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The Truth On Colborne Lane

  • j

Last Saturday my wife and I wanted to do something really special. Having been at Colborne Lane before (10 course tasting menu), I decided to book "The Kitchen Table" at the restaurant.

The Kitchen Table is located downstairs, in a private room just off the kitchen. It includes a 15 course tasting menu.

Let me say this - the staff are creative geniuses. The food was absolutely incredible. At least 6/7 different staff members took care of us, clearing plates, delivering food, pouring wine. It was an amazing experience. Midway through the meal, Chef Aprile came over to talk to us and ensure we were having a good time.

My wife and I have been to most of the better tasting menus and nicer restaurants in the City and I can unequivocally say that Colborne Lane is the best restaurant we have ever been to.

If you are willing to spend some money and have a fantastic meal, this is the place for you. You will receive great service and you will taste creative art that you have never seen or tasted before.

If you are looking to get stuffed by huge steakhouse-like portions, do not go to Colborne, since you are guaranteed to be disappointed. You will not leave full beyond belief where they have to roll you out of the place - if this is what you are looking for going in, you will be really upset.

Colborne Lane is a small, intimate, fantastic restaurant. The food is indescribable. Both of our experiences have been top top notch. "The Kitchen Table" takes it to a whole new level.

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  1. It sounds like you had an incredible experience! What dishes did you have? What impressed you about them?

    You also mentioned the other "better tasting menus" and "nicer restaurants" in Toronto, so I'm just wondering if you could perhaps provide little rundowns of some of the other ones you've visited, and why they didn't stack up against CL?

    2 Replies
    1. re: tjr

      Susur (when it was around), Auberge du Pommier (our 2nd favorite), Perigee, George, and Lucien. There have been others, but I simply cannot recall them all at this moment. We have also eaten off of the menu at most, if not all, of the top restaurants in Toronto.

      I rarely leave one of these places disappointed, CL is just miles ahead, in my opinion.

      I could not begin to describe the dishes properly. At the restaurant it is "This is the duck 3 ways, one with soya demi....blah blah blah". 5 days later all I know is that each dish seemed to be better than the last and you would wait a few seconds before eating since it looked almost too good to touch.

    2. Great to hear. I just booked this resto for a special ocassion as well. I won't be doing the tasting menu, unfortunately.

      Would anyone happen to have a suggestion of how many courses + desert one should order for a full meal (I don't want to be rolled out the door :), but want to have a normal-sized meal that won't leave me hungry).

      4 Replies
      1. re: SMOG

        I had an app, main, and dessert and definitely didn't need to be rolled out the door. Probably could've grabbed a slice on the way home. The portion sizes are quite modest and the price is a bit high IMHO. That said, the presentation is good as is the execution.

        1. re: DrewStar

          Ok, that's helpful. So would you say that you'd be comfortably full if you had ordered another course in between? What did you have?

          1. re: SMOG

            It's been awhile. I started with a crispy squid and peanut app which was getting some rave reviews back in the day. Followed up by a piece of tuna cooked sous vide. Don't remember the garnish. I realize tuna is an expensive fish but the portion was quite small. Dessert escapes me.

            I forget if there is a bread service. If there is perhaps chow down on a few extra slices and don't order a 4th course.

        2. re: SMOG

          Ask for the table that is against the glass leading downstairs. Most private one in the place.

        3. So, it was the best restaurant that you have ever been to, but you haven't told us anything about what you ate. C'mon - don't hold back. With 15 courses, you could certainly share a few of the highlights. What wowed you? What didn't?

          1 Reply
          1. re: embee

            See above. My apologies for posting on Tuesday and not checking back until now. If I remember I will post some photos after I download them.

            1. re: Dimbulb

              $159 per person (2 of us) and $89 for the wine pairing (only for me, my wife is pregnant). All in, $540 including tip. As I said, it's not cheap.

            2. The food at Colborne Lane is top notch, I am a fan of subtle eastern fusion flavours and the menu has that in spades. The food is unique enough to stand out from the crowd of restaurants in this price range in my opinion. The portions can be quite small, but that just allows you to try more! Never a bad thing. I have been several times and can't complain about a single dish I have had there. I have long been a fan of Aprile's food.

              My two complaints would be:

              - the cost to size ratio for the desserts is particularly bad value, not that you may be going to CL for good value per se. Still I have had a few desserts there that would be edible in one large bite for $12.00-$14.00.

              - If you did not rent out the private room, and you are in the main dining room, it can be very noisy and you may be sitting literally right next to some other party/couple. In short, I did not find it intimate.

              Service has always been good at CL when I have gone, and it is one of a few restaurants in town that has not crossed me on one of my huge pet peeves over the last few years- paying the bill in a timely manner. What is it with restaurants that leave you lingering long after you are done with not even a hint of checking to see if you want to leave? I digress, CL has very attentive service.

              1 Reply
              1. re: JPJ

                This review is bang on. The tables upstairs are fairly close together. Ask for the one next to the stairs, beside the large pane of glass.

                You will spend alot of money. There is no way around it.

