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Pls Recommend: One-of-a-kind "eating out" experience?

u
urbanhaze Mar 12, 2009 05:04 PM

My fiance's birthday is coming up in April, and I am looking to take him out for dinner in downtown Toronto. I'm looking for recommendations on restaurants with Chef's Menu, as well as amazing services & a special "eating out" experience.

A little background:
My fiance & I loves to try new restaurant, and personally, my favourte so far is the tasting menu at Rain. I love the detail to attention, and how the owners would personally explain each dish. Japanese Tapanyaki "acting" is cheesy, and I want to stay away from that.

Budget:
$150 per person. (max approx. $200 with wine/drinks).

Looking for:
Attentive service from staff (VIP-like treatment), modern style cusine (not neccessary fusion), chefs menu / tasting menu, and maybe something like sitting by the bar & watch our food cook (but not japanese tapanyaki!).

Is there any place you all would recommend?? Thanks so much! (this is my first post!!!)

>Haze

  1. p
    Pigurd Mar 12, 2009 05:55 PM

    How about: http://www.sushikaji.com/ since it sounds like you are interested in asianish resturants, it is in etobiko (sp) though...

    1. TorontoJo Mar 12, 2009 06:01 PM

      The private kitchen table at Colborne Lane would fit the bill, with the table in a small room off the kitchen (which is downstairs from the restaurant) and a large window looking into the kitchen. It's a 15-course tasting menu and you get very attentive service and likely a drop in from Claudio Aprile, if he's in that night. The only problem is the price point. I don't know what it is now, but I think it was $169/person a couple of years ago.

      1. redearth Mar 12, 2009 06:01 PM

        Perigee or Splendido

        http://www.perigeerestaurant.com/
        http://www.splendido.ca/

        -----
        Perigee
        55 Mill St, Toronto, ON M5A3C4, CA

        Splendido
        88 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1G5, CA

        1. Notorious P.I.G. Mar 12, 2009 06:08 PM

          Medieval Times. (Drink lots)

          7 Replies
          1. re: Notorious P.I.G.
            t
            tjr Mar 12, 2009 06:34 PM

            Haha. To the point of alcohol poisoning?

            Kaji or Splendido fit the bill. I don't think I'd recommend Colborne Lane; we've had a few lackluster experiences there. It's sort of the default "molecular gastronomy" place in Toronto, but I haven't found it to be exciting in either molecular gastronomy or food in general.

            1. re: tjr
              b
              blindbunny Mar 12, 2009 06:56 PM

              i disagree. i really enjoy colborne lane - it is a complete dining experience and i've found the food to be fantastic. i would also second the suggestion for perigee which is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. as far as tastings go, have you tried george? i think it is perhaps overpriced for the quality of food, but it is beautiful.

              for romantic/special dinners, i must say that i am a sucker for the cornerhouse. it may be traditional, a little old school, etc. but god, it's almost like not being in toronto and every time i go there, i leave feeling completely satisfied in every way.

              1. re: blindbunny
                t
                tjr Mar 12, 2009 09:09 PM

                If you've never experienced molecular gastronomy anywhere else (and therefore would be disappointed with CL), then maybe, I can see your point. Perigee has gone downhill, and George is for sure overpriced compared to somewhere like Splendido which is not only better in every respect (especially during the winter), but definitely worth the money.

                1. re: tjr
                  TorontoJo Mar 13, 2009 05:17 AM

                  I don't think of Colborne Lane as a molecular gastronomy restaurant. Yes, they use a few MG techniques, but that's not really what the food is about. It's not trying to be another Alinea. There are interesting blends of flavours and textures in every dish and for a special occasion, I think the 15 course tasting is pretty memorable.

                  1. re: TorontoJo
                    t
                    tjr Mar 13, 2009 07:53 AM

                    Which leads me to believe they don't really know what they want to do when I'm eating there. Part molecular, part something else, dishes that really, really don't work, some do, but a lot don't. Kind of like a Pierre Gagnaire where the chance of a dish succeeding is much lower (for me, at least). The dishes that tend to work are tried and true. CL may be relatively unique in Toronto, but I haven't had great experiences there.

                    OP mentioned he liked Rain though, so he might like the Asian fusion dishes at CL.

