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Amuse Bistro - full review

d
downtownfoodie Aug 18, 2010 07:41 AM

Took the GF to Amuse last night for her birthday and did the chef's table. The hike from downtown is substantial but it was well worth the trip and we'll definitely be going back.

The room is understated but pleasant; well designed with two small seating areas breaking up the sightlines while probably helping to keep the noise down (it was very quiet while we were in). The chef's table is actually a four-seat bar looking directly into the kitchen so you can see everything as it's prepared.

Service was professional and very courteous thoughout the evening, far exceeding the expectations of a "neighbourhood place". Duties were shared between the hostess and the chef, who in addition to singlehandedly providing amazing food, was friendly, gratious, and extremely helpful with explanations on ingredients/techniques etc. We couldn't have been more welcomed or better served despite numerous small requests regarding wine temperature, additional bread etc etc.

The gf is a sommelier so we opted to take advantage of their very fair corkage policy(flat $30), bringing a bottle of Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin NV to start, a 2006 Henschke Reisling and a 2002 Chateau Gloria St Julien to celebrate the occasion. As well as ordering a 2007 Marcheso di Fresobaldi Tuscana to supplement from a small but well prepared list.

On to the food! I tried to remember as much as possible but with no notes and freely flowing wine, I apologize for any omitted items or mix-ups. No pictures as I am not a fan of cameras in restaurants

Malpeque oyster shooter with tequila lime salt
-Great start to the meal, simple and delicious

Seared sea scallop with onion bavarois, duck crackling, baby greens
-Perfectly seared on the outside, perfectly rare in the middle. Nice pairing with the bavarois (savory egg custard with gelatin) and who doesn't love fried duck skin?

Marinated heirloom tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella, sun-dried tomato and olive tapenade, balsamic reduction and dried prosciutto chip
-Fun play on a caprese salad. Only comment was with all the salt, the balsamic reduction was quite sweet; a touch more acid would have been a nice touch. Still delicious though

Sweetbreads with ham hocks, pickled fig and bacon watercress sauce
-Amazing dish. Sweetbreads weren't overly floured like so often now. Kept a touch of that gamey metallic taste softened by the bacon in the sauce. Pickled fig was exqusite...tart and sweet without hiding the taste of the fruit. The ham was nice but I wouldn't have missed it.

Corned veal tongue shaved over simple slaw with rye croutons and mustard aioli
-Forget corned beef. If could find a deli serving this as a sandwich I would never go anywhere else. Vinegary slaw cut the rich saltiness while the mustard and garlic in the aoili set everything off. One diner tried tongue for the first time and really enjoyed it (despite cooking it for her husband for years and being disgusted by it)

Garam masala wild salmon with Vichy carrots, roast fingerling potatoes, curried cauliflower puree
-This was a nice dish with the curry notes playing throughout. The sides were definitely the highlight for me. I love cauliflower and find it gets a bad rap. I can't imagine any of the haters would not have enjoyed this rendition. The salmon was the one miss of the evening for me...but I should preface that by saying that I like my salmon VERY rare so the leaner wild salmon was probably just right for most but seemed a touch overdone for my taste. The garam masala dusted on was interesting but wouldn't be a combination I would look for on a regular basis.

Rare bison tenderloin with foie gras and white/green asparagus "salad" and medjool dates
-Just a great dish no matter how you slice it. The lean bison was richened up by the foie, kind of a beef rossini type combination, while the asparagus added a needed fresh, herbaceous note. Loved it

At this point we were starting to get a little full. As a group, we usually lean towards cheese over sweets. That soon changed. We were given 3 large plates...platters really...for the four of us.

1)
Peach cobbler with oat crumble, whiskey raisins and vanilla ice cream
-Sticky, sweet, rich, like you remember it as a kid, just 10 times better
Ancho chili and bitter chocolate devils food cake with tequila lime sorbet and sour cream sauce
-Rich and moist and delicious. Chili heat was minimal but smokey, raisiny flavours of the ancho seemed to come through...the sorbet was absolutely perfect with it
Strawberry shortcake with basil cream
-Never my favourite dessert and there was so much to choose from that I didn't waste the minimal room I had left...can't really comment

2)
Marbled chocolate mousse with pistachio butter and phyllo crackers
-Wow...just wow. Worth the trip alone...and remember...I don't even like dessert :)
Lemon curd with lemon poppy seed cake
-Nice but not my favourite
Apricot bavarois with stewed apricots?
-This was nice but I didn't get to taste much of it as it seemed to disappear awfully quickly in front of one of my dining companions - she clearly loved it

3)
Blue cheese panna cotta with dried strawberry compote and crumbled fresh blue cheese
-Easily one of the highlights of the night for me. I have made blue cheese creme brulee (good), stilton cheesecake with port and fig jam (amazing), but this was easily the best incarnation of mold, cheese and dessert I have had. The texture wasn't gelatinous like many panna cottas and the crumbled blue over the top with the strawberry preserve was just amazing. We fought over this one.
4 local cheeses
-It says something that this is the one part of the meal that I can't really remember. I have always loved the ermite but I can't remember the others. I was just too full to appreciate them at that point.

With tax/tip (and a couple of individual drinks while waiting for latecomers) it came out to under $200/person. Not a cheap night out but far less than some other less memorable dinners.

All agreed that the night was a huge success, and an experience...not just a meal. I was a little worried about booking a special occasion there after reading some of the reviews that seemeed to think that one man in a tiny kitchen should be putting out food in the same way as a team at Perigee. It is different, but at the end of the day, no less enjoyable.

I would recommend it to anyone without a moments hesitation and hope that they would have as great a time as we did. Thank you Amuse.

  1. r
    ragged25 Aug 18, 2010 12:57 PM

    Thanks for the review, I don't live too far from Amuse and have comtemplated checking it out. The desserts all sound terrific. Would this be a place for a couple to go for a late snack/dessert/drink?

    2 Replies
    1. re: ragged25
      d
      downtownfoodie Aug 20, 2010 04:51 PM

      I think it would be a great spot for that, but might depend on the night. I would guess if they're not busy they might close earlier.

      1. re: ragged25
        s
        stonedtoronto Sep 16, 2010 11:01 PM

        I would say no....everytime I've been there past 10 pm, we're always the only patrons still left. Don't get me wrong, Pat Riley and company were always accomadating, The kitchen starts wrapping things up at 9 30pm usually, but I have got dessert there at 10 pm before, but the chef did have to unwrap everything, so I felt bad about that.

      2. d
        Degustation Aug 18, 2010 01:09 PM

        Just out of curiosity, how large were the portions for the salmon and bison? I also did Pat's Table a few weeks ago and was not overly impressed. I'm trying to get a cost comparison to what you received vs what we had.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Degustation
          d
          downtownfoodie Aug 20, 2010 04:48 PM

          They were appropriately sized. Not huge, but as part of a multi-course meal definitely adequate. I would guess 3-4oz for the salmon vs typical 6oz portion? Bison was probably about the same, maybe a little less - two good sized tenderloin steaks shared between 4.

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