              2. The tasting menu at Colborne Lane made my top 5 dining experiences. Much better then, say, Charlie Trotters, Tojo's, Spago, Senderens, or anywhere in Toronto or Ottawa (excluding Stadtlander). It is light years better than Lucien or Atelier (in Ottawa), both molecular gastronomy restaurants. Having said that, I have been to Colborne Lane other times and ordered a la carte and haven't been so thrilled with it. Claudio's cooking seems to work best in a tasting menu format. Dishes are smaller and aren't overburdend with too many flavours. In other words, in a tasting menu format, his dishes are simpler and more focussed.
                There is another important point, Colborne Lane is one of the last fine dining restaurants left in the city. Claudio is pushing the boundaries. So go out and support this. It would be a shame if Michelin came to Toronto and no stars were given out. As things stand, George, Colborne Lane, and maybe Kaji will get a star. Stadtlander, if he continues with the farm, will get a star, possibly two. But I would be very surprised if any of the restaurants considered the top ten, would actually deserve a star.

                19 Replies
                1. re: dubchild

                  Michelin won't be handing out any stars to anyone here anytime soon.

                  The closest we've ever come is Splendido. Period.


                  1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                    I think Michelin will lose all its remaining merit outside Europe completely if it gives Kaji a star as Michelin claims it rates all its restaurant on the same level so basically a one star Japanese restaurant in Tokyo is the same as a one star Japanese restaurant in elsewhere.

                    Colborne lane has some interesting dish but some does not work for me such as the peking duck dish, what's that ??!

                    1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                      Splendido. Period. Are you joking? I had one of my lamest meals at Splendido. Flavours were not clear or focussed, and most items weren't hot enough. Splendido had one thing going for them, and that was a great sommelier. And they served cheese at the proper temperature.
                      Recently I ate in a few one star Michelin restaurants and one two star Michelin, all in Paris. I've been to a couple starred restaurants in the US. It seems the system is a little more lenient in Europe. But it seems in order to get a star the food has to be very good, but not necessarily great. Each dish has different accompaniments which compliment the focal point. You have to offer an ameuse bouche, bread should be baked in house, a tasting menu should be on offer, an extensive wine list, a cheese plate should be available, professional staff, and mignardise at the end of the meal. Not everyone one fits this model, for example Michelin had to open their minds a little with Japanese restaurants. The point I'm trying to make is Michelin stars doesn't guarantee a great meal. It just means you are in a restaurant which has positioned itself in that model. Or the model as I see it.
                      Splendido, if it continued the way it was, would probably get a star. Doesn't mean its a great place to eat. George and Colborne Lane would get a star. Scaramouche, Canoe and North would brush up their game a little, and try for a star. Thuet, if he decided to get serious, could get a star.
                      But back to the original post, Colborne Lane is one of the few restaurants, currently, in the position to, possibly, get a star. The food is cutting edge and well executed. Every dish shows a lot of thought in the choices of execution, plating, and pairings. They create a complete dining experience. What they do, may or may not, be to your liking. But you've got to admit, everything they do shows a lot of effort and care.

                      1. re: dubchild

                        Colborne Lane no doubt is a great restaurant in Toronto with it's take in Molecular gastronomy, as we do not really have anything like that in Toronto. Whether it will get Michelin star or not I dont' know. But I think your model of michelin star rating is not updated. The 3 star sushi restaurant in Tokyo does not even have its' washroom and the star restaurant in HK has no wine list, a ugly washroom with no tasting menu. Probably you mind as well think Michelin' model is inconsistent or there is no model at all.

                        1. re: dubchild

                          I've had at least 5 great meals at Splendido - and only one with which I was disappointed. That's a better ratio than I get at many (even most) Michelin starred places (although the sample size is pretty small). And I've NEVER had anything other than hot food (except at a 'sponsored' dinner where everybody was served each course at the same time - they even 'stagger' the tables on days like Valentine's Day so it's not two seatings but maybe 1.5 times turnover).
                          And I don't see a star for Colborne Lane - although I do like it. For example wd-50 in New York (IMO one of the finest of that style) only gets 1* and has a much better winelist (E.g multiple sakes and sherries by the glass - which seem to complement this style of food; and a far more extensive winelist anyway). And I still 'hate' the communal table at Colborne Lane - impossible to serve properly there.
                          I was recently fortunate enough to visit both Daniel and Le Bernardin (in New York) - both 3* Michelin. I agree that Daniel fits your description of 'Michelin friendly' - but every course was perfectly cooked and served (albeit not that exciting). le Bernardin had superlative food - every dish a winner - maybe the best fish/seafood I've ever had. But the service was WAY below Splendido. The first wine I ordered had two mistakes (not from the village advertised and also a lower quality), so I returned it. The replacement, (recommended by the Sommelier) was also mis-described - a lower quality (but this time the correct village). And even that wine was erratically poured - we had both glasses empty when the main course was served - and nobody poured any wine. Water glasses were also left empty for a while (and we ordered bottled water).
                          In my experience though - Michelin gives its stars for the food - at least in North America. Toronto would get quite a few 1 stars - but above that would be relatively few.
                          And Colborne Lane wouldn't rank anywhere near the places you mentioned in your first post (above). You are the only person I've found that ranks it above Spago or Charlie Trotters (I've sent people to both). I haven't been to Senderens or Tojo's so can't comment there.
                          And indeed Colborne Lane is far better than Lucien - but that's hardly an endorsement.

                          1. re: dubchild


                            Of course I'm serious. At its peak, Splendido was flawless and David Lee is a great chef.


