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Once-a-year Treat Suggestion?

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SarahBHood Jan 23, 2009 03:00 PM

I go out once a year with a group of cheerful and curious friends for a February dinner where cost is no object, for a tasting menu if possible. So far we've gone to the late Susur and Avalon, Perigée (under the original chef), Canoe, North 44 and Oro. Our faves so far have been Susur and Perigée. This year we're thinking about Nota Bene, Pangaea and a few other possibilities. Does anyone have a passionate endorsement for someplace we should go that will offer us an unforgettably pleasant and interesting experience?

  1. chef_vegabond Feb 13, 2009 06:07 AM

    The Olive Garden, sorry, couldn't resist:-)

    1 Reply
    1. re: chef_vegabond
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      acd123 Feb 27, 2009 07:28 AM

      Our favourite once a year place is Sushi Kaji.

    2. Muffin__Top Feb 12, 2009 02:23 PM

      Has anyone gone to George?? I've heard such good things about that restaurant!

      I'm going to Nota Bene for V day

      and Scaramouche for the SO's birthday ;) ( I hope I am not paying )

      6 Replies
      1. re: Muffin__Top
        t
        tjr Feb 12, 2009 04:33 PM

        George is okay. I've had decent meals there (certainly not bad), but nothing that really draws me back (and I can't even remember most of the meals there: either too much to drink, or the food just wasn't worth remembering).

        Nota Bene is... well, overhyped. You may enjoy it, but Valentine's Day certainly isn't the best day to go to any restaurant for the first time. Stick with the favourite dishes and don't deviate; check recent reviews and see which items are worth ordering (because so many aren't), unless they're doing a special menu only.

        Scaramouche is romantic, and okay. Their lobsterlicious menu is quite good, and the price is definitely good considering what you're getting. I've had a couple mediocre meals at Scaramouche, but it is definitely one of the better restaurants in the city, and you likely won't be disappointed.

        1. re: Muffin__Top
          estufarian Feb 13, 2009 05:47 AM

          I've been to both Nota Bene and Scaramouche this year and both were very good-excellent. George was last year and I found it expensive for what I received. Used to enjoy George but the prices crept up without any improvement in quality.
          I'd go in warmer weather - their courtyard patio is a great place to dine.

          1. re: Muffin__Top
            s
            stonedtoronto Feb 27, 2009 01:45 AM

            I went to George two months ago. It was a good night. Service was great, but the food was "just" good.

            First the service...we arrived 30 minutes late. But they were very accomadating. We had to take a table at the back, which was fine, since there were no other tables left. If I remember it was a Saturday, so very busy. We got the 7 course taster. Utensils were cleared quickly after each plate, and along with our waitress, someone from the kitchen came to explain each dish to us (it wasn't Lorenzo Loseto though). By the time our cheese plate arrived we were the last two patrons in the restaurant, but we were never rushed. In fact they encouraged us to have another dessert after our tasting dessert, and more champagne. We were there by ourselves well over an hour after everyone left, but felt very encouraged to stay. It had been snowing heavily that day. So when we left, they not only cleared the path directly to my car (My dining companion appreciated not walking in snow in heels), and also cleaned my car for me! I had to call the next day to thank them.

            As for the food. Firstly the desserts...I don't know why we got an extra dessert, because the desserts were very forgettable. I think we ended up with 7 different desserts, and only 2 were good. As for the tasting itself...most of it consisted of things from the menu, with some surprises. All the fish dishes were medeocre. What stood out were the bison, foie gras, rabbit confit, and veal tenderloin. The rest were just "good".

            I thought the service was amazing. The food was hit and miss, and desserts terrible. 1 bottle, 2 glasses champagne, 2 7 course tasters, and 1 extra dessert....tax and tip included $500. The night was great because of the service, but I can't help but feel that $500 would've better been spent at Colborne Lane, Splendido or Perigee.

