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Greg Argent's new Resto, Forte - Review

Okay, this is going to be a quick and dirty review from a gal who calls it like it is:

This place doesn't have their liquor license, it was empty as all f*ck for lunch, but the meal was a fantastic meal.

Onion Soup Dumplings, Skate, Chipotle Dill Caesar Salad and Lemon Meringue pie for dessert.

It's been a long time since I had a meal like that in the city, to the point, I had to meet the chef. "Luckily" it wasn't busy at lunch so Greg came out - WHAT A GREAT GUY!!! He even had the server bring out some of his favorite cheese (Epoisse) for me to try - I felt like an all star.

With that said, let's go through the meal...

The restaurant is beautiful on the inside, open and airy. So comfortable.

The service fantastic! Quick, educated and efficient. Recommendations came out effortlessly, and I had no problems going with them.

Soup dumplings were delicious... Think French Onion Soup in a dumpling. Such a new and interesting experience, but a perfect amuse bouche before the meal.

The Caesar salad was so novel! Imagine the old standby, but presented in a crisp ringette and a unique dill and chipotle dressing that was interesting and compelling. Lightly dressed romaine radiated with dill while the chipotle added a unique bite that elevated the entire dish to something that reaffirmed my faith in Caesar salad.

Skate was grilled and served on a bed of fingerling potatoes, brussel sprouts and carrots. The fish flaked like a well braised piece of beef and melted on the tongue. Greg said soaking in milk is necessary to remove the alkaline nature of the fish. He also assured it wasn't an endangered variety. He said, he enjoys how the flavour is buttery like that of crab, and it was. I had to protect my dish from my dining partner!

Dessert was a beautiful bite of lemon meringue. Pastry Chef Britney Peglar is another talent that defected from Rain and she brought with her a novel approach to pastry. I enjoyed her lemon curd - I find in Canada it can so often be muddled in its preparation. Too bitter, too sweet, too running, too thick, to pre-packaged. Britney's was a thick little disk that melted on the tongue and I wished it was bottled to take home.

This was all without wine pairings - keep that in mind.

Nota Bene is around the corner, and trust me, I had a PHENOMINAL MEAL there as well, however, Nota Bene's price point appears to be sneaking up since it's opening. Forte on the other hand appears to be committed to their prices as they are looking to reintroduce upscale bistro fare to Toronto.

I think I am in love with Greg Argent's cooking. Is he the head chef still at Cru?

My fear is that everyone's going to judge it harshly because they don't serve wine... well at the moment. Apparently the license has just been delayed but everything else is in effect. I just don't want this gem of a resto get an unfair chance because people are adament of their wine/food pairing.

Trust me, I'm gushing, but the food really does hold it's own.

Go for lunch and correct me if I'm wrong!

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  1. I went here the other day with a friend for a bite... no liquor license yet but I really enjoyed those French onion soup dumplings, the charcouterie board, and some melted cheese/veggie thing that was one of the more interesting presentations I've seen in a while. Also, the dessert with the candied lemons and marshmallows was pretty good too. I can't wait to return for a full meal with wine.

    1. Any word on when the liquor license is coming? I live in that 'hood and I'm eager to support any new talent in the area (actually, I'm thrilled to read your review!), but I admit that I'm probably not going to check it out until I can get a glass of wine with dinner.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Rabbit

        well, they said it would be up any day now. I spoke to their Sommelier, Craig (omg, I forget his last name!) and he said they literally have their product waiting to get loaded up and shipped over at a moment's notice.

        spades - The candied lemon dessert is the lemon meringue, it's got little meringue puffs that are torched and a twice baked crepe on the side? The melty cheese thing was their raclette I would go so far as to guess.

        Trust me, I poured over that menu when I finally had a bragworthy meal in the city.

        hahahaha

        Give the restaurant a call and see if the license came through yet. I think that's probably the simplest thing. I want to go back before the holidays for sure with friends and family.

        It is a beautiful meal!

      2. Contact info -
        http://www.fortebistro.ca

        -----
        Forte
        133 Richmond St W, Toronto, ON M5H, CA

        1 Reply
        1. re: JamieK

          In the absence of a working website, this offers some much needed info:
          http://www.opentable.com/rest_profile...

        2. AND THEY JUST GOT THEIR LIQUOR LICENSE!!

          2 Replies
          1. re: lheier

            Fantastic - thanks for this update!

            Meanwhile, does anyone know if they have a menu posted somewhere... I did a quick google but couldn't find anything??

            1. re: Rabbit

              I stole a menu!
              hahahahahahaha

              What do you want to know?

              What do you fancy? There is pasta, appetizers, daily specials, entrees and salads.