                            1. re: dubchild

                              I just ate at Splendido two weeks ago and consider it to basically the last "fine dining" experience in Toronto. So much so, that I wrote about it - more a lament, really, (guess I'll have to go back to TFL?!). I mean, there are nice restos still around with tasting menus, but nothing that really competes on the same level. Avalon and Susur are gone and even then, I felt Splendido's food and service especially, elevated it above what we've had here in TO.

                              Really, it's been the only restaurant that has come close to my French Laundry experience. I'm so glad that I experienced it before it changes up.


                              1. re: dubchild

                                I totally concur with Estufarian's comment on Splendido. I have eaten in Splendido at least half a dozen times. Each time, ordering their tasting menu with wine pairing. The food and wine pairing was spot on 99% of the time! Not to mention the 'best service' in town!

                                Pertaining to Michelin, I have at least 80+ Michelin star restaurants under my belt. From France, UK, Spain, Italy, USA, Tokyo and Hong Kong/Macau. Based on my experiences with the above, I too agree with Estufarian that CL will not get a star. If NYC's Eleven Madison Park, with its gorgeous food does not have one, I cannot see how CL can break the rank. The taste, inventiveness and presentation of some of today's Spanish molecular one stars are way way better!

                                Likewise, with Sushi Kaji. SkylineR33 remark was absolutely correct. If we are to judge on the same level playing field, then we have to compare Kaji with the Michelins of Tokyo , New York or Hong Kong. Now, if one the best Japanese restaurant in North America - Sushi Yasuda of NYC or the best Japanese restaurant in Hong Kong - ZUMA ( 51st on San Pellagrino's world's top 100 best restaurants list and bested even a number of Parisian 3*! ) were both 'starless', I don't see any justification for Michelin to give a star to Kaji, if and when the time comes!

                                Anyways, not until all the 5 star hotels currently under construction are finish, Michelin will spend more time and effort elsewhere. Say Chicago instead!

                                1. re: Charles Yu

                                  I agree completely (again). I think that Splendido, at its peak, was probably the best chance Toronto had at a starred restaurant. Sure, I had a lot of misses, but I also had some great meals. Would I say it's better than 3-stars elsewhere in the world? Probably not. I think I have perhaps had bad luck with Splendido compared to others on the board (and I've had quite a bit of experience there).

                                  I love Kaji, but, honestly, if we're to judge it based on the stars Michelin gave in Tokyo, he wouldn't be given a star. Neither would CL. CL is fairly mediocre. I don't get a lot of the food, and, if I didn't know, I wouldn't even imagine that Claudio had spent time at El Bulli. I can respect the restaurant for what they do, but the food is mediocre at best (especially on the world stage).

                                  From restaurants in France, Italy, Spain, England and Japan, I can honestly say that there aren't many restaurants in Toronto that I feel would be deserving of a Michelin star. There are a lot of restaurants there that I would imagine should have some stars revoked in those countries, but I don't make the lists. I'm looking forward to visiting HK next time I'm Eastward bound, but from what I've seen from the China board (and regulars like Charles_Yu and sklylineR33) the Michelin-starred restaurants in HK seem poorly chosen.

                                  Honestly, I think Vancouver would be a much better city to review at this point than Toronto.

                                  1. re: tjr

                                    Aprile staged at El Bulli, correct me if I'm wrong. I'm sure it helped to have experienced it, but there's only so much you can learn as a stage. I'm imagining he spent a month there?

                                    At the end of the day like I said in another thread. Cooks like to collect names on their resumes. It helps to get your foot in one door by name dropping another. Or roping in investors.......

                                    1. re: aser

                                      Yes, that seems pretty accurate to me. The comparison between CL and many of the top molecular gastronomy restaurants around the world (even a one star like Tapas Molecular Bar in Tokyo) is night and day -- CL isn't really a star-worthy restaurant.

                                        1. re: estufarian

                                          I have no idea, I was just making a guess. Could've just been 2 weeks...

                                  2. re: dubchild

                                    Even amongst cooks in the city, Splendido is the kitchen most aspire to work in. There is a reason for that.....

                                    1. re: aser

                                      Things might change a bit now that Yannick and David have sold the place

                                      1. re: Charles Yu

                                        Yup, I should've been more specific.

                                        For now the staff at Splendido has remained to handle the 8 course special. After July, I wouldn't be surprised to see some depart.

                                  3. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                    Who really cares about the Michelin Star system, they don't review restaurants here, period. If they do, there is without a doubt several restaurants in Toronto that would rank imo, but that is my opinion on that is irrelevant as they don't rank restaurants here at all. In the end the MSS is just one group's opinion, trained and respected opinion, but just another opinion in the end.

                                    My only concern here is are the food and service good. CL has both good food and service. People mentioned Splendido, where the food has indeed been excellent but what really sets it apart imo is the restaurant's layout and service. I also agree that people forget to readily about Canoe, the food is not innovative, but it is consistently excellent as is the service. For me, Susur was the best fine dining experience I have had in Toronto.

                                    I have eaten at restaurant's that were critically acclaimed and been horribly disappointed and I have eaten at restaurants that a critic or critics have panned and thought they were out of their tree. One persons' or even several peoples' opinions about a restaurant are a factor in whether I would try it, but it is irrelevant to how the food and service are when I do attend. At that point it is my opinion that counts.

                                    1. re: JPJ

                                      The person who started this tangent was the one to bring up Michelin stars, not Splendid Wine Snob.

