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Romantic Birthday Dinner: The Harbord Room or Grace?

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Simple enough question: Looking for a place in the Annex/Little Italy area for an intimate dinner with my boyfriend before heading out to my birthday party with my friends. I've narrowed it down to either Grace or The Harbord Room, based on menus and reviews I've read, but having never been to either, I'm not sure which is more suitable in terms of atmosphere, etc. I like fine dining and care first about the quality of the food, but also want somewhere with a relaxed welcoming feel.
Which would you choose?

(Note: I'm pescaterian, but the boy eats everything.)

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  1. To me this is not even a close call, the Harbord Room.

    1. i went to harbord room w/ my bf for my bday this yr and we both really liked it :).. haven't been to grace so can't comment on that

      don't know if i'd quite call it romantic, but the atmosphere was cozy and nice, and the food very good. it's also one of those places that you wouldn't look out of place in a dress or jeans, i think

      1. If food is priority one, then definitely The Harbord Room, Wasn't impressed with the food at Grace. Bland sauces and overcooked fish!

        8 Replies
        1. re: Charles Yu

          harbord room also overcooks their fish!

          much of the meal was hit or miss with me... not consistent across dishes. the solution is to be pickier. i think grace tries harder to be more interesting though and that's where they fail because it doesn't always work and the portions are miniscule for the price.

          i do like harbord room's atmosphere, they've done well at including nice details into the design. the room is quite well lit though... if that adds or detracts from your atmosphere.

          1. re: Charles Yu

            I agree -- ate at Grace recently and was unimpressed. The ambience however is very romantic. Have not tried to Harbord Room yet but we have a reservation in a couple of weeks -- very excited.

            1. re: Arcadiaseeker

              I would keep your expectations for Harbord Room in check. I was really disappointed with my first visit there earlier this year. My main was so oversalted that it was inedible. Some of the plates are composed of so many elements that just don't come together to make any sort of better whole. Some of the dishes were just kinda bland. On my second visit, the burger and fries were excellent. Cocktails and wine list are quite nice. Atmosphere is great.

              1. re: TorontoJo

                Thanks TorontoJo -- my hubby has great expectations for the beer selection -- did you notice what beers they have on tap?

                1. re: Arcadiaseeker

                  Sorry, no, I don't really drink beer (gasp!), so don't pay attention. Maybe pinstripeprincess or Wahooty, who were both there recently can chime in?

                  1. re: TorontoJo

                    I actually had wine that night, but their website has the selection listed (no idea if it's current, however):

                    http://www.theharbordroom.com/beer.html

                    1. re: TorontoJo

                      i can't remember what was on tap... there wasn't much though.

                      they did have a nice section on the menu for bottles and even a reasonable list for large format bottles (chimay, etc). nothing extraordinary (which is why i went for a cocktail) but a nicely thought out list (ie not the same flavour profiles over and over) from many of the major beer producing regions. my memory is pretty crappy so that's the best i can tell you.

                    2. re: Arcadiaseeker

                      They had a small, but surprisingly good beer list when I went (wasn't expecting it). On tap they had a couple St. Ambroise/McAuslan products and a few nice bottles too. I'm sure they had couple other beers on tap, but I can't remember what they were.

              2. I've been considering the Harbord Room for a small group dinner too (about 6 of us). I know its a small space and I'm wondering if the restaurant feels squishy (sitting cheek to jowl makes my sister squirrely)?

                2 Replies
                1. re: Rabbit

                  Harbord Room is a tight space, especially when they don't have the patio open. If a member of your party has squish issues it's probably not the best choice. You're not sitting on each other's laps but they really make the most of the small space so it is a bit tight.

                  1. re: Rabbit

                    there was a meet-up just last week and we were seated in tables of 7. it's on the tight side but right at the edge of not being too intimate. i found the tables to be quite narrow and we easily filled up all surfaces once plates arrived.

                    should note though, that if you are a party of over 8 people they require you to do a set menu.

                  2. Definitely The Harbord Room. I've only gone to Grace once, that was a month ago. Honestly, it felt like the restaurant didn't mesh together with itself. The service led me to think it was a casual place. Our server goofed a few times, but was pleasant enough. The food imo wasn't that great, bland, nothing special; but the atmosphere and space was nice. I've heard Grace was very good, maybe I went on a bad night, but they weren't that busy...with any place, there's a chance it'll be an off night...if you go to the Harbord Room...less chance of that.

                    1. I've had great experiences at Grace - but I wouldn't say it is a place to have an intimate dinner. Have you thought about Tati Bistro? It gets a little raucous but the we've enjoyed every meal we've eaten there. And some of the tables are quite cozy.