Amazing dinner at George
Thanks to the recommendations of JennaBean and others on this board, I was taken out for a birthday dinner to George last night.
We would have loved to sit on the patio, if it wasn't for the 34 degree heat, so we enjoyed a very comfortable and private booth by the window. The restaurant wasn't crowded at all, it was a Tuesday after all, and the atmosphere was pleasant and calm.
We considered the five course tasting menu, but I was worried that there simply wouldn't be enough food. However, the seven course felt like overkill, so we settled on the five with a single wine pairing as I was driving. However, our very competent and friendly attendant split the wines for us, which was a very kind gesture.
First off, I did not expect to get a different course than my dining partner (my father) but it was a pleasant surprise. Although we each ate what was provided to us, I was pleased that we could switch if one of us took fancy to the others dish.
Forgive on the lack of details, there were a lot of courses and a lot of wine.
Amuse: Cod Salad
We both received an amuse bouche of cod salad with zucchini flower, which was tiny and exquisite. Very fresh tasting, with a great variety of layers and flavours. We received a sparkling white wine to accompany this dish.
1st Course: Deep-fried softshell crab with apple slaw (me), Mackerel Salad (Dad)
The deep-fried softshell crab was perfectly seasoned "Southern Style" and absolutely crispy-delicious. I never eat softshell crab, and it was so tender and meaty with that divine crisp exterior. The apple slaw was very fresh and a great accompaniment. To accompany this course, we received a very light rosé.
2nd course: Foie Gras with Duck (me), Foie Gras with Rabbit (Dad)
I had overlooked one thing when we were served the first course…I was so anxious to tuck in that I didn’t really think to question the server about what EXACTLY was on my plate. So, the first course was an exercise in testing the palate. There were sauces and purees that I simply enjoyed without knowing what I was eating. But when the 2nd course arrived, I really noticed that we received no explanation again. Just “Foie Gras with Duck for the lady, Foie Gras with Rabbit for sir”.
Don’t get me wrong, this dish was delicious. It was rich, meaty, and so moreish. But I had no idea what the sauce, puree, or accompaniments were. A fig was layered on top of the foie, which was layered on top of a heaping portion of duck breast (I assume) which was stacked inside some form of pastry (?) vol-a-vent style (?). Again, lots of assumptions. I should have asked, but again had not and missed the opportunity! This course was served with a lovely but light pinot noir, which I was thrilled with (dining companion was wishing for something heavier).
3rd course: Bison tenderloin (me), Alberta beef tenderloin (Dad)
This is where the problem with the different tasting plates arises…Dad looked longingly over at my bison while I scarfed it down so that he wouldn’t steal it. My bison tenderloin (perfectly rare, seared to perfection) sat on top of the tastiest, tiny scalloped potato and onion cake. It was ridiculously good. Dad loved his beef, but did pine so much for the bison that we ended up sharing. Wine accompaniment was a bold and hearty Zin, which I had our attendant write up for me so that I can seek it out. This was the simplest of the mains in terms of flavour combos and complexity, but it was hearty and satisfying.
4th course: Raw Cow’s Milk Cheese (me), Sheep’s Milk Cheese from Quebec (Dad)
Names escape me, but the cheese was a small (1oz?) portion with spicy walnuts, fig, and a fruit compote, with a side of tiny bread crisps. Wine (port) was a ten year old Tawny.
5th course: Cherry soufflé (or possibly bread and butter pudding) with fresh cherries and thyme, and chocolate ice cream (me), Cherry Panacotta, Biscuit, and two other cherry related desserts (Dad).
Desserts were presented as “Cherry Desserts”, and the panacotta pointed out to Dad, otherwise no explanation. We were having fun so none required at this point. The cherry soufflé / pudding was explosively hot and took a good ten minutes to cool to eat, so I enjoyed the rest of the dessert and wine while finishing. Dad’s four different cherry items were proclaimed “lovely”. Wine pairing was a sparkling red wine from Italy whose name escapes.
The verdict: George was a real wow for me, and will be my next go-to for an upscale dinner. Yes, the servers could have been more prolific in their explanations, but we also didn’t press for details. I felt it was enormous value for money, as the courses were not by any impression “mincy” or made from anything less than stellar ingredients. The ambiance and atmosphere would make for a very nice romantic dinner, albeit a noisy one if the room is full. Dare I say, the best meal I have had in the city since Lotus? We will be back!
Total without tax or tip: $300 for a two top.