                                      I personally think CL has okay food and good service. Most of the dishes I've had that were inventive didn't work, the ones that did work were all uninventive. That pretty much sums up how I feel about the restaurant.

                                      Every experience is different, I agree. I've been to disappointing 3-star meals. None really disappointed me as much as CL, but then again, it depends on whether you're paying or not.

                                  4. re: dubchild

                                    agree totally that the tasting menu was more focused- not 50,000 things on the plate. I enjoyed that more than ordering and trying a few dishes. I also find the word 'truth' in the post title pretty condescending. It's your opinion (and clearly a strong one)- but defining yourself as the arbiter of the truth is a bit much!

                                  5. 'Truth'. That's a loaded word if I've ever heard one...

                                    Gee, it sounds like everyone really enjoyed CL's tasting menu. I've only gone for the a la carte and was sorely disappointed by my experience. Logic tells me that if a place can't do both a tasting menu and an a la carte and achieve success in both, it should drop one ... but I guess that economics and such make such a move unfeasible.

                                    In any event, maybe if I win the lottery I'll head back and try out the tasting menu.

                                    32 Replies
                                    1. re: Yum2MyTum

                                      lol Splendido is by no stretch the kitchen that cook's " dream" to cook in. Seeing as I've cooked at Eignesinn , Rain with Didier and at the Fifth, I can tell you that Splendido is by no means the pinnacle in the city. When Susur was at Susur's it was the best in the city, and people seem to forget about Canoe when people mention food in Toronto. Fine dine is slowly dieing in the city and that kitchen with Mr Lee is by no stretch of the imagination a "pleasant " working environment for any inspiring Chef. There is a reason why Grant Achantz left Trotters and considered quitting cooking all together, there is a huge difference between good food, and working for a good kitchen.

                                      1. re: chef223

                                        I really don't understand why so many people rave about Michael Stadlander's cooking and willing to drive all the way to the 'farm' and pay over $250 for a meal?! For less than $200, I can enjoy a better tasting and more 'wow factor' 'grand tour 15+ course tasting menu at Grant Achatz's Alinea.!! Sure, like Ducasse or Alice Waters, MS might be famous for being a proponent of using organic/free range ingredients. However, from the 'taste' point of view, I found his cooking/dishes mostly 'bland' and unsophisticated. In this area, especially sauces, David Lee is way ahead of him! As for Susur, his 'deceptive' pseudo-Chinese fusion cooking might impress others but not me!

                                        1. re: Charles Yu

                                          I'm pretty much in agreement with Charles. I've had a few less-than-impressive dinners at "the farm." Perhaps a point of contention would be David Lee, as I don't find Splendido to be a world-class restaurant (though at its peak, it was the best fine dining to be had in the GTA).

                                          I've had some nice dinners at Susur. I've also had some terrible dinners. I'm definitely not that knowledgeable about Chinese cuisine though!

                                          1. re: Charles Yu

                                            I had eaten at Stadlander's many years ago, and at $150 a pop, I thought it a fun trip. However, I do remember this one roasted pork I found tough-skinned and all it made me crave was some good chinatown roasted pork instead. Mind you, I've eaten there all of once, and it was still a good meal, I just don't think it's worth a $250 revisit now.

                                            1. re: Charles Yu

                                              Amazing how a post on CL became about Splendido and now about Stadtlander. Stadtlander charges $250 a head because people will pay it. His prices went up when he was listed as #9 in the top 50 restaurants for 2002. If I remember correctly Susur came in at 48 that year. And David Lee, well he's never made the list.
                                              Whenever Stadtlander decides to hold one of his outdoor food events, the top chefs in the city go out and support him. He is living the dream. He has control over his ingredient. He's free from suppliers, investors, and general restaurant bullshit. It is one of the few restaurants were the food you are eating is coming from the chef's hand, in every respect.
                                              You like his food or not, I don't really care. But the reason so many people are willing to drive to the farm, or top chefs work for him, is because his food communicates more than tastiness. It has a soul, and it is driven by a philosophy. I can tell what Stadtlander is about. What he is about is something meaningful. Its a little bit more than "I thought this would be nice with this". What is David Lee, or Susur, or most other chefs about?

                                              1. re: dubchild

                                                Top 50 restaurants on what list?

                                                I like Stadtlander's philosophy, but that doesn't mean I find his food impressive. There are plenty of restaurants with wonderful philosophies, but does that have any bearing on the food? A bunch of chefs came out to Hell's Kitchen to taste a bunch of likely awful dishes from a bunch of chefs who would have no place on a top one million list: does that mean they have excellent food philosophies and/or are incredible? Ad populum.

                                                1. re: tjr

                                                  I think he's referring to the Restaurant Magazine list, which I find is an arbitrary crapshoot. It's even more white-centric than Michelin.

                                                  The shock for me this year is the drop of FL to 12 while Per Se remained at 6. Like I said, the list is too random to be taken seriously, for me at least.


                                                  1. re: aser

                                                    I was hoping this wasn't the list to which he was referring :-(

                                                2. re: dubchild

                                                  I'd like to think most chefs are about yummy food, frankly. If they can marry that with their philosophy, then that's super. When the quality and taste of food suffers for the philosophy, then you are no longer cooking to make eating pleasurable, but eating to send a message to support that philosophy.

                                                  All well and good, but we're talking about taste, apart from philosophy. And as much as I can admire Stadtlader, his food just isn't $250 worth of tasty.