            1. re: stonedtoronto
              Muffin__Top Feb 27, 2009 04:17 AM

              Thanks for the review! I'll be sure to check it out when there's a snowstorm =P
              Too bad the food was inconsistent because service like that is not easy to find.

              1. re: Muffin__Top
                s
                stonedtoronto Feb 27, 2009 07:24 AM

                You're quite welcome! Have you gone to Scaramouche yet for your SO's birthday? It's by far my favorite restaurant. It's very romantic, and nice, and best desserts in Toronto. Stark contrast to George especially for desserts.

                1. re: Muffin__Top
                  s
                  stonedtoronto Feb 27, 2009 07:36 AM

                  Oh, a few other things about George. The wine list. I think we got a bottle of shiraz for $80. But what surprised me was that there wasn't anything on the wine list over $250, which is great. The final dessert, and cheese plate weren't part of the taster; but the restaurant comp'ed it for us.

            2. skylineR33 Feb 12, 2009 08:44 AM

              Definitely pick Splendido over Nota Bene if cost is no object, as Splendido is the flagship of David Lee. Forget about Pangaea, mediocre food there. If you want a view, consider Scaramouche since you have already been to Canoe, but IMO food cannot match with Splendido and the table there are quite closely packed.

              1. syoung Feb 12, 2009 08:19 AM

                Another vote for splendido. Other alternatives if you want to try something more exotic and possibly more interesting are Kaji (http://www.sushikaji.com/) or Hashimoto (http://www.kaiseki.ca/english/).

                1 Reply
                1. re: syoung
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                  phoenikia Feb 12, 2009 08:33 AM

                  Second the Kaji rec. Kaji would be my top pick for a once-a-year treat. His presentation is the best I've seen in Toronto.

                  Haven't had a chance to try Hashimoto yet.

                  Chiado would also be on my shortlist.

                2. Charles Yu Feb 12, 2009 05:20 AM

                  Head out to Splendido for the total package. Tasting menu with wine pairing is definitely the way to go!

                  1. s
                    SarahBHood Feb 11, 2009 10:17 AM

                    Well, we're booked into Colborne Lane this weekend. I expect we still have a lot to learn about molecular gastronomy, so we're looking forward to it. I am told they've been known to feature Pop Rocks and champagne; sounds like my kinda place. Thanks again for all the suggestions.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: SarahBHood
                      justpete Feb 12, 2009 07:29 AM

                      Should be fun. Jealous!!

                      1. re: SarahBHood
                        justpete Feb 20, 2009 06:16 AM

                        so? how was it? :)

                      2. cynalan Jan 25, 2009 04:39 PM

                        Don't know if it's open in the winter or whether you could even get a reservation with such short notice. My recommendation would be to dine at Eigensinn Farm. Best meal I've had in Canada.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: cynalan
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                          SarahBHood Jan 26, 2009 04:34 PM

                          We've been dreaming of Eigensinn. Maybe for our 10th one? We've also thought hard about Scaramouche and were poised to go last year when we heard they might close, then put it off when we heard they wouldn't. Thank you folks so much for your suggestions; you've certainly put Splendido and perhaps especially Colborne Lane on the list of possibilities, at least as far as I'm concerned.

                          1. re: SarahBHood
                            cynalan Jan 26, 2009 07:13 PM

                            You should try Eigensinn. We did it about 5-6 years ago. At that time it was $150 pp. I think I hear that it is now about $275... and that does not include wine. It's actually a BYOB. You can call about a day in advance for the menu to match your wines. The meal was 10 courses. Michael Stadtlander and his wife Nobuko are terrific hosts. When we booked the dinner, it took about a year to get a reservation as at that time they were only doing dinner twice per week. In addition, the restaurant is actually the dining room of his farm house... only seats about 20 or so. So stop dreaming and book it. You will not regret it.

                            You will not go wrong with Scaramouche or Splendido. Colborne Lane is on my to do list as well. I agree with the comment about Nota Bene. Although it is one of my favourites, I would not classify it as a destination spot. It provides good food in a trendy location with a vibe. Absolutely worth doing but I think the other choices stated in other messages would be better.

