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Occasion-worthy spot for a group of eight (Scaramouche, Canoe, George, Opus??)

I'm trying to decide upon an occasion-worthy destination for a graduation celebration in June. There will be small group of eight (an awkward number, in my opinion, but families are complicated these days).

Money is no object and we're looking for someplace where both food and atmosphere are memorable. On my short list are Scaramouche, Canoe, George (in part because I hope we might be able to sit outside) or Opus (also motivated by the patio). Alternately, I wondered about Note Bene or Colborne Lane because I think they have private rooms that might accommodate a group our size, perhaps creating a bit more intimacy/mobility for us versus those big tables where you never get a chance to talk with the person on the opposite end.

Any thoughts or guidance about which if these might be most suitable?

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Colborne Lane
45 Colborne Street, Toronto, ON M5E 1P8, CA

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  1. Sounds like a good list, I think your set food wise no matter which you choose.
    Canoe has a great big round table that seats 8 and allows for uniform conversation, plus it's the table with the best view. Maybe you could request that table specifically at booking?
    George's tasting menu is also a good option for a big group because it goes on for a really long time so you need lots of company.

    1. We're currently trying to figure out the same thing - it will be the first time the two families sit down together, so we are steering away from the private room option - intimacy just doesn't seem comfortable in this situation. A few things that might be helpful to narrowing down the list:

      1) Is anyone in the group (especially anyone being "treated") potentially going to feel uncomfortable with the money-is-no-object aspect?

      2) How old is the graduate(s)? What will he/she/they be most excited by in terms of atmosphere, wine list, and actual menu items?

      3) Is the focus more on celebrating the graduate or on the coming-together of the family?

      1. Maybe I'm trying to live vicariously through others, since I have no reason to rent the room downstairs at Splendido, but I think the food and service is awesome. It's the antithesis of your desire for a patio though.

        The upstairs patio at Globe is lovely, though I don't know if you can rent that outright. Other patios would be The Fifth and Ultra. Fifth I seem to recall having some nice desserts and okay food - nice space. Ultra was too long ago for me to comment on the food, but the patio was cool.

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

        1. This is sort of the antithesis of sitting on a patio (and George would be lovely, if the weather is nice), but have you ever visited the cellar room at Chiado? I haven't been in years, but it was really lovely the last time I was there. Really intimate and the food is wonderful, of course.

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          Chiado
          864 College Street West, Toronto, ON M6H 1A3, CA

          1. I vote for Ultra, the food is great and the patio view makes it special.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Nancee Swartz

              Nothing beats the patio at George. Indoor dining, Scaramouche.

              1. re: millygirl

                We went to George recently. Maybe we were there on a slow day, or maybe it was because we went to Colborne Lane a few days before, but it was by far the worst meal I've ever had.

                It might also be that they set very high expectations. The website says how its won so many awards, and somehow people group it into the elite restaurants in Toronto. I think its mediocre at best.

                Splitting the menu into 3 groups is unnecessary. They are small plates, just make it one big menu, and say they're small plates, and suggest 3 dishes. Dont make people think they have to go in order.

                I wouldnt care about any of this if the food was good. It was awful.

                I started with prawns which were almost certainly rotten, or perhaps at the best just old. I cant really describe the texture, but they were pasty, not firm and sweet like they should be. Im not typically someone to complain, but this was too much. I asked the waiter to ask the chef if this is what shrimp should taste like. The response was that they might be a bit over cooked. Its more scary that they dont know what properly cooked shrimp is supposed to taste like.

                The second dish was a sweetbread with white asperagus. We just had white asperagus a few days prior, and they are in season now, so I was very excited by the prospects of this dish. Again, dissapointment. The dish consisted of 4 1inch pieces of white asperagus on a skewer, beside some sort of small quiche topped with a few sweetbread fritters. The asperagus was severely overcooked, limp and tasteless. The quiche was almost completely inedible. The crust was soggy, and the filling just looked and felt like predigested food

                And finally, we ended on the highest note of the night. The lamb loin was cooked ok, nothing special, but after the 2 previous dishes was something that I could at least stomach.

                I'm a long time chow reader, and never have posted before. I felt like this experience deserved a few minutes of my time.

                I'm just wondering, was it an off night? The mistakes seemed amateur and careless. Does anyone actually like this place? There were 2 or 3 other tables full when we went there. That cant be good.

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                Colborne Lane
                45 Colborne Street, Toronto, ON M5E 1P8, CA

            2. How about the 360 restaurant at CN Tower? It's definitely a memorable graduation dinner. I've never gone for a meal but have heard their food is decent.

              9 Replies
              1. re: happylnuts

                NooooOOOOooooooo!!! The food is not at all decent. Really just say no! :-)

                1. re: JennaBean

                  There are certain animosities between various parties at this party and the elevator ride to the top of the CN would be like a UFC championship. No way.