                                                  http://www.foodpr0n.com/ -- food. is. love.

                                                  1. re: jlunar

                                                    A couple of people have posted that Stadtlander's food isn't worth the price. From all accounts you should also avoid; Pierre Gagnaire, Mugaritz, and El Bulli. If you have a shallow view that restaurants, at this level, should be about tastiness to dollar, then they may not deliver. These chefs, and their customers, are interested in experiencing a way of understanding life. Its taking part in research. Sometimes it fails. The idea is to walk away with a larger picture of more than just the possibilities of food.

                                                    I brought up a question which went unanswered. I know what Stadtlander is about, this is why I have gone and look forward to re-experiencing this unique voice. What is David Lee about?

                                                    Back to Cat. Seeing how value seems to be important, I believe CL delivers. You get to take part in interesting, challenging work. I'm not convinced Claudio is a unique voice, he comes across as a collage of what is currently taken place around the world. But, imo, he is the best at presenting these ideas in a clear, focussed and coherent manner.

                                                    I loved the paradox he presented of pineapple and gelatin. My steak was paired with HP sauce gelatin, which played on memories. My chocolate dessert was wrapped in gold leaf to mimic chocolate bar wrapper. Pop rocks in the sorbet course is one of the more logical uses of this ingredient. Its this playfulness which would bring me back to CL.

                                                    We go to different restaurants for different reasons.

                                                    1. re: dubchild

                                                      I think perceived value of a meal is how most people consider food. For me, it depends. CL for me doesn't really have a lot of value. I've enjoyed some food there, but I would rather go there to be wowed than to eat safe, boring dishes because the other dishes fall flat most of the time. The reason I like it isn't because I'm upset when I see the bill, it's that I just had a boring meal at a restaurant that I wish could be capable of more.

                                                      Restaurants like Pierre Gagnaire, Mugaritz and El Bulli are not on the same level as Stadtlander (and really, really not at the same level as CL). They have pioneering chefs using some of the best ingredients available in the world and execute them well (though I'll be the first to admit that even these restaurants make mistakes as well). Stadtlander uses ingredients of a fine quality, but not nearly the kind of stuff some of those restaurants are using, simply because they are unavailable to him. His technique certainly isn't as good. The farm itself, while quaint, is not for everyone.

                                                      I like his philosophy on food. For me, unfortunately, that doesn't make the food taste better. I eat food because I like how it tastes, with other elements being secondary.

                                                      1. re: dubchild

                                                        We most certainly go to different restaurants for different reasons, which is why I like to pull the taste out to compare. Across all restaurants, no matter the reason behind the food, is how does their food taste?

                                                        I thought I answered the question to "What is [enter chef's name] about?" Yummy food!

                                                        I doubt any chef will reply with "Really innovative but badly prepared/tasting dishes!" I don't think anyone wants to prepare bad-tasting dishes...

                                                        1. re: dubchild

                                                          Wow – get busy for a couple of days (even some CH’ers occasionally have a life) and a thread spirals into some interesting areas.
                                                          Rather than post multiple times, I’ll consolidate here (hoping I hit all the points – I’m not avoiding anything).
                                                          Agreed there was a detour to Splendido and Stadtlander – but the kudos heaped on CL (by both jkat and dubchild) were placing CL near the top of the Toronto food pyramid – which is where both the comparisons are usually placed.
                                                          Dubchild – your comments on ‘philosophy’ are worth discussing. Indeed Stadtlander has an identifiable philosophy. But there are only a handful of chefs that influence others as a ‘movement’. In the modern era, they also include Alice Waters (although I could argue that Stadtlander is a subset of that philosophy) Mugaritz and El Bulli (I don’t include Gagnaire, but would argue for Joel Robuchon to be included for ‘demystifying’ what was formerly ‘grand dining’). Of course, Claudio openly admires Gagnaire (although that piece of knowledge is not widely dispersed – do you have any connection that we’re unaware of?). Alinea, Chicago (Grant Achatz); Town House, Chilhowie (owner + chefs); and McCrady’s, Charleston (Sean Brock) are all pursuing their own ‘philosophies’ – time will tell if there’s a movement building (I use those examples as they are accessible from Toronto – sort of). I believe both Susur and David Lee do have (or had) a philosophy. A philosophy, by itself, can be a short cut to ignominy. At the time Nouvelle Cuisine was the molecular gastronomy of its day – but the best parts were absorbed and developed by the ‘mainstream’ (as has sous-vide been absorbed, despite the obstacles raised by the local health authorities). Future history will record the winners. The food better be tasty too!
                                                          And to take on your specific question on David Lee – he’s about ‘local sourcing’, ‘head-to-toe utilization’ with a great nod to textures and the finest, seasonal ingredients. Of course, so are many other chefs – but David seems to perform at a higher level (for me anyway). And he effectively trains his sous-chefs to step up (a not inconsiderable feat – any comment on Claudio?).
                                                          I think Claudio is now operating at the ‘tastiest’ level he’s achieved in Toronto. He’s evolved from ‘random platings’, to ‘too many ingredients’, to a much more controlled technique. He’s now copying the best! Pineapple and gelatin was the vogue 5-7 years ago in Spain (so was salad in gelatin, which fortunately hasn’t continued) – specifically vaunted at Berasategui. HP Sauce was similarly an ‘invented’ dish at Alinea (Grant Achatz; may even have been at Trio – again 5 years ago) albeit even more deconstructed there. Pop rocks in a cream base (so it only pops when the saliva hits), I first encountered at Akelare – at least 5 years ago – I believe that he got them from Ferran Adria. And gold leaf wraps were so ubiquitous that we even served them to guests at our home at least 5 years ago (can’t recall where we first had them – memory fades with age, but the leaf was available to purchase in Toronto). And, of course, the ‘tableside ice cream’ (which you don’t mention, but is often commented on) is at least 10 years old.
                                                          Of course, it would cost a fortune to visit all these places – so I’m glad that Claudio is doing his thing here. I think his food is very good. His wine list MUCH less so (I think somebody in this thread mentioned sherry as a possible match – I agree!). At wd-50 a week ago the wine list was much better thought out; the dishes were much more inventive; The tasting menu evolution was intelligent and most of the dishes were hits – and contained multiple kinds of invention; and they had a selection of sakes by the glass – used to great effect in accompanying the food.

