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TOCA by tom brodie

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Ritz Carlton opened and open-table already has TOCA by tom brodie in their list, so we made a reservation for a group of 4 there for dinner today. The only thing I could gather here is that the chef is from Canoe... we are not really the type who follows the chefs, although we do like to try different restaurants.

Since there is ZERO review, here is one I have typed up. Please keep in mind I am not a food expert, so I am just putting it out there based on our own taste buds.

The hotel is brand new, and the staff is quite friendly, although I did not like the fact that they don't have self-parking (parking itself is $16.95, paid at the reception), but since we were with friends, I'd rather leave my car with them instead of having guests walk along with us (the RBC car park is right next door).

TOCA by tom brodie is on the upper floor in their main hall. We were greeted by the receptionists who took our coats, and we were seated near the top of the stairs, behind their table of wines, in front of the "cheese cave". The restaurant is not busy, so traffic is not that much and it is pretty quiet.

The cheese cave itself is an interesting concept, and we did see how they prepare their cheese plates and dining guests visiting the cave, along with Tom Brodie himself inside the "cave" Some of the cheese looks delicious, too bad we were too full to order.

The menu is quite short, one page, with 3 columns inside a folder type menu cover, with a note pad for the cheese of the day.

We ordered:

Apps: (Prices varies from IIRC, $14 to $25+)
Pan-seared Foie gras
smoke salmon
duck with onion soup
crab marrow (crab meat cooked in bone marrow)

Main: (prices varies from $34 to $68, for a 24oz bone-in bison rib eye)
Pan-seared venison
glazed cod
pork stew
(the cod and stew apparently are their popular dish)

Side: (Prices in menu for various dish are all $9)
cremed spinish
avacado frites

Dessert: (Don't remember the prices)
Double chocolate souffle
bread and butter pudding
chocolate lava cake

Apps:
The pan-seared foie gras is not spectacular, but it was interesting as it came with homemade cotton candy. The duck and onion soup is served at the table, where the server would pour the soup into your bowl. The crab and marrow is likely the highlight for our friend, as he is quite happen with this dish. My smoke salmon looked like a salmon pizza when it arrived. It was topped with some salad, a creme sauce on top of a piece of deep-fried dough. It kind of looks like a foccia, but it actually looks more like a "cow tong pastry", the sweet and savoury pastry that serves with congee in Chinese restaurants. The portion is huge (I suspect they served me the large portion, as there were two prices next to the dish).

Main:
The venison unfortunately, I was told, not too venison like. It's more like beef than venison. The cod itself is fresh, but the flavour is too strong and too sweet. Texture is quite good however. My pork stew I though is quite nice, although our friend who tried it thought it tasted like the vietnamese beef brisket stew. The seasoning is good and the pork texture is not dry, it's just right.

Side:
The cremed spinach apparently is very good. It is very fine, almost like a spinach dip according to my gf. It is very rich. The avocado frites is more like avocado wedges, deep fried in a batter similar to ones for the Japanese fried (fake) scallop. Texture is very creamy and works well with the homemade mayo that came with the side.

Dessert:
The double chocolate souffle is served with a side of chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. I was told it was way too sweet, and it was disppointing that one of the souffle ordered is actually caved-in. The lava cake is pretty generic, although the white coffee ice-cream is apparently good. My bread and butter pudding is quite sweet, but the flavour is very good, and the english cream kind of made it less sweet. What is weird however is that we got soup spoons for our desserts, making it hard for the desserts that came with smaller containers.
Staffs were quite attentive and polite, so no complain there. Total for the food for our group of 4, with 5 apps, 3 mains and 4 desserts came out to about $320, including taxes, without tips. One glass of ice wine, and just tap water for everyone.

Some photos of my dish and my gf's dish:
Apps:
http://img823.imageshack.us/i/img0049...
http://img233.imageshack.us/i/img0052...

Mains:
http://img12.imageshack.us/i/img0055h...
http://img88.imageshack.us/i/img0058p...

