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Aug 14, 2008 07:10 AM

Excellent + "Safe" + Value Meal recs?

I have a dining acquaintance that has a birthday coming up soon and I was hoping to take them somewhere like Colborne Lane - but I passed the idea by them yesterday and they were adamantly against it.

Their reasoning is that they do not often have an opportunity to go out to eat and have generally been disappointed when they try new restaurants out (the portions are too small, the food not to their liking, the price to enjoyment ratio was too high, etc.). I respect their wishes, but now I am at a loss as to where to take them on such short notice. Help?!

Their idea of reasonable would be a meal for about $70 ~ $80 a head (app + main + dessert that could be shared) and that one would exit the restaurant full/satisfied. Though they appreciate some ‘adventurous’ preparation methods and ingredients, I do not think these perks give my acquaintance enough joy to outweigh the focus on the cost-premium element. "Safe" means that I would appreciate a restaurant that is consistent in execution. Too often in Toronto, kitchens often have 'off' days.

Any thoughts on Lucien?


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  1. Sounds like a job for Globe Bistro! The space is beautiful, the service is good without being stuffy or pretentious and the kitchen seems to turn out consistently good food with a focus on local products (note that I've only been there twice, but have been very happy both times). The menu has a little something for everyone -- the "safe" eater and the slightly more adventurous. Nothing there is over the top "weird" and the portions are comfortably generous. Also, the red fife bread they start out with is amazing.

    7 Replies
    1. re: TorontoJo

      Thanks. Any recs on which dishes to recommend to my colleague? I want to make this as 'safe' a dining experience as possible. (ie sure-fire win)

      1. re: BokChoi

        The butter poached rib eye is safe and tasty. :)

        1. re: TorontoJo

          mmm I saw that option. I was going to order that one....meat..

      2. re: TorontoJo

        Second TorontoJo's recommendation of the Globe. Here is the menu full of safe dishes like ribeye:

        Or try a French restaurant like Pastis or Coquine...they usually have steak frites and supreme of chicken aka chicken breast (or some sort of safe chicken) on the menu.

        My way of dealing with Goldilocks type dinner companions ( too big, too small, not hot enough, doesn't taste like mom's..wah wah wah) is to let them choose the restaurant, rather than trying to find an ideal place that will suit their bland/safe/boring taste.

        I can make up for lost delicousness later, either on my own or with my chowfriends, and I won't have to listen to them complain about my choice of restaurant. And then I can diss their choice of restaurant on chowhound later.

        1. re: phoenikia

          Here are some restaurants with 'safe' choices:

          124 Danforth Avenue, Toronto, ON M4K1N1, CA

          1158 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4W2L9, CA

          Le Select
          432 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5V1E3, CA

          2075 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4S2A4, CA

          1. re: phoenikia

            I completely agree with Phoenikia on this one. Why bother recommending this or that? Let THEM decide. Then that way it will please their wah-wah palates (like that Phoenika!) and if it sucks then the pressure isn't on you. You are being way too kind here...

            But if you really want a "safe" choice then recommend a chain.

            1. re: phoenikia

              LOL True, phoenikia, but I would like to be able to give them a good experience - instead of just going to the same, boring venue year-after-year. I would like to elevate their dining experience with baby-steps first, maybe then they will become more Chowhound-y and I will have more dining companions!

              Niagara St Diner, Canoe and Langdon Hall were some of the most recent disappointments. Some recent successes were Truffles and Celestin. Those were the most recent places I have taken them to.

              I will try to trick them into trying Globe now. Wish me luck.

          2. niagara st cafe for sure. it's a little playful but nothing to extreme with all ingredients that anyone will easily recognize. great wine list, definitely a staple.

            3 Replies
            1. re: pinstripeprincess

              Hi PSP,

              Just to help provide a frame a reference, one of our latest meals together was at Niagara St Cafe, and that unfortunately did not go very well at all. The portions were quite small and they left quite hungry. The fish was solid, but there was a pork option that was tasted and it was quite small. Perhaps we just went on a bad day...?
              Thanks for the rec tho.

              1. re: BokChoi

                portions were visually on the small side for me but have always filled me up very well. but that's certainly a to each their own type situation.

                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                  I think we possibly are just big eaters. I think perhaps most restaurants aim to satisfy the masses - instead of the "massive" (eaters).

            2. If they didn't go for Colborne, then I would be hesitant recommending Lucien since food prep can be similarly rococo. Also, I could see your guests possibly considerin food portions "too small."

              Mistura is pretty classic food and a very nice atmosphere? I think it would fall within your price range.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Rabbit

                Hi Rabbit. Please do not shoot the messenger. I just passed along the suggestion of Mistura (I have tried it myself and was quite happy with the food) and my dining acquaintance flat-out denied considering it as she is unfortunately not a fan of Italian food. Sigh.. options are running out...

                1. re: BokChoi

                  How about Le Select. Very consistent, huge menu, nice space.

              2. How about French? Le Paradis isn't fancy but decent portions and good value.

                Le Paradis
                166 Bedford Road, Toronto, ON M5R 2K9, CA

                1 Reply
                1. re: JamieK

                  LOL! Thanks everyone. OK, I will pass along these recommendations. They were actually fans of Le Paradis - but the menu there is quite limited and we have been there sooooo often that I would like them to try somewhere new.

                  Le Select - I tried to suggest on a previous occassion, but they fell back on Paradis (better price/value in their opinion). I'll try again.

                  SplendidWineSnob, if I let them choose - I am going to be in for a VERY BORING meal that is a waste of my $$ and time LOL. And unfortunately, they sometimes like to think of themselves as "mild foodies" and thus avoid chains. Quite hard to satisfy...

                  phoenikia and jayt90, I will forward your recs. Thanks for the lists.

                  Keep them coming people - I am hoping by sheer volume, I will overwhelm them into trying something new...


                2. Starfish for steak frites? Or the Keg for prime rib?

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: jayt90

                    Yes, jay90, I too have begun to think that this sounds like a job for the Keg! The York Street venue is a little bit "sexy" - not a terrible choice.

                    Is beerbistro too downmarket for the occasion?

                    1. re: Rabbit

                      Hi Rabbit,

                      If I suggested Keg, I would no longer be posting as I would probably be 6' under LOL. I think they are looking for something a bit more upscale and formal.

                      1. re: BokChoi

                        Along the same lines of thinking as the Keg, maybe a Canyon Creek? It can come off as upscale as long as you don't tell them it's a chain.

                        1. re: graydyn

                          Since I will be dining with them, I think I will refrain from taking them there just for my own retention of sanity (and tastebud damage control) LOL. Though I have never actually been there... I guess I should not prematurely judge..

                          1. re: BokChoi

                            Canyon Creek isn't a bad idea, given the limits given. There are some pretty decent things on the menu - and consistency's there - and portion size.

                            Globe's probably the best option (IMNSHO), but it might be a bit too foodie for your companions. It does have size of portion and consistency going for it.