Black Hoof - very good, but limited
I had a nice evening at the Black Hoof on Dundas West.
Like everywhere else, it has strengths and weaknesses. Here's my breakdown. Hope it helps you decide:
1. No reservations. They have a bar where you can sit and drink why you wait, or they'll offer to put you on the waiting list and call when a table opens up. This is useful if you are a local, or if you enjoy spending time in the neighborhood Portuguese billiard halls while you wait, but for all others, you're out of luck.
2. Seating: Cosy place, not many tables for groups. There's a table for 4 (or maybe 6 squeezed in) at the front, there are a bunch of 2-person tables that they can put together for groups of 4 or more.. but the place is small, and caters mostly to tables of 2, so I'm seeing that it can take quite awhile to have a table for 4 or more. Jen, one of the owners, was very nice and accommodating in getting us a table, but the fact is that the place is small, and not well-suited for larger groups, unless you make arrangements with her. It is, on the other hand, a great place for a couple to have a plate of delicacies over a few pints of beer or a tasty wine.
3. Meat: In case you didn't know, the 'Hoof' focuses heavily (one might say exclusively) on Charcuterie. Charcuterie is the family of cooking that deals with dried, cured, salted, stuffed meats, sausages, hams, terrines, pates.. and other stuff like that. This makes for a fun night of food exploration, but I can't see coming back very often, since I prefer to eat more balanced meals, and last night filled my monthly quota for lard, fat, and salt . This isn't a point against the restaurant...they tell what they are all about, and the fat and salt were delicious, it's just that I can't eat like that too often. So before you jump on me and tell me "that's what Charcuterie is supposed to be", I will reiterate: the meats were delicious; the salamis, pate, sausage, fois gras, chorizo, cassoulet - all great. But don't ask me to eat there every week.
4. Wine: Decent wine list. Jen (the owner) mentioned that she might try the to get a BYOB license which would be cool. We had a Californian Syrah-Mouvedre, called Tete a Tete, which was really easy drinking, not overly jammy or oaky, for $50.. I really liked it. Many times, I've spent more on crappy wines at other restaurants.
5. Service: Very good. Our server was busy with other tables, but still filled our glasses with water, helped us with food choices, checked in occasionally, and was very friendly.
6. The Room: Casual, comfortable, not chic. It was noisy, but in a good way.. people are there for some fun, food and drinks, and there will be some carousing. I'm sure that the front area of the restaurant was pretty cold, with the front door and protective curtain swinging open to the winter tundra, but in the back we were comfortable - two of us on the wall-lining bench, and two on chairs. Bathrooms are downstairs, and kinda dingy, but that doesn't bother me. The kitchen is RIGHT there in the room, next to the bar. No wall or half wall, everything is out in the open. They have a white electric stove/oven with an ugly hacked-in fan and exhaust pipe running up from it. While there is a certain 'warts and all' honesty to their approach, it doesn't really work for me.. They have a great bar, giant mirror, and nice cosy seating area; this seems to imply they took some care in making the place comfortable and attractive, but the kitchen and aluminum fan-exhaust just clash. What those cooks accomplish, in such a small place, with so little, is pretty remarkable.. but the cooking is not what we're there to see (Charcuterie is not glamorous).
7. Price: We had a charcuterie platter, 2 small breads, chorizo with lentils, duck confit meat pie, cassoulet, green salad, cheese plate, 2 glasses of cava, 1 St. Ambroise beer, 1 bottle of red wine. Dinner for 4 - $185, tip $30. So I think you could expect about $50 - $55 per person for a full meal and drinks.
An excellent review.
A couple of additions - the wine list is very short on sparkling wines - I find charcuterie goes extremely well with sparklers - especially 'weighty' ones (my alternative choice would be a cider - also not available).
And don't peek at what neighbouring tables are getting! Every charcuterie platter seems to be a bit different. In my experience the next table platter always seems to be better than mine (OK not really true - what I mean to say is that one rarely remembers when one has a premium serving, but always recalls when the next table has a better selection!).
But in this weather - I also wouldn't risk having to stand close to the door.
Agreed that overall this is a good place with excellent service - but what they do is done well - especially with that horrendous cooking equipment - impossible to get anything 'hot', although if you're happy with warm, I strongly recommend the tongue.
thanks a great balanced review - thanks!
i have been meaning to go since i live around the corner, but just haven't got around to it. reading the list of what you ordered made me realize i cannot wait another week.
the no reservation thing seems to be a trend in the hood - besides delux, is anyone else taking reservations around here? i don't really mind it, since i tend to go for dinners in the first half of the week, rather than weekends, but it does make it a bit of a problem for weekend dining. btw, cafe brasiliano is a couple of blocks east of black hoof, where you can have an excellent espresso while you wait.