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VDara Now Open (Old Habitat)

Finally news a a restaurant opening instead of closing....

Heard that this place is now open and with a liquor licence... has anyone tried it yet?

here is the menu they posted on facebook...

Vdara Dinner
Appetizers
Breads & Spreads 5
Soup of Today 6
Khachapuri & Zatar 7
Tol-Soy Beef Carpaccio with warm yams, arugula, and charred provisions 12
Duck U Chicken Triangles, sour cherry compote 9
Pingue Prosciutto, pesto sticks, pretty pickles 13
Wandering free bird caught by Sticky Steamed Buns 9
-release the bird 8
Crispy mixed up beets in Roasted Roots with horseradish shoots 9
Tossed Greens, Soft Pear, Nuts & Seeds & Cheese 8

Mains
Barney Beef Ribs and a Banana Bag of Rice and Peas 16
Sauerkraut gratin, Moulard Confit, Embittered Greens 18
No Noodling Celery Root Lasagne, Wild with Shrooms 16
Shank of Lamb, red Potato Butter Smash Rapt with Rapini 18
Colonel Cornish Hen stuffed with Clementine Quinoa N’ Collard 20
'Trust me’ Roasted Veghead selection 18
Cod is dead on a Bed of Skinny Beans and bundled Leeks, Yukon gratin 21
Wild and Brazen Game, rude veg in a hotpot sided by a mini Loaf 18
Sweet and Sour Apple Salmon, Bok Choy and Pumpkin Seed Slaw 20

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  1. OK, wait, not up to speed on every rest in TO..what is "old habitat" and why is their menu so pretentious sounding? I mean, please...wandering bird. WTF is that supposed to mean?

    6 Replies
    1. re: likescrab

      Ha! Release the bird? So.. vegetarian?

      1. re: likescrab

        Habitat was the restaurant in the space at Queen and Tecumseth where Scot Woods was chef before starting Lucien. As for Vdara's menu, although the ingredients sound interesting, I'm just as puzzled as you are with the cutesy names. Sounds like a menu from a chain theme restaurant like Rainforest Cafe.

        1. re: num nums

          That was what I was thinking too. The menu reminds me of one from Reuben & Wong or Ginsberg & Wong (and I am totally dating myself now).

        2. re: likescrab

          what is so pretentious about a playful menu on queen west? that is the neighbourhood! My friends and I were there just the other night and found the menu to be not only entertaining but also quite stimulating. Sure we had to ask the server some questions but the staff were able to clear up any questions we did have. Wandering Free Bird? Free range chicken, and release the bird? vegetarian. If you can't bother taking the time to enjoy yourself when you go out to eat you might as well head to Mc donalds on spadina.

          And as for the comment on the place sounding like the Rainforest Cafe, I assure it is not. The Chef came out to our table to make sure we enjoyed everything. And to our Surprise everything is made in house, they grind their burgers and their breads are baked fresh every morning.

          Sure the dining room was a little empty but they just opened, but the bar was busy.

          1. re: lgnpvr

            My comment was meant to be very sarcastic. I didn't at all mean to imply that I thought they were a theme park restaurant. But this is exactly the issue I have: the wording of the menu doesn't match the sophisticated food it seems they are serving. Believe me, I'm not against fun. For example, the recently (re)opened Lakeview playfully names some of their desserts after other diners (Stem, Canary, etc.). In Vdara's case, the menu wording is so forced, it doesn't come across as clever, just tacky and unnecessary. Any restaurant should let the food speak for itself.

            1. re: lgnpvr

              What other restaurants do you recommend?

          2. How exhausting to read! Is this for real?

            1. I agree on the confusing menu
              I've been recently and was able to sort of glean what the dishes were but the cute names just confused me and my fellow diners. I'd rather know the specific details of each dish rather than sort-of know what I'm getting.

              Confusing menu aside the food was pretty good. Started with beef carpaccio which is called "tol-soy" because it is marinated in soy and vodka. This was actually very very good. I would get my own plate of this next time.

              I had the beef ribs and the beef was very tender. Braised very nicely. The rice was nice and moist but I don't think they actually cooked it in the banana leaf.

