Frank at AGO Mini Review
Had the chance to visit the new AGO and try Frank, the gallery restaurant, the other day. The gallery itself is spectacular with imposing spiral wood staircases and soft Douglas fir hardwood floors that seemingly stretch forever.
Waltzed into Frank without a reservation (dining room was full) and sat in the bar area which was a little uncomfortable but good for people watching as it's right by the entrance. The brunch menu was being served but contains many of the lunch menu items.
The restaurant space has a casual but design-y feel to it with a wall of wine bottles stacked up in a glass case and a flowing ramp that goes up to a higher level where most of the dining tables are.
Everyone around us was ordering the moules frites which has become such a staple in restaurants of late. Had to resist the urge to follow the crowd and instead settled on the maple dale cheddar souffle and the rosemary chicken pot pie and of course the french fries served in a cone with a dark paper lining and the obligatory aioli and a untomato ketchup.
Two kinds of bread were served, a dark nutty variety and crumbly oatmeal bread. Unsalted goat butter and sea salt was provided, the bland butter desperately in need of the salty kick.
The fries were average and the dipping sauces didn't do much to help unfortunately. Score high on presentation, low on taste.
The souffle was perfectly airy but the aged maple dale cheddar didn't add much flavor - but it's a nice light alternative to a quiche. The accompanying beluga lentils (which are small dark lentils resembling caviar, hence beluga) were tasty, well seasoned and worked well with the souffle. Al dente carrots play a supporting role but seem oddly out of sync with the other elements on the plate.
The chicken pot pie is a solid, comfort food rendition of the classic with a lighter than usual broth and well seasoned chicken and vegetables.
Prices are okay and service relaxed but efficient even during a busy time. Would recommend a lunch here if you're visiting the gallery, not worth a special trip though.
I just came back from a brunch there. I went there early and the environment was relaxing. Service is attentive. I went there alone and the hostess was considerate enough to provide me with the AGO magazine so I could read something while waiting for the food. The server was friendly, cheerful and efficient.
I am not a foodie but I will state my simple opinion about the food. Coffee was not special and was topped endlessly. It was only $3.5, which is cheaper than I expected. They served 3 types of bread today, white, dark rye and grain with the aforementioned salt and butter. What I like about the salt is that it came in a shell. Really cute.
I had the scrambled egg with veal demi-glaze topped with mushroom with a side of herb-buttered toast. The veal glalze was flavourful but at the same time not over-powering, I could still taste the egg and the mushroom. However, I think they put too much pepper in it. The ingridents were tasty enough that I found the pepper unnecessary. The toast was regular french bread and was really crispy.
I had the rice-pudding brule with short breads as dessert. The rice-pudding was a bit runny to my liking but it was still tasty. I prefer my rice pudding to have more rice. It had prune in it to balance off the milky and sweet taste of the pudding. The shortbreads were not too buttery so I can tasted the cardamom. But it was a bit too much to eat two wedges after the scrambled egg and rice pudding.
Overall, I like this place. I sat at a table facing the kitchen so I could see the chefs pacing around with utensils and dishes coming out. I could hear that they yelled out the orders. Seems that the souffle was the most popular dish. It was kind of like a semi-chef's table. :) But if you want a quiter space. Don't sit close to the kitchen. BTW, when I left slightly after 12, they put out a sign saying that brunch was fully booked. So, if you want to go there for brunch, don't forget to make a reservation.
I went to Frank last friday night for dinner. Overall, I would say that my dining experience was very pleasant. It was good but not great (comparing it to the likes of N44, Canoe, Splendido and the sort).
For a Friday night (8pm), I have to say that the joint was very quiet. I counted 8 tables. Hence the service we obtained was very friendly and our server was very knowledgeable regarding the food and wine choices. I started with a foie gras starter whilst my significant other had a salmon tartare. Both appetizer dishes had complex rich flavors and were justifiably small in portion, however the prices were too high for my liking. Paying $15 for app is a bit too steep, even for the high-end places. The mains were more in the right ballpark, with the Cumbraes Rib eye steak for $30 and the duck at $28. Both dishes were well executed, however, whilst the steak had a great flavor, the medium-rare order was dry in taste i.e lacked juiciness and may be a result of not being well marbled or just the fact it was a rib eye. It needed a sauce of some nature and not the overly-pungent blue cheese that accompanied it, that destroyed the flavor of the meat if sampled together. Nonetheless, I did like the concept of grilled romaine that also came with the dish. The Duck dish that my missus had was exceptional. Well cooked, perfect pink and accompanied by semi sweet sauce dotted with sour cherries. The grilled Polenta that came along for the ride needed a little more flavor (perhaps hint of garlic) to stand up to the rich duck flavor.
The desserts were good. I had the baked lemon pudding which had a rich intense lemon flavor and lemon curd at the bottom. Close to the end, I found it a struggle to finish as the lemon curd was becoming a too intense flavor. The missus had an apricot tarte tartine that was also good. Their wine selection was commendably canadian with a good number of wines priced at the $30 mark and their tea selection to promote digest post meal was excellent also. Overall, a good dining experience (though for this price there are restaurants that are better).
Where else in the city is Moules Frites so popular? I can recall this being popular 5-10 years ago. Seems to me this is a dish that is 'kinda too soon to be retro' retro.
Order what you like and enjoy, or else, always live in fear you are behind the curve on what is 'cool'!.