111 Queen Street East, Toronto, ON M5C 1S2, CA
Thanks for the review. I am being taken there this Saturday for my birthday dinner and we have reserved a booth. I am very excited to try the restaurant.
I'm so glad that you had a good evening. George really is the top of my list for fine dinning in Toronto these days.
Has anyone ordered off the a la carte menu at George recently? If so, what dishes would you recommend?
From nearly every review I've read, the tasting menu seems to be the only way to go.
It's been many years since I last went (when I myself ordered off the tasting menu), but I'm not sure if my dining counterpart will feel up to the adventure.
Thanks in advance!
Four of us had a wonderful lunch there this afternoon on the patio. We all did the 4 course tasting menu, and like someone mentioned above, our waiter very kindly split the wines for us.
Highlights had to be the wagyu beef carpaccio and pasta dishes. Gnocchi in a roasted pepper sauce was divine. The sauce was so rich and creamy while the gnocchi melted in your mouth. The white lasagna with morels was also incredibly good. Fabulous bread too! I could have licked my bowl clean had it not been for the company.
All four of us received a different desert course which was a nice touch. One was a lovely lemon curd pavlova type dish - so fresh and light. Very refreshing. I had the chocolate beignet and felt compelled to share them around the table. Very yummy!!
Great service I might add. Our waiter was nice and knowledgable. Lorenzo even came out to say a quick hello to our table. What a great way to while away an afternoon.
George has become what Mr Millygirl says will be our 911 list of breaky, lunch and dinner places. We were on a mission to hit a Friday lunch spot on a beautiful Aug 27th day and so starts the story .... started at Black Hoof, a note to readers closed until Sept 2, very disappointed. Then hit Buca as Mlllygirl and Mr had had an excellent dinner there ... PS there don't serve Caesar's only italian drinks and amongst other oddities we decided to move on. Where to go .... GEORGE!!! Mr Hazelnut frequents and has taken the Mrs for a last minute tasting dinner that they still say is now there tops in TO .... so it was an easy choice.
Nothing but perfection. Four course tasting .... it was ONE HOOF UP ... nothing against Black Hoof we can't wait to see you once you reopen, but there wasn't a plate that wasn't tossed around the table (FYI more than once).
Highlights: Gnocchi to perfection (ricotta), garnish and sauces to die for and deconstruct while eating ... what else could you want. OK here is a quick breakdown ... heirloom tomat and lightly fried zucchini flower (perfection in a delicate cracker) with fresh herb and mint sauce;
FIRST kobe beef (fat within like a gravy in itself) twirled around bed of greens or black cod miso with fresh sweet peas and raspberry greens;
SECOND gnocchi with morel mushrooms and white lasagna with morel mushrooms could have been the best pasta ever;
THIRD tenderloin with goat cheese hollandaise to die for on layered shaved sweet potats with a t lovely zing (not sure about this addition) and cornish hen (perfectly sized about the size of a deck of cards) that was perfectly seared with juices flowing). Hen served with artichokes and on this one, the sauce we couldn't quite break down:
FOURTH dessert of course !!! beignets filled with lovely malted chocolate; rasp/choc parfait; meringue baked with custard and 1000 fold pastry of lovely whipped cream (ask Mr Milly girl the names and the technique he knows it all) ... so out of there for 100$ each CRAZY GOOD ... perfect service as always (here they never miss) ...thanks Mr and Millygirl can't wait till next adventure .... Hazelnuts
604 King St. West, Toronto, ON M5V 1M6, CA
The Black Hoof
928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA
A minor correction but for the record, it was actually the Hoof Cafe that we set out to, not the Black Hoof. But note, both are closed for vacation.
And if anybody is still reading this, AND CARES, the 1000 fold pastry referred to above is the Millefeuille. Yum!
Great review Hazzelnuts. Until our next dining adventure, cheers!
The Black Hoof
928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA
Went for dinner to George restaurant (www.georgeonqueen.com) on Queen St. E last night which has been on my hit list for a while now...
I liked the set up of the room, very roomy, not stuffy.. though a bit cold for my liking (people just love to blast the AC as soon as we get a nice day of weather). The booths are large and the tables are well spaced, which I appreciate. We got the chefs table (table that overlooks the kitchen) which was entertaining for those moments when my SO decided he had an important email that he absolutely HAD to reply to.
The menu looked really appealing, at least to my tastes, but we decided to go with the surprise 5- course tasting menu.