              My companion had the wild and brazen game which is basically a stew in a french onion soup type of bowl. I think the meats were boar and bison from my recollection. Again not a bad dish at all and portion was pretty good.

              I think if they tightened up their menu, worked on presentation a bit more, and got rid of the ridiculous sounding menu I would be more apt to visit again. The value for what you get is pretty good which makes it tempting for a re-visit.

              7 Replies
              1. re: CoffeeAddict416

                It's funny. I went there and had litte confusion about the menu, but the server seemed to know excatly what the dishes were and how to romance and explain them. I agree with the "spell it all out" approach being Mcdonalds. To me it seemed playful.... how many restaurants have Free Range Chicken.

                In reading it again, I can't see what the fuss is about. Sometimes I think posters have to come up with criticism in order to find something to say..... BUT HOW WAS THE FOOD? Most are saying very good and wholly I agree. It seemed like the wines and mains were a great price.

                It seems like the chef is having fun. And why shouldn't he?

                1. re: the.eater

                  Lots of restaurants have free-range chicken. Brazen game, not too many.

                  1. re: ChalkBoy

                    That was the.eaters point... every restaurant has free range chciken that is why they called theirs "Wandering free bird"

                  2. re: the.eater

                    fun is fine sure but i agree with num nums that it feels forced and it doesn't make it sound any more appetizing.

                    For some reason i thought of Thuet's Bite Me whne num nums mentioned that the food should speak for itself. Compare this item from Bite Me:

                    Beef
                    Naturally raised beef tenderloin, goat cheese agnolotti, braised sweetbreads, red wine reduction

                    Or Globe
                    Dry-Aged Cumbrae Farms Ribeye, Confit Yukon gold chips, braised red cabbage, Koslik’s Triple Crunch aioli

                    to VDara:
                    Wild and Brazen Game, rude veg in a hotpot sided by a mini Loaf

                    I dunno but I think the first two get my mouth watering. The third... sounds sorta interesting but the playful name has disguised the dish for me in a way. If it was just "braised bison and wild boar stew" i think i would have jumped on it.

                    Of course this is just me here.... my dining companion really liked the names even though there needed to be some discussion with the server.

                    1. re: CoffeeAddict416

                      I think it's just you coffee. I eat out alot and it seem like half the menus in this town are the same. You have to let people be creative and fun rather than the same old same old. As far as forced... I don't see it. It just begs a question and as long as the staff don't mind I like it.

                      1. re: the.eater

                        Okay, this will be the last time I bring up the wording issue. But I want to also point out that as awkward as I find it, this will not prevent me from trying out the place. The food does seem interesting.

                        I think too much whimsy can provide the wrong cues about what the restaurant is about. Aside from some of the colourful descriptions, the food and price point suggest a mid-priced fine dining place. For me there's a disconnect with the market they are after and the impression the way the menu reads.

                        In the same vein, I actually think Thuet's "Bite Me" is also a bit inappropriate for the level of cuisine he's serving. The name would be perfect for a very casual neighourhood spot. In this case, he is such a well-known figure in Toronto that he could name his restaurant pretty much anything.

                        A good example of a restaurant that seemed to give off the wrong vibe in relation to their food is Johny Banana (coincidentally nearby at Queen and Bathurst). When they first opened they had a refreshingly modern take on casual Mexican fare. They lots of interesting food and drink items that was affordable, but was definitely a sit down kind of place. But the name and combined with the poppy decor, it seemed people were coming in thinking it was another Burrito Boyz. This isn't just speculation, this is based on discussions with quite a few people who live in the neighbourhood. And as it happens, without enough patrons, the owner unfortunately had to change into a fast food burrito place. I'm glad that the place is at least still around, but I can't help think if he branded his place differently from the start what would have happened.

                        And that's that! Let's get back to discussing good, fun or serious chow.

                        1. re: num nums

                          maybe a touch of whimsy is what the restaurant is about. i understand your points and can agree with mis-branding. having a menu that you have to read is refreshing to me. too many restaurants just list ingredients..you know

                          Steak
                          fingerling potatoes/cookstown vegetables/bernaise sauce.

                          simple and to the point but not an interesting read. the menu shows that finer dining can be approachable and fun, sometimes people take way too seriously, you can still have fun and be serious about food without being stuffy.