                    1. re: tjr
                      TorontoJo Mar 13, 2009 08:18 AM

                      Fair enough -- the best dishes I had there were the seafood dishes, which were mostly Asian fusion. The wok-fried squid, the miso black cod, the tuna tartare, etc. The worst were the "experiments", like the beet plate.

                      But I guess I don't see why using some MG techniques is a problem, even though you aren't intending to be a molecular "destination" like El Bulli. If Aprile thinks of the techniques as just another tool in his arsenal as a chef, I'm ok with that.

                      1. re: TorontoJo
                        t
                        tjr Mar 13, 2009 06:10 PM

                        It's not a problem; I just think the focus of the dishes is lost too often, and that the use of MG techniques doesn't augment many of the dishes. In many cases, it even takes away from what would have been good about it.

                        I don't hate CL; it is just way too hit-or-miss for me to really enjoy. I've been several times and was usually underwhelmed. The service there is fabulous though, and a lot of the food looks beautiful (even if the flavour isn't there).

          2. Rabbit Mar 12, 2009 07:03 PM

            Maybe The Fifth... the room is really gorgeous and the ride in the freight elevator is kinda worth the price of admission. Also, they've scored a new house manager who is supposed to be the bees knees. On my last trip the food was a bit of a disappoint, but I'm constantly tempted to go back because I love the room so much (and I've had good luck with the kitchen on other trips).
            www.thefifthgrill.com

            I also really like Colborne Lane. And I'd love to get to Kaji, but Mr. Rabbit is all weird about eating sushi outside of Japan (annoyingly so).

            1. t
              torontofoodiegirl Mar 12, 2009 09:34 PM

              Although I didn't rave about Splendido after my one and only visit there (felt that I had dropped too much money for a meal that was really good but didn't change my life), it's probably your best bet if you want a tasting menu and a special experience (the service is stellar to the point of almost being too much - would be a very "VIP" experience, as you're hoping for). The tasting menu is currently priced at $98pp and, if you go late, you can take advantage of their after 9pm no corkage special to save on the cost of drinks.

              Have fun, and let us know where you end up.

              1 Reply
              1. re: torontofoodiegirl
                estufarian Mar 13, 2009 07:24 AM

                Splendido is the 'obvious choice'. But the 'after 9pm no corkage' is at Nota Bene (same management). At Splendido there's no corkage Tue-Fri at all.
                But both these promotions are for March (but could be extended into April).

              2. s
                stonedtoronto Mar 12, 2009 10:55 PM

                Several CHer's mentioned them already, I'll add a few. Obviously for $200 per person, you can have a good meal at almost any restaurant in Toronto.

                Perigee does a good tasting menu, the restaurant is set up like an arena, and you can view the kitchen from any table in the restaurant. Amazing vegetarian tasting menu as well.

                Colborne Lane is the default molecular gastronomy place in Toronto. They do a 15 course for $150.

                Splendido is another great place to celebrate an occasion. Considered the best restaurant in Toronto by many (but I haven't been yet). Apparently it's extremely easy to spend more than $200 pp there though.

                George does a "decent" tasting menu. The food is great, but the last time I went there, I expected better food for $500 for two. The reason I mention George is the amazing service. When we went, we arrived late, still they let us get the tasting menu. We were the last patrons there for an hour, but they encouraged us to stay. On top of that, it was snowing that night, and they cleared a path to my car, and cleaned it!

                Finally I have to mention Scaramouche. It is my favorite restaurant in Toronto. The view is so amazing. Honestly such a great restaurant. I've never had a bad meal there...desserts are the best in the city. If I had to propose in a restaurant...it would only be at Scaramouche. They use to do a tasting menu...I am not sure if they still do, but the a la carte menu is great too. I usually spend $300 for 2 including wine, tax, and tip...so it's well within your budget.

                2 Replies
                1. re: stonedtoronto
                  t
                  tjr Mar 12, 2009 11:49 PM

                  Just a note: Splendido lowered the price of their tasting a while back (I think it's around $100, $98, something like that pp.), so it would be a bit more difficult to spend $200 pp. than it was before.

                  1. re: stonedtoronto
                    m
                    MeMeMe Mar 13, 2009 06:40 AM

                    Scaramouche - food and service cannot be beat.