                                                      2. re: dubchild

                                                        Do you know any of these chefs personally because quite frankly I don't think anyone here knows or can respectfully assume what they are "about"- whatever that means. A chef has a career like anyone else and at the end of the day some are driven by money while others are not. All I know is that when I eat a meal that was cooked by someone else, I try to remember to respect what is put in front of me, and eat with gusto if I like it!

                                                        Anyway, getting back to CL, did you happen to have any wine pairings with your tasting menu? If so, what were they and did they work? Part of my mental block with molecular techniques is that they can be difficult for wine pairings. What are your thoughts on that Dubchild?


                                                        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                                          We did the suggested wines with the tasting menu. This was a while ago, and I didn't take notes. I do remember I thought the pairings were successful. This was quite a surprise. I remember thinking the pairings were far better than those suggested at JK wine bar, which is food that should be easier to pair with.
                                                          As mentioned before, there are less flavours on the tasting menu. This makes it a little easier to pair. I imagine the a la carte menu would be much more difficult. In fact when I did the a la carte menu I drank only sherry.
                                                          The stand out wine for me was a Bonny Doon white. It was some sort of Rhone varietal. It had this savoury, white pepper character which complimented the cheddar soup.
                                                          I wish I remembered the rest. Our menu didn't have to much of the molecular stuff. No alginates. So I don't know if wine would clash with some of those ingredients.
                                                          I recently ate at Atelier, in Ottawa, and we had the wines with the tasting menu. I didn't think the pairings were very successful, but I don't think this had to do with the ingredients. Again no alginates were used.

                                                          1. re: dubchild

                                                            Anyone know what the price is for the dining room tasting menu?

                                                            1. re: jamesm

                                                              Love that post Estufarian, thank you.

                                                              I had almost forgotten about something I had planned to post on CH weeks ago...

                                                              And I guess that it is a little tangential... however...

                                                              A few weeks back I was cycling to work at JK (wrong way down a oneway/sorry about the pairings BTW, my fault) and noticed a couple of stylish/retro window signs promoting a $29 lunch at Colborne Lane...

                                                              I didn't even know that they were open at lunch!!! (and after investigation it appears that they have been open for luncheon for over a year).

                                                              Anyway, I went there with my friend CThreeP0 a few weeks ago... and I thought it was bloody excellent... and I took a bunch of pics... but had forgotten all about it until now.

                                                              Sorry I cannot remember what the soup was... there was something involving a frozen crab patty... I think... too much wine... and beer... and it was a serious hangover day after being a guest at Ch*****'s B****s.

                                                              Here you go Hounds:


                                                              Lap it up...

                                                              P.S. There is also an interior shot.

                                                              That space looks quite lovely during the day... light from front and back... you simply don't get the effect of the rear windows at night.

                                                              The booze cost us more than the food... but that's nothing new... *cough*

                                                              I'll be back.

                                                              1. re: Non Doctor

                                                                $29?! I would totally try CL for that price. HMN. Thanks for the tip!

                                                                1. re: Non Doctor

                                                                  Wow! All that for only $29?!! Thats great value! Hope the food taste as good as they look?!

                                                                  BTW, second your comment on Estufarian's post. Most informative and to the point! A true 'Gourmand'!!

                                                                2. re: jamesm

                                                                  $129 per person, plus $65 for wine pairings if you choose it.

                                                                  1. re: SMOG

                                                                    According to Non Doctor, the 'promotion' luncheon Special was only $29!! NOT $129!!

                                                                    1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                      Looks like SMOG was answering jamesm's question, which coincidentally came after non doctor's point.

                                                                      You sure like to use exclamtion points!!!!!!!!

                                                                      That said, the $29 deal seems like ridiculously good value.

                                                                      1. re: grandgourmand

                                                                        Haha, yes, thank you for clarifying... $129 for DINNER, not the lunch :).

                                                                        1. re: SMOG

                                                                          CL is no longer opened for lunch.

                                                                          1. re: ace123

                                                                            Please note that in my head I have a long, extended, "NOoooooooooo....!" trailing off about now...

                                                                            1. re: ace123

                                                                              When I was there for the $29 lunch, we were one of 3 tables. I guess no one thought about it as a lunch spot. I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned, Aprile is opening "Origin" this summer. Its suppose to be a return to his roots and moderately priced.

