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Help...need an interesting and higher end restaurant for this Friday

grandgourmand Jun 9, 2010 08:30 AM

Background:
Anniversary is this Friday.
Complications:
Wife is a bit more traditional in the sense that she wants good service and if there's foie gras and a nice meat dish on the menu, she's happy. She's a Scaramouche gal.
Me, I'm all for the foie gras, but I want something interesting (i.e. I don't like going to places where I feel I could make the food myself). And I like raw things, spicy things.
Current situation:
We're booked at Origin this Friday. I think it fits the interesting category, but reviews are somewhat mixed (mostly good) AND I'm wondering if it's an anniversary kind of place, as it might be too loud.

Any suggestions?
George springs to mind. I've never been.

  1. j
    JennaBean Jun 9, 2010 08:46 AM

    George is one of my fav special dinner places, however, I would say it is more on the traditional line as opposed to interesting. Nonetheless, I'd be willing to bet it would be a better dinning experience than Origin which I class more in the trendy rather outstanding food category.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JennaBean
      jlunar Jun 9, 2010 08:55 AM

      I agree with Jenna's summation of Origin. More trendy than good food. I like the space, though I don't think I'd call it romantic.

      I think if your wife like Scaramouche, George is closer to it than Origin.

    2. dxs Jun 9, 2010 08:55 AM

      I don't know if this is high end enough for you or in the right area, but I'd suggest Niagara Street Cafe. Not sure if the online menu is current (although it's changed since I last looked), but there are definitely some interesting things on there (sweetbreads, snails, etc). I've always enjoyed the food and service here, but it's a smallish place and can get loud when busy. I find it quite romantic, myself.

      http://www.niagarastreetcafe.com/menu...

      -----
      Niagara Street Cafe
      169 Niagara St, Toronto, ON M5V1C9, CA

      5 Replies
      1. re: dxs
        grandgourmand Jun 9, 2010 11:19 AM

        You know...Niagara St. cafe was one of our considerations. That's why I wrote "higher end" not "high end". I've only been once, but had a great experience. Have to re-consider it.

        1. re: grandgourmand
          Splendid Wine Snob Jun 9, 2010 12:32 PM

          Highly recommend NSC. I adore Nick Liu's style, and it is indeed a very cozy/romantic atmosphere. There will be dishes your wife will enjoy as well as some more interesting picks. And its not outrageously priced either.

          1. re: grandgourmand
            j
            JennaBean Jun 10, 2010 07:54 AM

            It is a lovely space and the food has always been good. It is not in the same class as George but good nonetheless.

            1. re: grandgourmand
              dxs Jun 11, 2010 08:54 AM

              gg, if you were considering NSC for tonight I hope you see this before you make the final decision. I was there last night and maybe it was just an off night, but I didn't have the best experience (after many good ones). Food and service were fine (although portions seemed on the small side, next time I wll probably order some sides to go with the mains as I left hungry, although as a matter of principle I resent having to do that), but I don't know what was up with the kitchen because it took forever for the food to come out. We were seated shortly after 8pm and did not receive mains until after 9:30pm! Normally I would chalk this up to a bad night and not even comment on it, but given that tonight would be a special occasion for you I'd probably go with another option.

              The rabbit terrine was delish though, and everyone else in the restaurant seemed happy. I'd go again, just not for a special occasion.

              1. re: dxs
                grandgourmand Jun 11, 2010 09:45 AM

                I'm not going to NSC tonight. Your post was a reminder for me to get there one night for a casual event. I really like the place and kick myself for not going more often.

          2. p
            phoenikia Jun 9, 2010 09:05 AM

            I've found the food at George to be interesting & upscale, and well-executed. Last time I was there, one of the ingredients was sea urchin, which I would consider interesting for a Toronto restaurant.

            The service is top notch, the tables are well-spaced, and they have one of the nicest patios in Toronto.

            http://georgeonqueen.com/menus.asp

            Current dinner menu looks interesting to me:
            Firsts
            Pacific Yellow Fin Tuna, Three Salads, Black Olive 19
            Wild BC Salmon, Pistachio Farro, Rhubarb 18
            BC Dungeness Crab, Pea Shoot Slaw, Sugar Peas 21
            Wagyu Beef, Fava Bean Salad, Arugula Sprouts 24
            Seconds
            Veal Sweetbreads, White Lasagna, Lemon Thyme Dust 18
            BC Spot Prawns, Spring Vegetable Salad, Pastina 22
            Atlantic Stone Bass, Artichoke Picklese, Mint 18
            Tandoori Hen, Grilled White Asparagus, Mango Relish 19
            Thirds
            Alberta Beef Striploin, Carrot Kraut, Potato Purée 22
            Ontario Veal Tenderloin, Fiddlehead Tempura, Caponata 21
            Pacific Halibut, Brazil Nut Curry, Mussel Broth 23
            Ontario Rack of Lamb, Pecorino Perogies, Sauterne Fruit 24

