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Jan 24, 2009 11:57 AM

Black Hoof Review 4 out of 5 *'s

Last night I finally got the chance to go to the Black Hoof, and, as a bonus, my friend was paying!

We arrived at 8 o' clock on a friday night so, understandably the small room was packed with hipster types looking for god in cured morsels of meat. I was looking forward to a salty epiphany or two myself. We were immediately greeted by a gracious hostess who informed us that there would be about a 45 minute wait for our table of two. Black Hoof does not take reservations, however the hostess gave us the option of waiting at the bar (tight squeeze) or she could take our cell # and call us when our table was available. We chose option two and merrily set out on foot to find a warm place and pint.

About 2 pints and 1 hour later, we had not received our call. Somewhat perturbed, we decided to go back and investigate. It turns out that our gracious hostess had kinda forgotten about us. Quote "Oh you know what I never got your number", to which my friend replied "Actually you did". Anyhow, she promised us the very next table and ushered us over to the unoccupied end of the small bar.

This would prove to be the only little blip in an otherwise very enjoyable experience. I realize this would annoy some people greatly and perhaps sour there entire experience, but we were in a mellow mood and nothing was going to defeat me in my quest to find charcuterial nirvana.

The friendly bartender offered us a glass of wine or a cocktail. We chose a beer. There was a good selection of local microbrews and imports, and the winelist, while not a multipage affair, was intelligently crafted, with many choices by the glass, and many bottles under $50 dollars.

After a couple of sips of beer we were led to a cosy table for two near the back of the narrow room. The decor is dark with grey walls, low lighting, bare aluminum ceiling, chalkboard menus, and plain wooden tables. The overall atmosphere is simple, modern, comfortable and the room buzzes with energy.

I study the chalkboard menu while my friend rants about the economy. You know how sometimes its difficult to choose because you want to try everything? Well at Black Hoof I didn't have that problem. Maybe its because my friend was paying, and we ended up eating our way through half the menu anyway.

We started off with bread by Thuet ($2 s/$4 l), olives in their oil, and a large charcuterie platter. The platter was a triumph of artisanal achievement, a salty fatty hallelujah. We were instructed to eat our way from left right, from the mildest flavours to the strongest. Some highlights included: an orangey foie gras mousse, duck rillette with tarragon, horse bresola, saussicon sec (my friends fav, he wanted to buy a piece to bring home, We learned that it was from a producer in Quebec), and whipped pork fat. We spent over an hour savouring this platter. This is what I was here for. My friend was having our attentive server suprise him with her choice of beer, and the second time he requested this, she brought us a bottle to share on the house, claiming that we were victims for her experiment. It was a heavily smoked german ale and it turned out to be a perfect pairing for the charcuterie. We were delighted.

Next we ordered the Cabbage and Bone Marrow soup, the Jamon Iberico, de Bellota (oh yes!), and a bottle of Cava. Things were looking up. The soup was a rich puree of cabbage with a flavourful meaty base. It was served scalding, and paired with a roasted marrow bone with a small dish of fleur de sel and a few thin slices of toasted baguette. Then came the Jamon Iberico de Bellota, which I love saying by the way. I was sceptical ordering a $30 plate of shaved ham, but it was worth it. For those of you new to this substance there is a great posting about in the chowhound archives. Suffice to say it is equivalent to truffles, or parmigiano reggiano, or a first pressing of Burgundy. We slowly savoured each translucent sheet alone or with a corner of plain bread. We had to pause half way through to avoid palpatations. A sip of cheerful Cava between each slice cleansed our palates. We were in a very happy place.

Next up came pickled octopus with chorizo, and tongue on brioche. The two dishes were delivered together and were a startling contrast to each other. The octopus, served cold, was bright and zingy; an almost mouth puckering flavour, accented by the salty chorizo. The tongue on brioche was warm, sweet, fork tender and incredibly rich, the conservative drizzle of cream sauce was unnecessary(but good).

By this time about 2 and a half hours had passed and we were getting pretty full. But I wasn't quite done. I had to have some cheese. We ordered the small cheese plate (cheeses were supplied by the Cheese Boutique). It was three beautiful cheeses each with their own condiment. It was probably a mistake to order it though because we could not finish it. I ended up wrapping up a little tinfoil swan (my own handiwork) filled with cheese, and the remnants of the octopus and tongue.

It was an epic meal and relatively affordable as epic meals go. The final bill came in at just under $200. It was an experience that I won't soon forget. I owe my friend one. Any suggestions where we should go next?

And, oh yeah, does any body have brunch recipe that includes octopus, tongue, chorizo, a soft ripe cheese, an aged sharp cheese and a blue cheese?

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  1. Totally agreed...The Black Hoof is amazing! Hopefully we will continue to see more places built my enthusiastic focused young people, passionate about what they do and allowing all of us to experience something new and unique. Will become my once a week fix for everything cured, fatty and delicious!

    1. Holy shit, that was a most scintillating, mouthwatering review! Even more impressive, you didn't use the words "scintillating" or "mouthwatering"!

      I was just curious in the joint, but it's now at the top of my list of places to try. Thanks for adding that it takes 2.5 hours to fully immerse in the experience. Very helpful to know.

      1. Sounds like a great experience, thanks for sharing. I too wouldn't of been too bothered by the initial screw up, server must of been juggling a hundred things at once. I love the fact that BH got best restaurant of the year in Toronto Life, such a low budgeted operation beat Noto Bene, a multi million dollar project (which got number 2).

