Grace on College - I guess I don't get the buzz
Had dinner there recently - overall thought the food was just OK (gnocchi was heavy and tasted of too much truffle oil; pork tenderloin was perfectly cooked but had little flavour; fig/arugula salad was just that and the lamb confit was an outright failure - dry little shards of lamb shank). The serving sizes were really inconsistent - dishes that were billed as starters were big enough as mains and vice versa.
Service was extremely friendly - although there was a very long wait between starters and mains.
I didn't pay so don't know how much it was (for 3 with an excellent 07 Sancerre) but I estimate about $250
Overall I wouldn't recommend it over other options.
I didn't have such a terrible time but there's definitely better places in that price range and area (i.e. Rosebud, Delux, Foxley, etc.) such that I don't see a particularly good reason to go to Grace...
My problem was somewhat a somewhat generic menu with competent but uninteresting flavors and a terrible time waiting for the food (+1 hour)...
Three of us had dinner there last week and none of us "got it". However our experience differed from ElizabethS's. The service was unforgivably appauling. The place was packed, including the patio out front and they were clearly short staffed. We lightly tried to let our waiter know that we could see it was a tough night and we felt for his predicament, in the hopes he'd become attentive. We were pretty much ignored, courses took forever. But in addition, the white wines were room temperature and good luck trying to flag down anyone, a waiter, the manager or the hostess to try to order additonal glasses of wine. One glass of wine had a small bug floating in it. It happens, but does the waiter need to examine the glass at the table? Are we making it up? Then a water glass was chipped (and the glass had already been filled 3/4 with bottled water). Another table autopsy ensured a fresh glass was proferred, however another bottle of water had to be requested, and when the bill came, we asked that the additional bottle of water be removed from the bill.
On the food front, we felt the menu was a bit odd and was explained oddly too. Is pork tenderloin an app? Not to me. But OK, I guess. Chef's perogative. Portions were insultingly small, but again given the price point they're choosing to be at I understood the logic. The warm, crusty bread with sweet, low water content butter was wonderful, but metted out, one piece per person, with no additional bread offered. If a resto is going to bring you bread with cocktails then please offer more during the dinner service. I don't view bread as an hors d'oeuvre. Gnocchi was light, fluffy and flavourful - all three forkfuls of it. Tomato avocado salad with ricotta (no ricotta on that plate) and bacon vinaigrette was bland and uninspired. What is Port Steak we asked? Nope, not a steak with a port reduction...it was described as a shoulder cut. Braised we asked? No, we were told, but the staff love it. Taste? Tough and flavourless. Daily market fish, I think it was branzino, was fine. Nicely cooked, simple plating and accompaniments. But really, cooked carrots? In August? Yawn.
The cheese course was very good, served at the correct temperature and even described with rapture by our previously absent waiter (he did just finish a "fromagerie course"!) and nicely complimented with fruit (Granny Smith apples, ho hum) and nuts and appropriate crisps. Too bad I wasn't offered a glass of port or dessert wine. Oh well. Carrot cake was a complete bust. If you're of a certain age you will remember when Moms baked cakes in a tin can. Well picture a tomato paste sized can. The carrot cake (narry a carrot fleck in sight...obviously they were used as the main course veg), more a dense wintery spice cake, was a small, dense cylinder sliced into rounds...dry, rounds, no icing or syrup or sabayon or anything to help swallow the packing material. No plating of any kind, other than yes, it was "on the plate". We did voice our disappointment with the carrot cake to which we received the retort that the chef didn't want to make it predictable with a cream cheese icing and was going for " something else". Uh, OK, did I say it needed a cream cheese icing? No, we just said it was dry, flavourless and inedible. Oh well he replied!
Bill $430. Satistfaction 5/10. Return? Nope.
maybe i'm too easy to please? but i know that one of the reasons why grace won me over was the setting and atmosphere. there was something that felt pulled together about the place, airy but classically stylish and elegant.
otherwise i did find my food enjoyable without any real issues about preparation. it was a bit odd that proportionally some of the dishes were askew with regards to app vs main (ie. the scallop app and the quail main were virtually of the same quantity of food). meat was otherwise meltingly tender or moist and taut as required. i did find some interesting riffs on the dishes in the sauces though nothing that i would consider absolutely brilliant or innovative, just nice new combinations here or there.
wine was also served appropriately chilled as needed, so i find few faults in the food or the drink.
my service though was a little scattered though for the most part timely but the previous reports suggest that the service was just not there. that's a shame. much like how the atmosphere was a boon for me, poor service can also utterly overshadow the quality of the actual food. perhaps the praise was lauded too quickly and too early and now they're faltering from their own success. maybe this is where something that was promising begins to bite the dust.
I'll throw in my 2cents as I've been there twice - once in May around the opening and once 2 weeks ago.
- I love the atmosphere - think it's the perfect blend of funky but warm.
- I find the service to be friendly, and it was excellent on my first visit. But, on my last experience, fairly incompetent for the price range. We were 4 - each ordered an app and a main. 2 of us also shared some oysters. The server wasn't sure when to bring the oysters ??? I've always had them before my app - seemed kinda obvious. Then the server completely screwed up one of our orders and brought a 2nd app (smoked salmon salad) instead of the main he had ordered (the fish special). It took another 15+ minutes to get the actual main. The server did apologize and left the 'mistake' app to tide over my friend while the rest of us ate our mains. A pretty big blunder IMHO.
- The food was much better on my 1st try. I like the combos and the general sense of most of the dishes. I had the quail on the 2nd go and it was totally over-cooked. The other mains were decent, not great.
Overall, I'm hoping that they are going through the 'getting really popular and not sure how to deal with being so busy' growing pains and that things will have smoothed themselves out for my next try. If not, it will be my last as there are lots and lots of great restos in TO!
you know what's an even bigger blunder... bringing the wrong main and then not even bothering to leave it after it sat in front of the patron for a few minutes because the server ran away. ie. person sitting with no food for 15+ minutes.. i would not have appreciated being the recipient of that if they gave it to someone else.
did NOT happen at grace btw and shamefully enough, something i almost now expect as par per course for toronto service.
My meal at Grace was much better than I expected. Friendly and quick service. We sat down at 8, and were finished by 9:45. I'm sure I'll be back.
Really enjoyed the beet, melon, goat cheese and toasted almond salad- the flavours worked well together, and it was plated nicely. The iceberg with blue cheese includes chunks of a rich, creamy blue cheese.
The house cured salmon was one of the best tasting cured salmons I've had in Toronto. I liked the way it was served, with some al dente green beans, some hardboiled egg, dill and capers. Interesting textural contrasts with the salmon. The seared scallops were cooked perfectly- something I didn't really expect on College Street.
The baguette was fresh, and the cucumber infused water was a nice touch.
I wouldn't hesitate to return, especially if I was looking for a restaurant with safe choices for picky eaters. It's one of the best quality meals I can remember having on College Street, apart from Chiado.
2 salads, 2 seafood first courses, 3 half glasses of wine and 1 full glass of wine came to $82 before tip.