With regards to the wine list/ drink list, they have an interesting selection of cocktails.. and I like that you can order wine in 3 oz or 6 oz pours, so that you can try a few different varieties, if you would like, without practically falling off your chair before the cheese course.
Service was very attentive and knowledgeable, maybe a bit too attentive at times. It was almost like every time I took a single sip of my sparkling water, someone was there to top it up ha. I should also say that if you are in a rush to get somewhere, I wouldn't choose George, or at least I would order a la carte. Our meal from start to finish took about 2.5 hours.
So, unfortunately I don't have exact tasting notes / menu descriptions but I can tell you the basic gist.
Amuse Bouche of venison sausage, with fiddlehead and a foie gras shortbread- great first bite, though I wasn't crazy about the shortbread. It tasted like a somewhat soggy rich cookie.
Shrimp salad with a perfect pea salad, and I think some type of an avocado relish underneath, really fresh and flavourful, and I usually am not a fan of warm shrimp preparations because they are so often overdone. This was really refreshing.
Tempura softshell crab atop an Asian vegetable salad. Perfectly crispy and light.
Seared foie gras and some type of ham preparation with spaetzle, black trumpet mushrooms and a grapefruit salad. I loved the brightness of the citrus against the richness of the foie, and the light and crispy pan-fried spaetzle made me want to go home and make a batch myself. Unfortunately the pork (and I'm sorry, I cannot recall what exactly it was, other than that he called it ham) was a bit dry.
Seared foie gras and pan fried sweetbread with some type of a fruit based sauce and roasted nuts (the details of this one escapes me...probably because they said foie gras and I then tuned out in sheer excitement). It was delicious, I definitely liked the texture of the nuts with the soft and delicate foie.
Lamb chops with fiddleheads and the most fluffy cheddar potato perogies I have ever had (these perogies were my favourite part of the whole meal). One criticism here is that they brought us both butter knives for our meat course... we were having to saw through the meat! I meant to say something but I totally forgot.
Beef tenderloin with sauteed leeks and a mint potato salad. Despite the knife issue, the meat was incredibly tender and the leeks were perfectly sweet and tender. I was expecting the mint puree on the potatoes to be too overwhelming, but it was actually quite nice.
Cheese coarse with either a goats cheese or brie, mango chutney, apple slices, baguette and candied pecans. Perfect serving size, all I would say is that I would have liked a bit more chutney.
Chocolate tasting with a Earl Grey panna cotta, chocolate tart with pear ice cream, chocolate mousse and chocolate profiteroles. I had a taste of most of it, and although I'm really not a chocolate person, I thought everything was well done. The profiteroles were particularly lovely and light, and the panna cotta was perfectly smooth and not gelatinous at all as it sometimes can be. I think they actually did a good job balancing the chocolate with other lighter flavours so as not to overwhelm the palate with the bitterness.
Mango toffee pudding with burned honey ice cream. As a toffee pudding enthusiast, I wasn't blown away. I found the mango wasn't the best match for the caramel or burnt honey. Apple or pear would have been more obvious and better choices. The pudding itself wasn't as moist as I would have liked, but the ice cream was divine. It was a perfect balance of bitter and sweet.
So, I will say that while this is one of the more pricey meals to be had in Toronto, it is also one of the better ones. Not the best, no, not at all, and based on the experiences I have had around the world, probably not really worth it for the price (2 tastings, sparkling water, 1 glass wine, 1 coffee, 1 port and 1 cocktail was around $270 before tip). But if you want a nice meal out in Toronto, and are specifically looking for a tasting menu, George is an appropriate option. Did I leave thrilled? Nope. But I was happy with everything I ate, and in Toronto today, sadly, that is saying a lot.
I too love Lorenzo's cooking! For comparison, I'm posting photos of the 10+ courses tasting menu I had a while back. You'll notice portion sizes are much smaller but plate presentation was more refined and less 'rough with an edge'! ( eg., your full crab vs my half crab ).
re: Charles Yu
Actually I was a bit surprised. We told our server that we werent a big fan of coriander/cilantro, and he said "oh... our chef has a heavy hand with the cilantro" and since we sat at the chefs kitchen, we could hear the expeditor yell out "two tasting menus.. no cilantro" for pretty much every course lol So I'm sure assuming they had cilantro in them normally. I was just curious if that was like.. a more seasonal thing (spring lends itself better to bright flavours), where perhaps in the fall/winter, that wouldnt be the case so much.