            -----
            George
            111 Queen Street East, Toronto, ON M5C 1S2, CA

            4 Replies
            1. re: phoenikia
              jlunar Jun 9, 2010 09:22 AM

              Bonus if it's nice: Their patio is my fave in the city. It's a lovely courtyard.

              1. re: jlunar
                j
                jamesm Jun 9, 2010 11:25 AM

                Can you make reservations specifically for the patio?

                1. re: jamesm
                  jlunar Jun 9, 2010 11:43 AM

                  No idea. I'm sure you could request it though. But it has been a very long time since I had gone.

                  1. re: jlunar
                    s
                    stonedtoronto Jul 27, 2010 03:46 AM

                    Yes, you can make reservations for the patio.

            2. Rabbit Jun 9, 2010 09:19 AM

              I think George is a great pick... but you might also consider Colborne Lane. It's imaginative, but it will be more classically paced than the small plate menu at Origin. And I think it is occasion-worthy.

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

              1 Reply
              1. re: Rabbit
                s
                SMOG Jun 9, 2010 10:13 AM

                I agree with the Colborne Lane suggestion. I love both CB and Origin (both the food and atmosphere). Origin is more of a casual, fun place where you order a bunch of things and share. It can be loud. So can CB. CB is definitely more formal, mainly in terms of the food. It's still a place where you can feel comfortable in jeans. I think it's more appropriate for a special occassion.

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

              2. grandgourmand Jun 9, 2010 11:22 AM

                Ok, thanks everyone, i'm definitely re-thinking the Origin plan. George is high on the list now. And Niagara St. is back on the radar.

                Does anyone know if the George tasting menu consists of dishes that aren't on the menu, or is it a mix of things on the menu?

                6 Replies
                1. re: grandgourmand
                  TorontoJo Jun 9, 2010 11:51 AM

                  It's all items on the menu. And everyone in the party gets the same tasting menu (at least that was my experience). So honestly, I found it better to just pick and choose the things on the menu that appealed to me and make my own tasting menu.

                  And I agree, it's the loveliest courtyard/patio in the city. Especially when it gets dark and all the little white lights in the trees shine. Unfortunately, I have not be wowed by my meals the two times I've visited. It's been a while, though.

                  1. re: TorontoJo
                    pinstripeprincess Jun 9, 2010 12:40 PM

                    just confirming there is only one tasting menu available. i haven't been keen on george but it's been a long time since i've visited. friends have declared it reliably good though.

                    i'd probably go with niagara st cafe myself.

                    1. re: pinstripeprincess
                      Splendid Wine Snob Jun 9, 2010 12:41 PM

                      Off to George at the end of the month-looking forward to finally checking it out!

                    2. re: TorontoJo
                      skylineR33 Jun 12, 2010 03:08 PM

                      TorontoJo, I just had the 10 courses Tasting menu at George. It is the first time I had tasting menu there, I used to only order a la carte at George before. There are dishes in the tasting menu that are not from the a la carte menu. Also, the two of us have different courses so the kitchen came out with 20 courses for us that night.

                      1. re: skylineR33
                        TorontoJo Jun 12, 2010 04:09 PM

                        Thanks for the report! They've clearly changed things recently then. Glad to hear it. Hope you enjoyed the meal (sadly, my two meals there were only so-so, so I haven't been back in a few years).

                        1. re: TorontoJo
                          s
                          stonedtoronto Jul 27, 2010 03:49 AM

                          I've had the tasting there 4 times, not sure if that's reliable enough. But anyways. Each time I've had it, everyone got something different. Of course there were only 2 of us each time. All the items are directly from the a la carte menu. However, if you order the vegetarian tasting; they are completely different from the a la carte, and not simply a vegetable replacing the meat portion of the plate.

                          Still....I am glad I am not longer seeing a vegetarian.

                  2. r
                    ragged25 Jun 9, 2010 12:31 PM

                    I just had an anniversary dinner at Splendido and had a lovely time. I too am a big fan of foie gras and so was my SO, we ordered the foie gras parfait to start which was accompanied by a toasted brioche and it was probably one of the best foie dishes I've ever tasted. My understanding was that it was mixed with chicken liver as well, but it was silky smooth and oh so good.