                  2. estufarian Mar 13, 2009 07:21 AM

                    Kaiseki Sakura might fit your bill. It's 'Japanese' but a mixture of dishes. Their tasting menu features fish, meat, veggies etc - all well prepared. And almost everyone's favourite dish is the tongue (cooked and incredibly tender). [Upon re-reading that I hope it isn't misinterpreted]
                    I can understand people recommending Colborne Lane - but I think that sometimes comes close to 'cheesiness'. And I don't think you can book the private room for 2.

                    1. u
                      urbanhaze Mar 16, 2009 08:17 AM

                      Thanks everyone for your response!!
                      Sorry for the late replies, but I've been away on a trip the last few days and haven't had access to internet!

                      After having read all your inputs, I think these are the places that I have narrowed down to:
                      1. Kaji
                      2. Perigee
                      3. George

                      We visited Scaramouche & Splendido over Christmas, which were both amazing. I would really love to try Colborne Lane, however, they cannot do the Kitchen Table for 2 person.

                      What would be a decently priced place with MG techniques?

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: urbanhaze
                        d
                        dragonflygrl Mar 16, 2009 11:44 AM

                        That's odd. I booked the Kitchen Table at CL for two people last fall.

                        1. re: urbanhaze
                          s
                          stonedtoronto Mar 16, 2009 10:07 PM

                          Lucien is the only other restaurant that I am aware of that does molecular gastronomy, but I've never been. Anyone have any inputs?

                          1. re: stonedtoronto
                            Notorious P.I.G. Mar 16, 2009 10:46 PM

                            C5 dabbles as well.

                            1. re: stonedtoronto
                              chefhound Mar 24, 2009 03:04 PM

                              I haven't been there lately but the last few times I went, I really enjoyed Lucien. It's still all about the food. They use some of the techniques - sous vide, foams, powders etc. but I never found it to overshadow the food.

                              I just had dinner at Colborne Lane this weekend and it was an enjoyable experience but the food is uneven. Some dishes were really good, some were just good but it sometimes seemed like the focus was more about the techniques than the food. It was my friend's first time at Colborne Lane and she had a great time. While none of the food was life-altering, none of it was bad. And the experience was lots of fun.

                              So if you're looking for a different experience to make the night a memorable one, then Colborne Lane is the way to go. If you want to try some of the techniques but consider the food to be foremost, give Lucien a try.

                              1. re: chefhound
                                estufarian Mar 25, 2009 07:40 AM

                                My takeis slightly different. Colborne has settled down - the techniques no longer dominate the food (except for their ice-cream dessert, which is ALL show!).
                                However Lucien doesn't seem to have a focus. The items on a plate don't seem to have a thread that binds them together; sort of - let's throw everything on a plate and see what it looks (and tastes?) like. I have no problem with the ingredients - just a major problem with the 'overall composition' - which for me used to be Colborne's weakness too, EXCEPT that on my most recent visit it was much more coherent.
                                I have the same issue with C5 (at ROM). When I commented that a dish was just 'unrelated components' I was told I was 'supposed to eat it from left to right and the server must have forgotten to tell me'.

                                1. re: estufarian
                                  chefhound Mar 25, 2009 04:05 PM

                                  Well, as I said, I haven't been to Lucien in a while but from my previous experiences, I remember enjoying the food and not consciously thinking about the techniques. In the back of my mind, I may have noted that the texture of the salmon suggested it was cooked sous vide but it wasn't in my face. The foams and powders generally enhanced the dishes and didn't make me think - here's an example of gelification or oh, an example of spherifcation and so on.

                                  At Colborne Lane, I found myself thinking just that - here are some noodles that don't taste like much but are made from solidified ginger juice - interesting. And there was some balsamic reduction on my dessert plate that was delicious, didn't appear to be the result of any chemical magic, but did not work with the dish at all. And I must say, that liquid nitrogen ice cream may be for show and a bit gimmicky but it was delicious!

                                  1. re: estufarian
                                    aser Mar 25, 2009 05:21 PM

                                    My one time at Lucien I felt the food was deconstructed for no good reason, other than to show off their technique. If I'm supposed to take a bite of the protein w/ the assorted powders, why not just put them together?

                                    1. re: estufarian
                                      t
                                      tjr Mar 25, 2009 07:37 PM

                                      While I'm no great fan of CL, it is much better than Lucien or C5, both of which were very unimpressive. I definitely agree with you here.

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