                          the restaurant in question has changed brands, what? 4 times now...we will see whether they survive...but it probably won't be based on the menu wording

                2. Here's Vdara's website. They are apparently holding a grand opening tonight. Anyone have any idea what the name means?
                  And that's how it's spelt - with a small 'd'.
                  http://www.vdararestaurant.com

                  -----
                  Vdara
                  735 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                  1. I went to Vdara for lunch today. I guess the menu wording is a bit cutesy, but I like it, though I don't really care, as long as the food's good.

                    The food was surprisingly good, especially given the reasonable prices. Two of us shared these 3 dishes:

                    Appetizer: Khachapuri ($8) - a melted cheese in dough dish with a pesto-like dipping sauce (Zatar). It was great - really well spiced and tasted very fresh.

                    1st Main (12) - the home made pasta of the day ("Using Our Noodle"). This was the highlight. It was a papardelle with a rich whole grain fresh flavour.

                    2nd Main (9) - Homemade sausage panini (the bread was homemade too). My least favourite of the 3, but still excellent. The sausage was nicely spiced and had a great consistency and the peppers and onions went well with it.

                    The staff was friendly and helpful and I like the decor. I will be going back for sure.

                    1. Saturday night party of 10.
                      I made the reso after reading a few good review about this place. Had no clue it was the old Habitat, recently Satori lunge. Only time will tell if it has any staying power. I was intrigued by the menu and the price range. Trying to find somewhere with good eats and ambiance in a moderate price range can be daunting, but everyone was pleasantly surprised by this new spot.
                      Aside from the scruffy looking staff, awful service and loud music, the food, and cocktails made up for the rest.
                      The $8.00 martinis were also quite nice. I had the forbidden fruit, very refreshing, many of the diners were disappointed by the 5oz glass of wine, what a tease. The glass is more then half empty before you've even had a sip. Is this a common practice 5oz? I though it was common practice to pour 6oz 8oz or 10oz, I'm used to getting a bottle but everyone seemed to be content with the cocktail list for the evening. The amuse bouche, was skipped by most of the diners, I love prosciutto but, not everyone is keen on the idea of cured ham, pork isn't always the best way to start off a meal. The bread seemed stale, not so much toasted.
                      The slivered beet salad was excellent, the perfect amount of citrus and sweet.
                      Zatar baked bread and cheese spread went over very well too.
                      I had the duck confit with sauerkraut gratin was delicious, not too rich, the duck was crispy and moist, although the sour cherry jelly? needed a little work.
                      The special was a Ny strip, perfectly cooked, and well spiced. The Barney beef ribs were also on the list, not so much for the celery root lasagna. It looked overcooked, and was a bit bland.
                      The surely and rude waiter completely ignored me when I told him that the meal was excellent, I might have thought the homeless looking fella didn't hear me, but my bf quickly added that he thought his meal was shite, that prompted a quick response. Now i'm left wondering sexist, or just pretentious hmmmmm....
                      curious to know what everyone else thinks.

                      3 Replies
                        1. re: yummi82xo

                          Their bottle prices are quite good, I remember seeing one that was on tehir wine list that was $12 cheaper then other places and it was listed I think at $40.. so I am assuming that the 5oz wine was alos reasonably priced...

                          1. re: yummi82xo

                            i think the loud music and the service could be better
                            last time i was there there was one really good male server and one poor one. There was also one good female server and one poor one.
                            I just think they're trying to figure out what they are. It's somewhere inbetween being a resto-lounge or a restaurant or even a gastropub. Personally I think they'd be better off being a proper restaurant. There aren't really many options along queen that way and if they were more restaurant-y (i.e. more formal service, more formal uniforms, different music etc) they would probably be better or at least more focused. I saw in NOW magazine that they had dropped the weird menu names which was an original complaint of mine and some others here. I think that was a good move! If they could formalize some other aspects I think it would be even better IMHO.

                            Their food and wine are very reasonably priced and I think they have a real chance to be a very reasonably priced outfit with really good food for that price range in an area that is sort of bereft of such establishments.

                          2. I had brunch there last week...very good food and selection...I'll go back....Miranda