              Yeah, I hope ya'll and Chowhound start to dig me... I wouldn't call myself a foodie, but I am on a shameless quest to eat well in this city with so many bad options.

          2. I'm not sure this is going to work, but here are menus:

             
             
             
            8 Replies
              1. re: Rabbit

                Reasonably legible - but no mains included.
                And I assume you can order from the bar menu as part of a dinner. Anybody?

                1. re: estufarian

                  Here are the mains - but I'm sorry that this printing seems particularly tiny. I'm honestly not a total luddite, but I'm not sure how to do this better (tables prevent a simple cut and paste).

                   
                  1. re: Rabbit

                    Thanks - the point has been made below that the price point is higher than the OP implied.
                    Mains are indeed $25-45. Nota bene mains are all (?mostly) under $30. So Forte is MORE expensive than Nota Bene - the opposite of what was indicated in the originating post.
                    Maybe that explains why the Forte menu isn't posted in their window.
                    Of course, the food may, indeed, be worth it - but at least now I won't get sticker shock!

                    1. re: estufarian

                      Hmm... Interesting that Open Table (see Googs' link above) shows a price point of $30 and under.

                      1. re: estufarian

                        Forte does not have an $89 main course... hahaha! OMG! I WOULD NEVER!

                        But word on the street is that Nota Bene is eeking their prices to deal with the "economic crisis" whereas Forte has scaled their prices to be effective regardless of the good or the bad. I think that's smart!

                        The lunch menu is my favorite, looking it over right now, I don't think it's a menu that forte has put together as a secondary course. I really believe it to be one of their better ones.

                        1. re: sweatersister

                          Not sure where the $89 main course came from. Not my post, nor the Splendido web site.
                          I don't care what rumours you've heard on what street.
                          The facts are that Nota Bene's main courses are nearly all under $30. Forte's at best match that and are up to 50% MORE. And that's usually the most expensive part of the meal. Because Forte doesn't have all its offerings easily accessible (e.g. wine list) I can't predict where I (or most others) would spend more. But appetizers seem similar in price. So why are you suggesting (in the original post and in this response) that Splendido is more expensive?
                          I still don't know if the food is better - which I also allowed for in my recent post - but my arithmetic skills have been substantiated many times.
                          Does not compute!

                          1. re: estufarian

                            Nota Bene has 33 oz. ribsteak for $89 under the "David's Private Stock" section of the menu, but I believe it's intended to be shared. (Or I would hope so anyway!)

                            They also have 12 oz NY strip for $45, and an 8 oz tenderloin for $42.

                            Those are definitely exceptions compared to the rest of the NB menu, though. All other mains are in the $20-$25 range.

                2. I'm looking for a fairly casual, not overly expensive (ie. mains under $20) place to have a bite tonight. Does Forte fit the bill, or is it fancy/upscale?

                  Edit: Just got my answer, I think... Squinted at Rabbit's menu posting and I think that Forte is best left for a night we want to go out for a less quick and casual meal.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                    Appetizers $12-26... mains $25-45... so a little more thank you're looking to spend tonight.

                        1. re: Negaduck

                          Right, sorry for ignoring lunch.

                          I'm an anti-lunch person (for me, lunch is the utilitarian meal), so I just kinda glossed over that menu. Here it is:

                           
                           
                          1. re: Rabbit

                            Thanks. I'm assuming Chowhound shrinks them when they're uploaded. Any chance of uploading them where they'll retain their full resolution, say at Imageshack or similar free hosting?

                            http://imageshack.us/

                            1. re: Negaduck

                              Sorry, but I'm just not that techno-literate. Send the resto a quick email and they will forward the information.

                    1. From what I hear, Greg Argent is still the Chef de Cuisine at Cru, as well as Forte bistro. I recently ate at Cru, and although Greg wasn't there at the time, my last experience there was one of the best dinners I've had in a while. My choucroute garni was perfect; the service professional; and 'the food' was fairly inexpensive. If he is at Forte now, he's left a great staff behind. I wonder how Forte will compare to Nota Bene. We'll see!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: infidel333

                        Had dinner there last night. Space is nice - lots of noise buffering - don't know how they will fill up all those tables and lounge in this economy...
                        A lot of really enticing things on the menu so it was difficult to choose. Both of us had the fish soup starter and it was boring, except for the little croustades on top. It was pureed and seemed fairly potato-y but not much hint of fish - had expected a few chunks of fish or shellfish. Mains were fantastic. I had black cod served over scalloped potato with really lovely baby carrots. It was sitting in a beautiful broth. My companion had rabbit papardelle which also got rave reviews. Too full for dessert....

                        Service was attentive and polite and helpful at the door. Our waiter needed to brush up a bit on menu knowledge - also forgot to give us bread, and gave us the bar snacks menu instead of dessert menu - a bit of wine splashing. but pretty minor stuff that I'm sure will iron out.