                                                                              1. re: Snarf

                                                                                FYI. Direct quote from Don Ellis who interviewed Aprile's on his new restaurant - Origin. : "The menu will have a distinctive Asia feel. Reflective of Aprile's travel throughout Asia"! I believe this information directly from the horse's mouth is clear enough to suggest the food will be 'Pseudo Asian Fusion'!

                                                                                1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                                  One of the postings to which I was referring.

                                                                                  1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                                    Would like to see the full article, as the other ones refer to many other influences as being the basis for the new place.

                                                                                    As for the comment on 'pseudo Asian fusion', what are you referring to? What is 'real' Asian fusion? Are you harkening back to Collavini at Bocca, or Couillard in the early 80's?

                                                                                    1. re: Snarf

                                                                                      Well, it's 2009. What do you think?

                                                                      2. re: jamesm

                                                                        I just had the 10-course tasting menu last night and it's now $99 - I guess it's the recession price because I had the tasting menu in March and I think it was $125.
                                                                        I have to say, I think CL is definitely getting better. I've been a few times and although I enjoyed the novelty, I always felt some dishes were trying too hard to demonstrate molecular techniques and not about delicious food. But I keep returning because it's an interesting experience and it's fun to introduce friends to the molecular gastronomy experience. But I digress.
                                                                        Last night's meal was the best I've ever had at CL. Nothing seemed forced and most importantly, every course was delicious. The molecular stuff wasn't in your face - it blended seamlessly into the food. There were a few moments when I wondered why something was on the plate - yes it was delicious but why was it there - but all told, it was definitely the best- tasting meal I've had there. Try the almond soup with lamb neck cannelloni - yum!

                                                          2. Anyone been to CL this year?

                                                            Can anyone still recommend it?
                                                            How much is the tasting menu these days for a Sat night?

                                                            I've reserved my table through opentable but should I have called (its for an intimate birthday dinner)


                                                            15 Replies
                                                            1. re: injek

                                                              I have a $100 credit there, so I'll probably go sooner or later. Reading the OP though, I have to say that the kitchen table, yes, is probably intimate, but the rest of the seatings are not. The food is creative (for Toronto) and satisfying, but they box you in with so many aggravating people and blare music and generally make your life hell upstairs.

                                                              Last time I went, the male in the couple sitting next to us wouldn't stop talking about Sarah Silverman and how cute she was, how much money he made and the power he wielded at work, and how the portions at CL were so small he'd much rather be at a steakhouse. I felt bad for his date, especially since he kept checking his phone throughout the meal. They were so close it was impossible to tune them out. Yuck, no thanks.

                                                              1. re: injek

                                                                I was taken there a week ago. Intimate it's NOT. Very loud and the sound bounces off the walls - no apparent attempt to soften the surrounds, so it's a deliberate ploy.
                                                                The good news is that the food is as good as it's ever been - probably the best I've had there - slight criticism, the temperature of 3 of my 4 dishes was 'inappropriate' - one too cold (supposed to be hot) and two too cold (straight from the fridge - either the dish was pre-prepared and kept COLD, or the ingredients were close to freezing and didn't have time to warm up (It sounds like I'm more critical than I should be - the food was the best TASTING I've had there). As always the wine selection SUCKED. I don't understand why this place doesn't allow BYOB at ANY price.
                                                                Service was mixed (or was an off night). One server was excellent - except he got pulled to many tables, and the 'fill-ins' were early in their training period (I hope - if not they were incompetent). Examples: dishes delivered to wrong places (one could have been serious - involved allergies) but the super-server spotted it and rushed over to correct the situation. One guest had mineral water, 3 tap. On 3 different occasions a diner got the wrong water (sometimes tap into mineral, sometimes mineral into tap).
                                                                Hey - and as I'm on a roll - what stupid knives they have - you'll find out.

                                                                1. re: estufarian

                                                                  uh oh,
                                                                  I was all excited for this. I made plans to go to Eight winebar for drinks and then to CL. I've been dying to try it for years but never had the opportunity.
                                                                  We always do the same thing in the city (the usual restaurants posted on this board) and I was looking forward to something different.

                                                                  Estufarian, do you remember what the prices were like for the tasting menu?


                                                                  1. re: injek

                                                                    I think it was $129 - but if you get that EVERYBODY in the party has to have it. So we ended up ordering 4 dishes each and shared them among ourselves.
                                                                    The 'party trick' ice-cream requires 2 people to order (it may be included in tasting menu). It's fun if you've never had it - and will impress a date (once) but the ice-cream itself is just OK - I'd give it about 7/10 for taste (Haagen Dazs is better). Once was enough for me.

                                                                    1. re: injek

                                                                      You may want to call ahead and confirm the status of Eight Wine Bar. Zoltan Szabo, who was the sommelier there until recently, posted on Twitter a couple of days ago that it's up for lease/sale.

                                                                      1. re: injek

                                                                        thanks for all your replies... i'll report back!!!! especially on the ice cream....

                                                                        I expect that it will be a bit "gimmicky" - but will have to wait and taste it!!!!

                                                                    2. re: injek

                                                                      I would still recommend CL. I went 4 times the past 6 months. The first time; we had dinner before, and were going to try one dish, and the ice cream. I definitely noticed how loud the music was. Ice cream turned out to be one of the best I've ever had. The loud music deterred me from going again for a few months.