        2 Replies
        1. re: chef_vagabond

          Totally agree with the very good review from haggisdragon. We went last night, Saturday, and had an excellent time.

          We arrived around 7:15 -- the tables were all full, but we nabbed 2 very cozy seats at the bar, near the stove. Over the course of the evening, there was almost always seating at the bar or the tables.

          This place is good value -- another string elsewhere on this board refers to it being expensive -- I don't agree with that assessment. For me, excellent food, reasonable prices.

          We had the small charcuterie plate, the pickled octopus and chorizo, lentils with crispy sausage, the pan-seared foie on brioche, and the small cheese plate. With the exception of the lentils (finished with pork fat) being a little over-salty, everything was fantastic. The dill and beef sausage (on the charcuterie plate) and the foie were standouts.

          The five dishes, above, together with some wine (2 glasses cava, 2 glasses New Zealand pinot noir, 2 glasses sangiovese, 1 glass late harvest cider, 1 glass late harvest reisling, 2 glasses sherry), came to just under $200.00 before tip. If we hadn't been so thirsty, the meal could easily have come in under $125.00.

          This is a fantastic place! Highly recommended. Will definitely be back soon.

          1. Great review haggisdragon. This one has been on my radar for quite some time. Been hankering for some charcuterie lately as well.

            7 Replies
            1. re: BokChoi

              In that case, I'm pretty sure you'd enjoy. As long as your salt and fat intakes are in check, you should have no problems! The food is delicious, and it definitely isn't as expensive as some people make it seem (as noted by the OP). There's a lot of love going into this place, and into charcuterie, which in many ways is a lost art here. Any doubts to the dedication of those involved?

              I don't think I've been this satisfied with something in Toronto for a while; it's what I expected, and maybe even a bit more.

              1. re: tjr

                That site is amazing. Wow. Now I really want to go. I am still trying to burn off the calories I have ingested over the New Year celebration period though, unfortunately. I will hopefully make it out there soon. Thanks tjr.

                1. re: tjr

                  Yeah it's pretty obvious that its a labour of love. I'd like to try the bear salami. Thanks for the post tjr. I'm going to keep an eye on Charcuterie Sundays. Thanks to everybody for the positive feedback, btw.

                  1. re: haggisdragon

                    I'm not sure if the bear is available due to food regulations; the blog isn't an accurate depiction of what is available at the restaurant, more of a representation of the effort and quality of the food.

                    While I'm sure it is within your realm of edible possibilities, BokChoi, I'd just like to mention that Black Hoof isn't exactly a restaurant that will appeal to everyone. Those who are not fond of "interesting" parts of animals, or "interesting" animals in general may not enjoy everything served. Those who aren't looking to consume massive quantities of fat and salt need not apply. This is not to say that the food is not delicious; it is. And it's certainly something almost unique (though there are many other places serving charcuterie) in Toronto.

                    For those who are willing to keep an open mind and stomach, I can't imagine not enjoying Black Hoof. For those who are a little more picky, or who have certain dietary restrictions: Black Hoof may not be the right place for you. I can recommend them based on what they do, but it's definitely not for everyone. If there are things you are not willing to eat, let them know, I'm sure they will work around your likes and dislikes. Just make sure you're into charcuterie first :-)

                      1. re: tjr

                        tjr, I will basically eat anything as long as it's tasty and won't be harmful to my health. Anything available in a charcuterie platter is more than welcome in my stomach. I do love fat and salt, but only when it is done well. Quite often I find that everything is just fatty for the sake of being fatty, or heavy-handed with the salt. Enjoyed Splendido's and NotaBene's version of the charcuterie platter recently. Looking for something a bit more adventurous.

                        Thanks for the warning though

                        1. re: tjr

                          For those wondering if there are gluten free options (I know aser is one that looks for gluten-free) they do indeed know what is and is not gluten free. I haven't been yet but Grant indicated the servers would know which meat/foods are gluten-free.

                  2. Glad you liked it. I've only been once and would rate it slightly lower.
                    The charcuterie platter was mixed - some great items, some less so. I was sat at the bar and noticed that each platter was prepared (and meats sliced) just before serving - no pre-prepared slices here (excellent). BUT each platter seemed different which means that you're unlikely to duplicate exactly (also excellent) but that no two tables got the same selection - so some luck involved in what you get.
                    The warm dishes are a little problematic. they just have one regular home-style kitchen stove with 4 electric burners and a single oven. The oven is used for 'everything' - warming, toasting, heating, cooking - and is always being opened and closed so distinctly variable temperature. Kudos to the chef for managing on the 'dinosaur' equipment - but this means that the temprature of serving is variable. Example (for me) the toasted brioche was quite firm (i.e. like really hard toast) but the tongue was merely warm (not hot). So could have beeen better - however the taste was superb, reflecting the quality.
                    The Thuet bread was surprisingly bland and had more 'air holes' than usual. Not up to what I expect.

                    And they don't take credit cards (unless the machine was down the night I went). Only found out at end of meal - which could be potentially embarrassing.

                    And in this weather, with no reservations and seated at bar, I was forced to mix with many people waiting for seats (far too cold to wait outside). That doesn't improve the ambiance - but does create a 'buzz'. Your choice as to whether this is 'desirable' or not!

                    But anyplace that serves jamon iberico gets my support - evn if the price is ridiculously high (due to the retail/wholesale price structure). Almost makes me wish for the 'illegal' days when it was available for far less even though (probably) smuggled in.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: estufarian

                      iberico is avail at schefflers at SLM if you don't feel like popping to black hoof for a full on meal