                        1. re: infidel333

                          I was quite unimpressed with Cru last fall, and haven't been to Forte yet. If you've been to both, what are the differences/similarities? Is Forte significantly better?

                        2. Once again, I'm reminded why chowhound.com is my favourite link. Thoroughly enjoyed dinner tonight at Forte, based on the above recommendations.

                          Warmly welcomed on arrival which is always a good start.

                          Caesar salad had a great kick to it with a wonderful dressing that was powerful yet not overbearing.
                          My wife's salad (was it the frisee?) was quite detailed and imaginative with it's presentation and while she enjoyed it immensely, she regretted that there were not a lot of options in the salads on the menu for those who are careful with their caloric intake.

                          The skate was off the menu because of "endangered species" issues and was replaced with scallops. Still a superb dish.
                          Cod was superb and I'm a real softie when it comes to the accompanying scalloped potatoes.
                          The beef tenderloin and frites were outstanding but beware of the price point which, as I recall was over $40.
                          My duck breast and confit was the overall-rated winner. Perfectly prepared, the confit was surprisingly moinst, the accompanying lentils were in a lovely broth.

                          The lemon meringue did not excite us, but the banana and chocolate flan delivered a whole host of flavours with each bite. Marvellous.

                          Service was keen and enthusiastic but we felt that the waitress still needs a little more time to familiarize herself with the menu. Of course that is not surprising, given that the place just opened 2 weeks ago. Still, given the price point..........

                          Overall, a lovely wide open, upscale venue, imaginative creations, great flavours.
                          Will they survive in such a large space and in today's economics?

                          I'm hopeful .

                          1. Has anyone tried their lounge menu other than smoked salmon and charcuterie? I would like to know if there are other must try things on the menu. (Hopefully going there next week!)

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: exquisite

                              I've had the frog legs and the soup dumplings and both were amazing! The soup dumplings really are perfect!

                              Mmmm... I kinda want some now!!!

                              1. re: JennaBean

                                Lovely. I was actually wondering how the frog legs are. Quite excited to try soon! Thanks!

                            2. The website is up now; it has the menus in PDF.
                              http://fortebistro.ca/

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: graydyn

                                Thanks for the reviews. Menu prices look reasonable and surprisingly the plates seem rather conservative, given his background. I hope to visit this place very soon!

                                Side note - Interesting that he excludes Rubino or Rain from his bio, despite mentioning events that he attended with Rubino on behalf of Rain. I'm assuming his departure was not amicable.

                              2. In the interest of giving this great restaurant a fighting chance to stay alive, I'm adding my own few notes of praise. I cannot understand why this place isn't doing more business - it's not as if the immediate area is flooded with great places to eat. As a relatively frequent guest of the Hilton next door I do have a personal interest in making sure the place survives - but, that aside, I do believe it actually deserves to survive.

                                I hosted a group of 8 last week and there was not a single complaint but plenty of praise for the experience. The place is very comfortable - a sort of easy elegance is the best I can do do describe it - kind of like Nota Bene without the pretense (don't bother flaming - I've dined at Nota Bene several times and love it - I just think the presence of so many tragically trendy types takes away a bit of the incentive to try hard).

                                As noted by several others, the soup dumplings are a real treat - comfort in every bite. My duck was top notch - tender, succulent breast slices cooked perfectly medium rare along with juicy confit falling off the leg bone. I'm a big fan of lentils and the green ones which accompanied the duck were especially enjoyable - just barely al dente and treated to a little truffle oil finish. Several guests had the leg of lamb - a very clever preparation whereby the individual leg muscles are separated and tied so that it resembles a boneless loin - I tasted it and will definitely have it myself next time. Reports from other guests on the Black Cod and Blanquette de Veaux were also positive.

                                I'm often disappointed with the cheese course at North American restaurants - not because I don't like cheese, I LOVE it - but it's often poorly chosen and/or conditioned and/or served at the wrong temperature with boring or inappropriate accompaniments. I tend to be a bit of an evangelist about the joys of the cheese course but am often embarrassed when it doesn't live up to the hype I create for the uninitiated. No such problem at Forte - in fact it was so enthusiastically received that I didn't get anywhere near as much as I would have liked for myself. I wish I wrote this last week or took some notes, because I've now forgotten some of them but have an acute memory of the perfect Epoisse as well as a noteworthy old cheddar and a very pleasant Bresse Bleu. The accompanying crackers, bread and various compotes etc. were just the ticket - I'd go back here just for cheese. No one had room for dessert.