                    The service was top notch. We had a chat with Carlo the owner I believe and he was very friendly and personable. The prices are very reasonable for the quality of food we got. The Rabbit Pappardelle was very delicious and we both enjoyed the suckling pig as well. The table behind us shared the steak and from the sounds they were making "ummmm and ahhhhs" they quite enjoyed it as well. The cocktail was also pretty good, I got the Harbord 88 and it was enjoyable.

                    So Splendido would be my pick, but let us know how it went.

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

                    Harbord
                    147 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1H1, CA

                    1. estufarian Jun 9, 2010 12:43 PM

                      I can't believe nobody has mentioned Splendido (until now).
                      IT'S AN ANNIVERSARY!
                      Love Niagara Street Cafe - as a spur of the moment thing.
                      And I've been to ALL of George, Origin and Splendido in the last month (someone has to do it!).

                      ALL were performing well (so you can't lose). In order of attendance:
                      George (didn't go on the Patio, although IMO it's the best patio in town). The food has been disappointing in the past year, although this time was probably the best in recent memory. I still find George expensive for what it is, and although service was MUCH improved on my recent visit, I'd probably still avoid a Friday/Saturday.

                      Origin (on a Friday) - VERY busy and noisy - but in a good 'buzzy' way. I found the service way better than at Colborne Lane and was impressed with the quality and pacing of the meal. Would happily return - but still think it's more casual than celebratory - and the bill does mount up (although still probably the cheapest of the three).
                      Splendido (earlier this week) was exceptional. By far the most 'presentable' in terms of ambiance, the food was 'mostly' superb (mains didn't wow as much as appetizers) with the soft-shell crab being as perfect as I've had in Toronto - or anywhere else for that matter (but Origin's was second-best). Total bill was less than $20 over that at Origin - entirely due to a more expensive wine.

                      For a 'special occasion' I'd choose Splendido. For a fun night out then Origin - and if it's patio dining, George would be my choice.

                      -----
                      Niagara Street Cafe
                      169 Niagara St, Toronto, ON M5V1C9, CA

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

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

                      17 Replies
                      1. re: estufarian
                        r
                        ragged25 Jun 9, 2010 12:49 PM

                        Haha...looks like I beat you to the punch. Splendido will take care of you. Another nice little surprise, their Q water (Sparkling) was free of charge. So now you don't have to be anxious to see how much they're going to charge you for that bottle of sparkling you ordered at the beginning of the night.

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

                        1. re: estufarian
                          skylineR33 Jun 9, 2010 12:49 PM

                          There is no tasting menu at Origin or the new Splendido, right ? I am looking for a place to do a tasting menu, and looks like George is a good choice for it.

                          1. re: skylineR33
                            jlunar Jun 9, 2010 01:01 PM

                            Splendido has Friday lunch with a tasting menu. Here are the photos:
                            http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlunar/s...

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

                            1. re: jlunar
                              skylineR33 Jun 9, 2010 01:04 PM

                              Thanks, I am looking for a multi-course (more than 5) tasting menu like what they have in the old Splendido for a dinner. I cannot find too many of this kind of tasting menu in downtown Toronto anymore ... or do you have any good suggestion ?

                              1. re: skylineR33
                                jlunar Jun 9, 2010 01:13 PM

                                It's pretty dry for that kind of dinner in Toronto anymore. Old Splendido was pretty much the last of its kind.

                                Canoe still does a tasting menu if I recall correctly. Don't know how many dishes though. I think it and George are the two places left for tasting menus pretty much.

                                Lucien has a four and five course tasting menu, but that seems more that you choose certain plates off their menu. Not sure if that fits what you're looking for given the dish-count.

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

                                1. re: skylineR33
                                  TorontoJo Jun 9, 2010 02:32 PM

                                  How about "Pat's Table" at Pat Riley's new restaurant, Amuse? It sounds like he's open to doing as many courses as you are game for. I can't wait to try it myself.

                                  1. re: TorontoJo
                                    TorontoJo Jun 9, 2010 02:35 PM

                                    Also, skyline, have you done the tasting menu at Colborne Lane yet? There is a 15 course menu available there. Mind you, that 15 includes the "little" courses like the amuse, intermezzos and the like, but it's still a major production.

