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Apr 7, 2009 09:35 AM

Port Restaurant Review - Pickering

We had high hopes for Port, after being swayed by news of a fabulous upscale casual bistro at the Lakefront in Pickering.

We were ushered through the empty restaurant to the bar area thanks for forgetting to make a reservation on a Friday night. At 6pm, the bar was already full and buzzing. The bar area is very nice but with a casual vibe thanks to several flat screen tv's showing sports and news. The tv's were a bit of a shocker to me, but hey, we were in the bar area.

We were served promptly with drinks and ordered shared appetizers and mains. Appetizers ordered were Gyoza with three sauces (not my choice) and Gambas al ajillo. Gyoza were small, standard fare and reminicent of slightly upscale pub food. I didn't expect much more though. Chewy and doughy, the sauces didn't improve things much.

Mains were the real disappointment. My husband ordered the 16oz cowboy rib steak with "herb deconstructed compound butter" and garlic mashed potatoes. He claimed the potatoes a disaster, and while the steak wasn't great it wasn't bad either. But for $34 he expected a better grade of beef as it was a little chewy and sinewy. Strangely, the "compound butter" was placed on the potatoes, not the steak.

I had the trio of duck, which was "seared duck breast with cognac and black cherry preserve, confited leg of duck with bourbon and blackberry pan jus, and smoked bacon terrine and blueberry veal stock reduction on sweet potato rosti, string beans, and red pepper". What a shame though. The breast was beyond overcooked and tasted either reheated or left under a heat lamp until all pinkness was gone. The slices were cold and dry. The confited leg was tasty but cold. The terrine was not great and a very thin slice. It was cold also but it may come that way? Each item was topped with a very similar fruit based jam or jelly that didn't taste any different one to the other, and appeared to be made of frozen fruit. The worst though was the "rosti" which was barely beyond cooked on the outside, and soggy and undercooked on the inside. Certainly not a rosti. Each piece was placed on top of a rosti and they were huge.

Our dining companions had the special, braised short ribs, and the supreme of chicken. The short ribs got a shrug, by the supreme of chicken was enjoyed, although I do question her judgement! She left most of the yukon gold croquette that came with it, proclaiming she was full. I had a bite and it was flavourless and had no texture. Hideous.

Dessert eaters amongst us had New York style cheesecake which was very good.

We paid $360 for 4 people including tip, cocktails, and a glass of wine.

For the price, we expected better and have received better, even in the Pickering area. Burb's Bistro springs to mind as a bistro with better food and more reasonable prices in the same upscale casual dining atmosphere. We wouldn't return to Port though except maybe for drinks on their large lakefront patio.


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  1. post restaurant:
    pros: view
    cons: service - waitress sneered when asked for window seating
    - glass of water requested twice
    - vegetables overdone (a la 1970)
    - extemely slow main course
    - scholarly overseer to observe patrons' responses - seemed to fall asleep
    - no hors d'ouvres -no bread pickles olives etc.
    Would we return? Only if sign "under new management" were to be posted

    2 Replies
    1. re: schaffmatt

      I'm surprised this place is still in business. I guess all you need to succeed is a view. Would only return to have drinks on the patio and even then would think twice because of the terrible service.

      1. re: tuttebene

        We've eaten there several times over the past year (usually business dinners) and we have had some nice meals. But they are totally inconsistent - the same dish can be great one time and bad the next. Very unreliable.

    2. Myself and my husband are from the Durham Region. We decided to go to Port last night to see the good, bad and ugly, based on the reviews on here and other sites. We brought our well-mannered 3 year old (who ended up falling asleep in the booth no less).

      We entered noting the exterior looked nice and modern. We were just opening the doors when the hostess saw us with a child, her face dropped. We just laughed. We proceeded in and said we had a reso for 6:30pm for THREE people, she corrected me and she said "you mean two?" (a remark that left us totally displeased - is our child a nuisance to your establishment? - this isn't Canoe we are going to!) - I corrected her and she scoffed. We sat in a booth and we promptly saw our server, an uneducated, half asleep, in a rush, server.

      The music was some sort of country music. Soon changed to elevator techno. It was drowned out around 7:30pm when more customers showed up. But i digress, back to the server - I asked if they had any specials "nope, its a new menu so we haven't gotten there yet", I asked "do you plate child portions?" - "ya you know, things like chicken fingers and a kids burger" - I asked "How much is that" - ""not sure, something like $8.50" - all with a tone of "come on already just order so I can get the heck outta here!". So we ordered two drinks and juice with the chicken fingers. We looked over the menu and all seemed ok. Prices fine. The server came back to tell me the bartender couldn't make one of the signature drinks I had asked for, so I accepted a glass of wine.

      The meal - I had the steak, potato and carrots with foccacia. Mine was good. My spouse on the other hand, got the duck three ways (note style in original post on this page). Not so good. Gravy tasted like Bisto. Drowned flavours. Small breast of duck. We asked for a small scoop of ice cream for our daughter. The server told us that they didn't give a small scoop but the standard bowl. Ok, we got it. Fine, vanilla. Then the bill came, her juive was $4.00, her chicken fingers were $8.50 adn the ice cream was $5.00 (as much as the beer ordered).

      The restaurant is pretty and we'd like to see the view from the patio in daylight. I noted that once we looked over at the other tables, their servers were talking and taking the time to explain the meals and such. Maybe we just got the one guy that night that didn't want to be there. Guess BrownRB's post is correct in pointing out the inconsistencies of the place. Maybe is we had a server who was attentive we'd be a happier pair. Maybe we are too critical!! We would go back on the basis of the food, I liked my meal, and to see if we have one positive experience. I may hold my kid's next birthday party there just to piss off that front line hostess. We would never bring a child who is restless and hot tempered to an establishment with a fine dining appeal, but this place is not fine dining so kids are more than welcome I say! Hope this helps.

      1. The original comment has been removed
        1. Any recent visits to this place? These guys have apparently bought the Maple Leaf Tavern and are opening something there. I'd love to hear about how the parent resto is doing!