                                The wine list also deserves mention which, in my opinion, is well chosen and (relatively) fairly priced. The emphasis is not on WOW factor but on solid value with several good selections in the <$40 category and plenty in the $40-$60 range. The mittnacht-Klack Riesling was much enjoyed by our group and the Douro (Ventezelo) was enjoyable too.

                                Service was professional, efficient, helpful and friendly.

                                People, please give this place a try - at the very least, drop by for a glass of wine and some Onion Soup Dumplings (and some of the Truffled Popcorn - YUM) at the cozy bar before or after the opera - I'm sure many of you will return.

                                Service

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: IMEC

                                  Hear, hear!! I'm fighting for this place too.

                                  IMEC's description of Forte very much reflects my own experience. Soup dumplings are fab, and I'll add that the braised meats are great (coq au vin and short rib were both perfect winter comfort food). The butterscotch torte is definitely worth trying (earl grey ice cream is delish).

                                  The host/owner is absolutely charmant and staff were very accommodating on our visits (we've been twice). Please do give Forte a chance.

                                  PS - To dxs... I think a solo diner would do just fine at Forte. They do have a bar space at the back where you could hang out if you prefer that to a table (always my choice as well when I'm dining solo).

                                  1. re: Rabbit

                                    Thanks Rabbit, I'll check it out for sure...

                                  2. re: IMEC

                                    I agree that Forte is worth a visit.

                                    I had dinner there with my friend two weeks ago and we both enjoyed our meals very much. I had the French Onion Soup Dumplings and my friend had the Country Pâté to start and then I had the Mushroom-Crusted Black Cod (which was quite delicious and perfectly cooked) while my friend had the Roast Leg of Lamb (I tried some and I think it was the winner of the night, though my friend thought the jus was a little too sweet). We split the Cheese Plate (good sized portions), the Lemon Meringue (again, pretty generous dessert with three almost like individual lemon meringue creme caramels) and I wanted to try the Orange Butterscotch Tart but didn't want a whole dessert so I love that you can order the Express Dessert which is basically a mini version of any dessert you choose. We both had a glass of wine and a Scotch & Port with our dessert.

                                    I would go back - there are other dishes on the menu that I would like to try.

                                  3. Any thoughts on how a solo diner would go over at this place? Is there any bar seating perhaps? The rabbit papardelle is calling my name....

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: dxs

                                      Went here last night...the food was amazing. I had the roasted artohoke with marcona almonds and the rabbit. The rabbit was melt in your mouth, and the sauce delicious. Also had the cheese plate. Everyone else in myparty really enjoyed it as well. Much praise was heaped on the soup dumplings and the short rib dish. Prices were pretty reasonable as well ($12-14 apps, $25-30 mains). Service was also excellent.

                                    2. I visited Forte for the first time on Friday and absolutely agree, the food was delicious. In particular the often mentioned soup dumplings and the Chocolate Pot de Creme for dessert were standouts. The chocolate tarts accompanying the dessert were good, but it was the brandied bananas topping the tarts that were the star. I would have been happy with the Pot de Creme and just the bananas.

                                      I would also like to mention the incredibly friendly and helpful sommelier. He was very welcoming and stopped by our table once or twice to tell us stories about the wine we chose and confirm we were still happy. If anyone is looking for an excellent and unintimidating wine selection experience, this is the place.

                                      1. Experienced exceptional service at Forte last night. The bread is house-made- some of the best bread I've had lately.

                                        Enjoyed the French soup dumplings and snapper en papillote, but look fwd to trying other dishes on my next visit.

                                        Try the apple & quince tarte tatin- delish!

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: phoenikia

                                          Can't decide between Nota Bene and Forte for a smart casual fri. night get-together for six. Help me choose!

                                          1. re: mai frank

                                            The food at Forte was more innovative and the flavours were better suited to my palate. The food at Nota Bene came across to me as high quality comfort food- tasted good enough, but nothing new or exciting.

                                            If I had any picky/conservative eaters in my group of 6, I'd choose Nota Bene over Forte.

                                            The atmosphere at Forte is comfortable and calm, almost serene, and the crowd tended to be in their 40s or older when I was there. The atmosphere is very slick at Nota Bene, and it seemed to be filled with more 25-40ish hipster/sceneseeker types.

                                            I found our server at Forte to be more courteous and personable than the team of servers at our table at Nota Bene. But, this being said, the service I experienced at Nota Bene was very good for a restaurant in Toronto.

                                            Either would be great for a party of 6. If you want to hear each other talk, go to Forte, but if you're looking for buzz and scene, and don't mind raising your voice a little, go to Nota Bene.

                                            1. re: phoenikia

                                              Thanks so much for your in depth reply...it has helped me make a choice. Looks like it will be Forte. Will write a review afterwards.