                            1. re: SarahBHood
                              justpete Jan 26, 2009 07:30 PM

                              Good. I think those are the best two restaurants in Toronto. Splendido can run you anywhere from $200-$700... it's a rather wide range. The service is unparalleled in Toronto and no restaurant even comes close (just please don't go on an off night - Mon/Tues for a special occasion). The food is simple and incredible, and the flavours are all amazing. I'm a huge proponent of this restaurant, and it's by far my favourite in Toronto.

                              I've only been to Colborne lane once, some say it's "Tacky" or "gimmicky", but I would propose that's because they don't understand molecular gastronomy. The food was excellent and interesting, and although their techniques may be somewhat common, but I still find it worthwhile. Service was good, but nothing like Splendido's. However, the atmosphere is slightly more funky and enjoyable, where as Splendido is somewhat more plain and only slightly 'uppity'.

                              1. re: SarahBHood
                                justpete Jan 26, 2009 07:32 PM

                                I would also agree with the sentiment regarding Nota Bene. It's more of a lunch destination or casual dinner without expectation of good service, that's slightly nicer than most other places, but is reasonably priced for the quality of the food.

                                1. re: SarahBHood
                                  t
                                  tjr Jan 26, 2009 09:29 PM

                                  If it's a choice between Splendido and Colborne Lane and money is not an option, choose Splendido. I found Colborne Lane to be rather unimpressive. Perhaps if you've never done the molecular gastronomy thing it might be interesting, but if you have, you'll probably find it to be a bit trite and repetitive. No real evolution or advancement of the cuisine.

                              2. justpete Jan 24, 2009 10:23 PM

                                definately Splendido if you want top notch service and amazing food, Colborne Lane if you want a little pizzaz and a slightly more fun and relaxed atmosphere. Scaramouche compared to these two is... meh.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: justpete
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                                  evansl Feb 12, 2009 02:23 AM

                                  Splendido is just awful. The only amazing thing about the experience is the high price and the low value.

                                2. TorontoJo Jan 23, 2009 03:51 PM

                                  I would book the kitchen table room at Colborne Lane. It's a small room next to the kitchen with a large window looking into it. The tasting menu is 15 courses, which took our party well over 4 hours. It was great fun and we all enjoyed our evening immensely. I think the room can seat up to 8.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: TorontoJo
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                                    millygirl Jan 24, 2009 06:09 AM

                                    Ditto on the Scaramouche recommendation!!!

                                  2. p
                                    Phoenix Jan 23, 2009 03:14 PM

                                    If you've never been to Scaramouche, I would suggest giving it a try. The service and food are always good, and the view is one of the nicest in Toronto. Since it looks like they are going to lose the space by the end of 2009, I would give it a try before it's too late.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Phoenix
                                      estufarian Jan 24, 2009 06:28 AM

                                      Apparently the reno that would have evicted Scaramouche has been cancelled, so they are still there 'until further notice'.
                                      I also find the tasting menu there a little more traditional - more in the North 44 and Canoe vein.
                                      My recommendation would be either Splendido - which IMO sets the standard - or if you're more experimental then Colborne Lane is worth considering - although you may have to take the private room, because the main floor really doesn't encourage interaction.

                                      1. re: Phoenix
                                        s
                                        stonedtoronto Jan 25, 2009 10:41 PM

                                        I second the recommendation for Scaramouche, I've always enjoyed every meal I've had there. Yes, their tasting menu is more pedestrian, but it's still quite good.

                                        I've been dying to try to tasting at Colborne Lane, something else you might want to consider.

                                        Nota Bene is a great restaurant, but it doesn't seem "special" enough for what you're looking for.

                                      2. c
                                        c_snapper Jan 23, 2009 03:08 PM

                                        i think everyone will suggest Jacobs steak house if you guys are into steak

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