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

                                    1. re: TorontoJo
                                      skylineR33 Jun 9, 2010 08:07 PM

                                      I am looking forward to try Amuse too after I hear more positive review. I have tried the one at Colborne Lane not too long ago, therefore I am looking for something else this time. Thanks.

                              2. re: skylineR33
                                estufarian Jun 9, 2010 03:22 PM

                                C5 had a tasting menu last time I was there.

                                1. re: estufarian
                                  skylineR33 Jun 9, 2010 08:14 PM

                                  Right, I only had a la carte there before and quite like the food. Have you tried the tasting menu there ? Is it something good ? Thanks.

                                  1. re: skylineR33
                                    Notorious P.I.G. Jun 9, 2010 08:21 PM

                                    I was there last week and the chef sort of improvised a tasting menu for me and a friend. It wasn't their tasting menu proper, but if it's any indication of what their tasting menu is like I would fully recommend it. I've only ever ordered a la carte there as well but next time I'm going for a full tasting. What we had was excellent and I have to say that their food is getting better and better.

                                    1. re: Notorious P.I.G.
                                      skylineR33 Jun 10, 2010 05:18 AM

                                      Thanks for the info, sounds interesting ! Do you know the chef so he improvised something for you ?

                                      1. re: skylineR33
                                        Notorious P.I.G. Jun 10, 2010 08:54 AM

                                        Yeah. He threw a dish in from the menu as well, the 5 kinds of seafood platter and we ordered the lamb, and the mushroom salad, which are both standout dishes on their menu for me.

                                        If you get a tasting there try to include the lamb neck in it. It's quite good.

                              3. re: estufarian
                                pinstripeprincess Jun 9, 2010 12:53 PM

                                you're probably the best person to ask about this... they've revived the european retreat friday lunches, have you been? the price tag is noticeably higher but the menu sounds so delightfully seasonal. keeping in mind i've never been to splendido.

                                1. re: pinstripeprincess
                                  jlunar Jun 9, 2010 01:03 PM

                                  I have to admit, my lunch was less good than the previous meals (proabaly 4-5) I'd had at Splendido in the year prior. Everything was fine, but just not up to the calibre I expect at Splendido. Still, it was a lovely meal and the service was still top-notch. I've included a link to my meal photos in a post above.

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

                                  1. re: pinstripeprincess
                                    estufarian Jun 9, 2010 03:21 PM

                                    Went to the earler version (not the one just started). It was SUPERB value.
                                    Only problem - too much food. Take the afternoon off!

                                  2. re: estufarian
                                    grandgourmand Jun 9, 2010 01:18 PM

                                    Splendido certainly crossed my mind...but I found the menu a bit boring. I'm sure it tastes good.

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

                                  3. Googs Jun 10, 2010 06:08 AM

                                    You can ignore my last response to your conundrum.

                                    Honey, you're overthinking this. Just go to Origin. If you relax you'll have fun. If you break out your notebook for your analysis, you won't. Origin isn't the best, best, best food in Toronto. It's the overall experience tied together in a beautiful bow that makes it work. If you want to put another romance notch in the evening, take her to the Consort Lounge at the King Eddie afterwards. It's about a 60 second walk from door to door.

                                    BTW I like Scaramouche and George too. Without knocking them at all, I find a night at Origin more uplifting. I guess its the lack for formality I enjoy.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Googs
                                      j
                                      JennaBean Jun 10, 2010 07:59 AM

                                      Googs I think you and I are on opposite sides of the fence on this one. I'd pick George, Scaramouche, or Splendio any day over Origin for a special meal. To me Origin is a place I go with a bunch of girls on a Thursday night who what to chat and be in a bit of a scene while the food and service are secondary.

                                      1. re: JennaBean
                                        TheDewster Jun 10, 2010 11:22 AM

                                        I haven't been to George But I have been to Splendido it was great! Charcuterie with Foie Gras was perfect, rabbit papparadelle was good very mild flavors Cassoulet for two was fab boudin noir and blanc with fabulous crackling on a slice of roast pork. Much better than Auberge du Pommier the other romantic anniversary high end place I thought of. Hope this helps.

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

                                        1. re: TheDewster
                                          p
                                          phoenikia Jun 10, 2010 11:26 AM

                                          What do you mean by "very mild flavours"?

