lamb ribs.
I think it is around $18. Didn't have it this time, but have in the past. It is a very smooth, densely flavoured pate. Delicious and decadent. It is served on brioche. Hope you enjoy iCelestin as much as we did. It will be very busy but they seem to be prepared. If you like seafood, the lobster is definitely worth having.
had dinner with 3 friends at Celestin last night. it was an enjoyable meal overall - here are my thoughts:
appetizers - the bisque was the winner among the 3 dishes ordered between us (the others being the ravioli and the mixed greens).
the bread basket seemed to be bottomless - we were wondering why the server took it away and replaced a new one even before the first was finished. what did they do with those pieces of bread?! they replaced it at least 4 times, definitely ate a piece or two too many (but very tasty bread it was!)
mains - 2 in our party had the lamb rib, 2 the lobster. the smells of the lamb rib were enticing and the diners thoroughly loved them, saying the meat was 'fall off the bone'. the lobster was good except i would say that when i read the description (lobster stuffed with dungeness crab gratin) i guess i wasn't really expecting to have to eat lobster so "hands-on" having to use that cracker tool too. they provided all the utensils, but it was a bit awkward (i'm not always the most graceful of eaters) and left my hands a little messy and there was nothing provided to help clean up. that being said, it wasn't that big a deal, and there were no mishaps :)
dessert - i had the ladyfingers dish, the fruit and the creme was great, the ladyfingers weren't very memorable. the parfait went over well with the others.
service was a bit slow at times, they were busy, but we were one of the later tables to eat so it would have been nicer to have our water glasses filled a little more often, but no complaints, everyone was very friendly and professional.
I went on July 5th. I would have to say that I'm not a fan of summerlicious/ winterlicious - I've been too disappointed in the past couple of years (last year's winterlicious 2007 at Celestin being the clincher - flavourless soup and lamb. Maybe it was just an off day - but for a classy restaurant like Celestin, they shouldn't have any of these). However, I gave it one last try - and though it slightly redeemed itself, I would still prefer to save my hard-earned $$ for the regular menu (I've been there on a regular evening a number of times and find those events much more pleasing).
I started with the ravioli, the SO had the bisque. The bisque won, hands down. Nicely spiced and left a positive impression.
For mains, I had the lobster, SO had the ribs. I would say that the ribs were plagued by too much fat - it was about 80% fat, 20% actual meat (of what was left after discounting the bone, which was about 85% of the total mass). Therefore, a significant portion was a bit too rich, and inedible for my tastes. But perhaps some prefer this texture (...?). Lobster was a bit too rich for my palate as well - the cheese was overpowering for the small amount of canner lobster on the half-shell. The ribs were presented beautifully though.
Desserts were forgettable - especially the lady fingers. However, perhaps I just chose poorly (wanted to sample everything that the menu had to offer, but am just not a fan of cream). I know that they're keeping their food costs down (though I know they compensate with the 18% gratuity added on), but things can still be imaginative, IMO. The parfait was the clear winner in this case. The dessert portions improved significantly from winterlicious 2007 (the 'brownie' was laughable last time - it was the size of a pair of dice) and plated nicely.
Chocolate Parfait photo:
Summerlicious/Winterlicious has slowly gone down hill since it began and I unfortunately no longer look forward to making those frantic phone calls when the lines open. I hope restaurants take the critiques to heart and try and make a good impression. Besides, the reason why I went back repeatedly to Celestin during regular, non-licious periods in the first place was because of their fantastic Winterlicious menu during their first year participating in the event. It's a great opportunity to win new clients and to show off to Toronto what you've got up your sleeves. Cheers guys, and happy eating.