Avocado frites:
http://img821.imageshack.us/i/img0056...

Dessert
http://img130.imageshack.us/i/img0059...
http://img233.imageshack.us/i/img0060...

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Toca
181 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5J 2H5, CA

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  1. Thanks for posting. Interesting that they include the chef's name in the resto's name. It's not like this is a star chef who has lent his name. It would suck for them if he didn't work out. I guess they what to give the impression of having a brand.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dubchild

      They also have a "raw bar" downstairs also called Toca, perhaps that's why they had to use his name on the menu.

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      Toca
      181 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5J 2H5, CA

    2. Thanks for the review! My manager brought me a menu (she visited yesterday to look around, but didn't eat there). We both agreed that it didn't look too spectacular, and we did recognize some similar traits from Brodie's days at Canoe. Key thing here is execution if your menu is going to err on the side of simplicity (or less complex, for lack of a better explanation). I do plan on trying it myself at some point...

      1. We went to TOCA tonight. General impression was pretty favourable. My SO had the Goat cheese soufflé and I had the seared foie gras w/ cotton candy. There was a mix of temperatures in my dish which I'm wasn't sure was intentional - but I enjoyed it never the less, although I always find the mixing of hot and cold in a single dish quite odd. The bread left a bit to be desired. I had a steak as my main - I'd take a pass on my next visit. It's made sous-vide and then pan seared - but the pan searing didn't generate any crust, oddly, and the meat was a bit 'beefy', which wasn't to my liking. My SO had the pork belly stew, which was delicious and well cooked. The bed of spetzle was over-complicated and not as enjoyable had it just been of the plain variety. Desserts were wonderful (Soufflé, bread-pudding, molten lava cake) and the wine-by-the-glass selection was amazing.

        I would definitely go again, as some of the dishes were quite good - I just need to pick other things on the menu. Service was great, atmosphere was great, the decor is great, and the presentation was very appetizing.

        1. Well, the review sure isn't sending me running for the phone to many a reservation.

          Is it just me, or does the idea of fried avocado sound extremely disturbing?

          2 Replies
          1. re: Sadistick

            I'd never heard of it until a couple nights ago on Top Chef when a renowned southern cook in the U.S. said it was a common dish (deep-fried).

            1. re: Sadistick

              Believe it or not, the deep fried avocado is actually pretty good. Very creamy and firm. Texture is interesting.

              It is a pretty nice place to have dinner, although for us, it wasn't something that would really wow us and we must return again. (of course your experience may vary)

            2. My SO and I Toca out last night. The space is quite beautiful.. Its a bit dim (well, it was earth hour), but the seating is comfortable and roomy, and they even have a cute cheese "cellar" type room where I saw they were holding tastings.
              Its quite huge, but because its a hotel, I'm sure it will do just fine, and actually by 8 pm on Saturday, the place was almost full. Usually I'm not a huge fan of hotel restaurants because I find the service stuffy, and the food to be uninspiring, but I was really pleased by our server. She was professional in the sense that she was attentive and knowledgeable, but was young and hip, and comfortable enough to crack jokes with us throughout the evening.
              Okay, lets talk food... we tried:

              B.C. Dungeness Crab Marrow 20
              peau rouge cheese, fennel pollen

              My SO loved this. It was essentially crab that had been stuffed into the marrow bone with a bit of melted cheese on top. Rich, but an appropriate portion.

              Twice Baked Chèvre Soufflé 17
              beluga lentils, berkshire bacon, spiced cauliflower

              I found the lentils a bit underseasoned, but I generally don't like lentils so that might just be me. The souffle had a very sharp cheese flavour, but was not quite as airy and light as I had hoped. I guess that is because it was "twice baked" and was therefore a bit more firm than what I am used to. Also, its a ginormous portion, but I guess you would hope it would be if you were paying $17 for it.

              Pan Seared Venison Loin 42
              sunchoke, mustard greens, Saskatoon berry sauce

              The sunchoke puree was really lovely and smooth, but like the poster above, my SO said the venison lacked flavour. It wasn't even gamey... it just tasted like... meat. Meh.

