I had heard mixed reviews of Colborne Lane, but finally decided to give it a try last night with a friend of mine. We're both pretty adventurous when it comes to food. Although 'molecular gastronomy', I think even those a little more timid to new things would enjoy a night here, as it wasn't all that avant garde. Everything on the plates looked pretty familiar.
Our server was attentive but not intrusive and the portion sizes were larger than I expected they would be. The dessert was our favourite dish, and normally I'm not a dessert person. We opted on the nitro ice cream prepared tableside, along with some dehydrated strawberries, a berry 'doam', and a warm beignet. Dee-lish; not just smoke and mirrors which I was afraid it would be.
Glad we gave it a try!
I went there on a Friday during the Toronto Int'l Film Festival with a party of 4, sitting on the central table. It was surprisingly not as fully booked as I thought considering the TIFF is in town.
The atmosphere had a good modern restaurant feel, kinda like a lounge.
The service is good, attentive. (all young men, good eye candy for girls)
The menu was unique: 2 pages. first page are "light dishes" and second are 'heavy dishes", so equivalent to appetizers and entree i thought. then the ingredients of each dish was separated with "+", like a math equation.
The food is ... don't know what to say; i've never had molecular gastronomy before and i don't know another restaurant in Toronto with that. I was expecting the waiter to explain to me why they chose to match my miso sauce cod with pana cotta, cos it's supposed to be scientific. But all i got was the dish explained like a math equation. Cod + miso sauce + pana cotta from the menu. so from that end, i was a little disappointed.
The presentation of the dishes was very nice though. small portion of food nicely positioned on a large white dish. The portion is so small that the waiter recommended ordering 5 dishes per 2 people and also did not recommend sharing between 4 people because the quantity of each ingredient was very small.
The ingredients were very fresh: the beef tenderloin was excellent. The cod was excellent (as is the case for most cod dish). but the heirloom tomato was a little sour, maybe due to end of season.
We're not avid wine consumers so I can't comment much on the wine. We enjoyed our night, but I didn't find that we got our money worth.
I think it is a very interesting concept, molecular gastronomy, and it has good potential. But the concept wasn't properly delivered to us. Maybe if they educated us more about their dish with a short summary of their analysis, it would be more enjoyable. Or maybe they didn't want to share their finding to us or the industry for free, hehe.
Has anyone tried the tasting menus? (the dining and the kitchen. Are both available to customers or does one have to make a special request for either one?) What are the price ranges and how are the portion sizes?
In addition, how are the a la carte menu items? My buddy and I will be first timers: would it be better to order off the a la carte menu or try their tasting menu(s)?
(and this is a bit off topic but since I see some veteran posters I will dare ask: how does this resto stack against the top contenders in Toronto? i.e. North 44, Scaramouche, Bymark, One, C5,Splendido?)
Thanks in advance!
It's a few months old, but here's my experience with the kitchen table: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/496055
No special request was needed -- just a reservation. The price at the time was $150 and there was no range. That was the price.
Each course is small, but it's a 15 course menu, so you certainly don't go away hungry. I was bordering on uncomfortably full, but I'm a very, very big eater. A person with a smaller appetite would probably have difficulty eating it all.
I haven't tried the a la carte menu, as that was my only visit to Colborne Lane.
I had the dining room tasting menu - pretty good (no special order needed) for my visit mentioned above. We also asked if they could include (and exclude) a couple of specific dishes - and they accommodated us.
You go to Colborne for the food experience - which is different from (most of) those places you mention. By comparison, (using a music simile) Colborne would be more of a synthesizer concert, while the others are more symphony. Different tastes for different folks. They each have their place (and audience).
Did you order wine?
The biggest criticism on this board has been the winelist - the food has mixed reactions but is generally 'approved of'. Their disastrous wine options (in the past) are what seems to bring this place down.
And I assume you weren't seated at the central table - service there is VERY obtrusive - either the server has to rush around to serve the second person, or has to serve across the table. Very disruptive.
We did order a nice Chilean pinot noir, but you are correct, the list wasn't that substantial.
The central table wasn't even in use last night; again, since it was a Tuesday, they seemed less hurried than what would likely be the case on weekends. The host was kind enough to ask us if we were going to a show later in the night too, to ensure we had enough time to enjoy our meal.
And I did try it again. And in fairness I was pretty impressed.
The dishes seem to be much more 'together' - before I found superfluous ingredients. There are definitely some interesting themes going on in some of the dishes. Most impressive (for me) was a dish that had several variations of "white" ingredients. What looked like a scoop of ice-cream was actually slightly warm, while another 'powder' was actually ice-cold. I enjoy being surprised (pleasantly) by the unexpected.
The wine list has also improved. The by-the-glass selection is much expanded, with most in the $10-$15 range (per glass), so one can try different combinations.
All-in-all a much improved experience - so I want to be fair in upgrading my previous assessments. I'll return.
I went there for the second time earlier this week. estufarian is right - there is now quite a substantial by-the-glass list, and I really appreciate the tasting notes they've included, because the ones I've tried are pretty on the ball!
We had three plates, one of which was off-menu, and dessert. I still find the multi-ingredient nature of the dishes hard for my tongue (and fork) to get around sometimes, but like my first visit, the meats and seafood were generally very well executed - nothing was overcooked. My friend's dessert (a deconstructed lemon tart) had pop rocks in it! How fun.