                                                                      The next few times I went, the music was nowhere near as loud, and I could have a conversation without yelling at my date. I had the tasting menu each time. It does require the whole table as Estufarian noted. It's $100 if I remember right for the 10 course. But they include the amuse and such as a course. I noticed few changes in their tasting menu each time I went...one plate might be different. They have a veggie tasting so that helps with my date.

                                                                      Also, another thing to note. I did wine pairings there twice with the tasting. First time, they gave us 6 glasses each; but the second time...not sure what happened, but they honestly gave us at least 14 glasses each! We sent several back...it was too much! I would definitely go back when they change their menu more; I thought CL would be a sort of novelty, but it's actually pretty good and would totally recommend it. Plus it's one of the few places that are open on Sundays.

                                                                      1. re: stonedtoronto

                                                                        I agree on the ice cream.. I think it has a very nice, smooth yet light texture thats unlike most commercial high end ice creams (Haagen Dazs) which I find very heavy.

                                                                        1. re: hungryabbey

                                                                          I think we're into personal preference here. MOST Commercial ice-creams have a 'percentage' of air whipped/pumped in (technical term is overrun). Most national brands are 50% (and up). Mass brands can be over 100% (i.e. a starting volume of 100ml becomes 200ml+ in the package). Top brands (OK let's call them "dense" brands, such as H-D, tend to be under 20%) so indeed there are major 'density' differences.
                                                                          Flavour/mouth-feel are what I seek. And Haagen Dazs is indeed heavier than almost all other brands. Of course, you also have milk vs cream vs powder (milk) issues too, so the combinations multiply. Plus sugar/sweetener etc, plus egg/powdered egg and the various stabilizers and texture enhancers (glues??).
                                                                          For others as obsessive as me (e.g. I want the aromatics of real vanilla, not the sweetness of wood-extract vanilla), I find the descriptions on the Gelato Fresco website to be relatively objective, with a bias towards 'denser' (as that's their style). Nevertheless I do trust their take:
                                                                          I have not edited this, so it does read like a promotion for their product (hey, it's from their site)

                                                                          Question: How is ice cream classified in North America?
                                                                          Answer: In North America ice cream is classified according to its butterfat content. Super premium Ice Cream: Contains more than 16 percent butterfat. Haagen Dazs and Ben and Jerry would fall into this category. Premium Ice Cream: Contains at least 14 percent butterfat. Laura Secord and Baskin Robbins would fall into this category. Ice Cream: Contains at least 10 percent butterfat to be classified ice cream. With two exceptions, if it is chocolate or a flavour with nuts it can contain at 8 percent butterfat to be classified as ice cream. In the Gelato Fresco line up of flavours available in the retail stores the Milanese Vanilla is the only flavour that can be classified as ice cream. Light Ice Cream: Contains 5 to 8 percent butterfat. Ice Milk: Contains 3 to 5 percent butterfat. Gelato Fresco's Devil's and would fall under this category. Frozen Yoghurt: Amount of yoghurt, sweetener and fat can vary greatly, fat content can range between 1 gram to more tnan 3 grams per serving. Sherbet: Has dairy content. Usually skim milk solids. Sorbet: No dairy products therefore zero fat. Dairy Ice: Because each of our dairy products has a unique formula and butterfat content Agricultural Canada authorized Gelato Fresco to use dairy ice as it's category descriptive. Source: Canadian Press. Published in the Toronto Star. July 28. 1993

                                                                          Question: What is overrun?
                                                                          Answer: Overrun describes air content in ice cream. In the manufacturing of ice cream, the overrun, or the increase in volume of ice cream over the volume of mix used, is due to the incorporation of air. The amount of air in ice cream is important because it influences the quality of the product and the profit margin. Overrun can range from about 16 % of volume in Haagen Dazs and to almost 60 % in brands like Baskin Robbins and Laura Secord, to 100 % in brands like Good Humour Breyers and Parlour, to 120 % or more in economy brands like Chapmans and Meadowgold. The overrun in the Gelato Fresco line up can range between 16 & 20 percent.

                                                                          I hope I have enough credibility here to not find it necessary to state that I have absolutely no links at all to Gelato Fresco (except as a satisfied customer over MANY years).

                                                                        2. re: stonedtoronto

                                                                          Thanks for the feedback.

                                                                          I'm really afraid of one thing with molecular gastronomy... the gimmicky things and anyone that uses foam.... its my biggest pet peeve!!!! I've read that CL does have a few dishes with that - but I hope they've changed their menu since!!!!

                                                                          1. re: injek

                                                                            Been away, so a little late on this one but here's a link in pictures from my last visit to CL. thought they had vastly imporved since the last time I was there which was probably the year that they opened.


                                                                            Hope this helps.

                                                                            1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                                                              Was that a the 15 course tasting menu that you took the pictures of?

                                                                              1. re: foodyDudey

                                                                                Yes, with an extra ceviche course thrown in. I should also note that we brought our own bottle of Juyondai Junmai Daiginjo (Sake) for a corkage fee of $50 and we sat at the kitchen table.

                                                                                1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                                                                  Hmm - they told me I couldn't bring my own.
                                                                                  Great sake!

                                                                                  1. re: estufarian

                                                                                    Cripes, a $50 corkage fee with a crappy winelist (as per reports)? Help! Someone needs to consult an experienced sommelier who can work with molecular cuisine (not exactly an easy task). They're out there-god knows there are crazy great sommeliers in Toronto. And just because you're a supertaster does not mean you can be great at pairings...