                                          "Very mild flavours" is how I would describe "bland" if I was trying to be diplomatic ;-)

                                          1. re: phoenikia
                                            TheDewster Jun 10, 2010 11:45 AM

                                            Emphasis was on the taste of rabbit which was new for me, sauce was not garlicky more buttery with an aftertaste that was pleasant but not something I have tasted before, good but different. Foie gras is rich and the opposite of this dish that was light almost broth like. I had a really rich charcuterie before the Papparadelle which was full of bold meaty tastes: crispy spiced pigs ears, a dollop of some liquid suet stuff, spiced pork, prosciutto etc. So I may have been overwhelmed. I would love to hear your description of it, others have written about this dish at Splendido. Try a search for Splendido and read other peoples posts.

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

                                    2. Googs Jun 12, 2010 05:57 AM

                                      Well?

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: Googs
                                        grandgourmand Jun 12, 2010 02:43 PM

                                        Long night...recovering...will write report soon.

                                        1. re: Googs
                                          grandgourmand Jun 13, 2010 07:16 AM

                                          Ok...overall we had a wonderful experience.

                                          We went for the 5-course tasting menu. As it turns out, the dishes are not from the regular menu, but are "inspired" from it. Moreover, we each got different dishes, so there's quite a bit of variety on the table, which is great.

                                          We had an amuse bouche of beef tartar. Two-bite size, which was great, because the tartar was very finely seasoned, a refreshing change from some way overseasoned tartars out there in ths city.

                                          The first course was the foie gras. Hers, atop some braised short rip, mine atop a fried piece of sweetbread and grilled white asparagus. The sauce on each was demi-glace-ish, but with fruity undertones. We mentioned to the waiter how much we love foie gras and, lo and behold, the kitchen sent out a bonus foie gras dish for us to share. I forget what it was served with, but the seared piece was luscious.

                                          Second course was the fish. She had seared mackerel atop a fruit ceviche of some sort (not sure what that was, but tasted great). I had deep fried soft shell crab with a light hollandaise. Her dish was far better. I'm not a huge soft shell crab fan, i find it lacks crabby flavour and it's mostly textural.

                                          Third course was seared beef tenderloin for me and rack of lamb for her. Both were finely prepared, but didn't blow us away.

                                          Cheese course, was sauvagine for her and some old cheddar for me.

                                          Then we had another surprise. Waiter brought out a strawberry themed dessert for each of us (panna cotta for me with berry compote, strawberries three ways for her). Very light and refreshing. As it turns out, thuogh, it was a bonus dessert as waiter then brought out a meyer lemon mousse for me (with other stuff) and cherry calfouti for her.

                                          Overall, great meal. The tasting menu had a theme, which leaned in the slow food direction, mostly in the sauces. My complaint, though, is that it was on the heavy side. Three of our dishes (both foie gras and the meat dishes) had a demi-glace-ish sauce, each tasting pretty similar to the other. I would have appreciated a punchier dish, with more bright flavours and acidity. At least, have those flavour profiles more prevalent in each dish.

                                          Service was very good. My only complaint is that the time between courses was too long. I know you're supposed to relax, etc. But this was beyond that pace.

                                          Oh, and the patio was lovely.

                                          1. re: grandgourmand
                                            Googs Jun 13, 2010 08:18 AM

                                            And all of this was at George, correct?

                                            1. re: grandgourmand
                                              skylineR33 Jun 13, 2010 08:56 AM

                                              How long did your 5 courses take ? We had the 10 course tasting menu and it took 4 hours !

                                              1. re: skylineR33
                                                grandgourmand Jun 13, 2010 09:29 AM

                                                Yes, googs, it was at George. Quite happy with our choice.

                                                With the extras, we ended up with the 7 course tasting menu and it took over three ours. I found the pace a bit slow, but I'd rather that than to feel rushed.

                                                Did you enjoy your meal?

                                                1. re: grandgourmand
                                                  skylineR33 Jun 13, 2010 12:50 PM

                                                  I agree on your comment on the sauce and the the food is on the heavy side on most of them. It is not easy to have the kitchen to come out with 20 different dishes for our tasting menu, but I hope they can have better control on the progression of the meal (both taste and timing).

                                                  The dishes do not taste bad, but too many flavor on each of them and is confusing in many of the dishes when all these flavor are mixed together. I think it is still alright if there are only 4-5 courses, but for 10, it is really a bit out of control. I usually have no problem eating 10 courses but I found myself hard to enjoy after 5 or 6 courses, the food is just too rich from the beginning to the end. There is not a good transition from course to course.

                                                  The appetizer and main in general taste good to very good. But the dessert is a major disappointment. They are all too sour and too sweet to our liking, one dimensional and does not complement well with each other, with a not-so-good presentation.

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