                  After giving quite a lot of thought to c.cow's questions I actually chose to go to a more casual and busy restaurant so that there would be a bit more buzz and the people who don't actually like each other can find more excuses to not-interact (divorced parents... drama). We're booked at Malena, where I had an excellent meal a couple of weeks ago. Mr. Rabbit and I will save the five star experience for a romantic post-grad celebration pas de deux.

                  1. re: Rabbit

                    Glad to hear you found a place that suits the occasion! Was actually just thinking about your dinner as our plans flew up into the air. Weren't you considering Origin before? We were going to be nearby-ish (to Origin), but then started thinking about the pre-G20 security measures and what a hassle it would be for out-of-towners to scurry back and forth through security checkpoints to go from convocation to their hotel to touristing to dinner.

                    Good luck with the warring parties! Here's hoping that good chow will mend all wounds.

                    1. re: c.cow

                      We were going to Origin, but they couldn't seem to manage our "big group" (ten people) and it turned into this week-long to-ing and fro-ing with their events manager who wanted us to order from pre-set menus, which kind of takes the fun out of a tapas-y menu... and I chose to go someplace that involved Less Stress. The idea of herding my various family members into selecting set menus was just too ghoulish.

                      I am still eager to try Origin under different circumstances, but for my grad dinner it was not to be.

                      PS - where did you end up booking for your grad dinner?

                      1. re: Rabbit

                        I know this will sound like a far cry from other restos identified as "occasion-worthy," but we are heading to Beer Bistro.

                        1) The price is right - we're looking for low-key food (mussel bowls) and some shared appetizers, so this works well.

                        2) Since we'll all be enjoying the beer list, no one will have to feel awkward about the wine list (i.e. some in our party would be happy to spring for a big red with a big price tag, others aren't big wine drinkers at all).

                        3) It's a bit buzzy and noisy, so if conversation lags or personalities clash, we can just blame the background noise. That said, it might be less busy than normal because of the security perimeter.

                        4) The service is stellar, so we know we're in good hands, especially with some of our group heading out on the GO train after dinner to (somewhat) bypass the road blockages.

                        5) Over the past few years, we've come to think of BB as one of "our" places, though we only go once or twice each month. There's something very comforting about the place despite all the metal decor and crowds. We all enjoy it for the beer, the service, and the company. We had a more "chow-worthy" dinner after classes actually ended (Lobsterlicious at Scaramouche), but this one is more about keeping people comfortable, and where better than somewhere we feel comfortable? Maybe a case of "chow is where the heart is." Or so we hope!!

                        Hope you'll enjoy Origin!! I stopped in last weekend for a solo snack and drink (tried to remember CHers' suggestions from another thread) and the food was as lovely as everyone says. The atmosphere was nice, too - not at all overwhelming despite being packed.

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                        Beer Bistro
                        18 King St. E, Toronto, ON M5C 1C4, CA

                        1. re: c.cow

                          I've only been to Scaramouche once service started good then they forgot I was there. Beautiful view of the city cool location south of UCC on Avenue road. Food duck three ways one of which was a tried out cold husk like leftover turkey two days after thanksgiving (not Confit). A really nice piece of steak about 4 ounces and the best coconut cream pie ever crust was brushed with dark chocolate a layer or firm coconut milk with shredded coconut on it topped with the most glorious rich coconut cream a good two inches thick lovely. Canoe and Colborne were more consistent in service and quality. But all are very expensive. Barberians is more casual and old school steakhouse but lots of private areas available and the most amazing wine list 30000 bottles apparently. Location elm st behind sick kids.

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                          Barberian's
                          7 Elm St, Toronto, ON M5G1H1, CA

                        2. re: Rabbit

                          so Rabbit, where are you going for the grad dinner?

                          1. re: froglegs

                            We decided on going more casual in hope that it would make for a more relaxed vibe for the family (in all its weirdness). So we'll be at Malena. We did a test run a few weeks ago and had a great time. It's tomorrow night, so I'll be sure to report back.

                            (Mr. Rabbit and I will do a fancypants dinner pas de deux later on... I'm leaning toward the patio at George for that one).

                    2. re: JennaBean

                      Its because of the altitude water even boils at a different temperature and the sense of taste goes out the window. Its caused by the air pressure in the restaurant, the observation deck and gaps between the elevator and the floor. Your ears pop constantly on the way up so you know its happening. I had raw oysters with horse radish and tabasco and my tongue was numb to it, the chicken dish was dried out and tasteless despite a coating of black pepper. Stick with drinks the food is impossible and not their fault really. Its a once in a life time experience though and they give you a deal on the trip to the observation deck. Canoe in the TD bank is pressurized so there are no issues with pressure and they have a view about 80% of 360's, but the room does not rotate which is cool. Don't leave your purse on the sill I saw a few go by. Hee Hee