              St. Canut Pork Stew 34
              quark spätzle, pickled red cabbage

              Another massive portion, and I have mixed feelings about the dish otherwise. I loved the spatzle, and could have eaten a whole bowl of it, and I really liked the bit of quark on top, which added a bit of sweet richness to the dish. But the I found the pork to be a bit dry, and the seasoning was patchy. One bite all I could taste was salt, the next bite all I could taste was cilantro. The cabbage was served on the side, and while it was also very delicious, mine is just as good when I make it at home.

              Warm Sticky Toffee Date Pudding 12

              Yet again, a killer portion, served with a side of vanilla ice cream and tuile, but I was really happy about it this time. Now, I know that I gave the toffee pudding at Beast a huge 10/10, but this one might have inched in as my favourite. Its just my personal preference, though. Okay, so at Beast, the toffee sauce is SUPER sweet, almost so sweet its sour, and as much as I love that in the moment, it leaves me feeling very ill the next morning.. kind of like I'm hung over. Now, at Toca, the toffee is a bit more tame, and is tempered with the creme anglaise. Also, I find the pudding cake itself less dense at Toca, a bit more soft and light, which may or may not be traditional (or intentional).. I'm not sure, but I think I prefer that.

              So seeing as Toca has only been open for 1 month, I would say they are doing pretty good. I will definitely want to return in the future... but next time being aware of the portions. Maybe apps, 1 main split, 1 side split and a dessert for the future... or you know, maybe just eat less bread ha.

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              Toca
              181 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5J 2H5, CA

              2 Replies
              1. re: hungryabbey

                I was there last week and left with mixed feelings. At 50, I do not feel that I fit into the staid, seniors category but I found it too dark and too loud. The food was good, portions are quite large and the wait staff competant. The lobster fish and chips is over rated. There is a class system in place ( not sure how one rates or doesn't) the famed cheese cave which does appear impressive had many visitors during the evening but despite the fact that two of us ordered cheese at $18 we were given no choice of the vast array of cheeses and told that only those guests of the management were invited to the cave. The chef was much in evidence and visited some of the tables while clearly ignoring many others. I considered this a pleasant but mixed experience.

                1. re: hungryabbey

                  I went to TOCA the other night just for desserts after being forced to eat steak at Bardi's... anyway, I had the WSTDP based on your recommendation... man, was it delicious. Thanks. I hear they're ironing out a lot of kinks.. looking forward to seeing this restaurant develop.

                  Oh, and they have not done their grand opening yet (just for the record).

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                  Bardi's
                  56 York St., Toronto, ON M5J 1S8, CA

                2. We did brunch today. I've been for brunch at the Ritz in Chicago and in San Diego. Can't really say they were "Puttin' on the Ritz" in Toronto. At those other locations brunch feels like something worth dressing up for. In a nutshell, an average room, friendly service, and $18 for eggs bene which, minus the pinch of black truffle, I could get at the restaurant across my house and I would at least get vegetables or a salad with them. Our desserts were $12 and the creme brulee was listed at $15. The biggest surprise was we were told the crepes we had ordered were not available. I guess if this place lived up to its name and five star rating it would just whip some up. Given that everything was average and the bill was high, I can't really say I want to give dinner a try.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: dubchild

                    Joanne Kates' review in the Globe: The high-end Canadiana of Toca is a mite lofty

                    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/f...

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                    Toca
                    181 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5J 2H5, CA

                    1. re: canmark

                      It's a shame these american "brands" (I'm also thinking of Scarpetta) are not delivering the goods. I hope David Chang lives up to his name. Any bets on how long it takes for Nobu to open a location.

                  2. I enjoyed a great meal there a few months ago, however, the entire design/atmosphere of the hotel and resto is pretty terrible. It feels like a convention centre. Its too bad as the food and service were fantastic!! Great for business lunches and drinks in the bar.