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Men-Only Birthday Bash - N44, Auberge du Pommier or Centro?!

Every year, going back to the 90's, my brother-in-law and I would like to spend a 'men-only', joint birthday celebration ourselves, at a fine restaurant preferably with tasting menu and wine pairing.

Last year we headed out to Langdon Hall and had an underwhelming 'so-so' experience!

This year, we have narrowed down our choices to the aforementioned three. Both of us have not been to any of them for at least half a year. Furthermore, since we will most probably be bringing along a couple bottles of fine wine from our cellar collection, ( to be augmented by some other 'in-house' wine selection ), a restaurant with decent wine service and fine stem ware is also preferred. However, to us, food is still paramount in our selection criterea..

With chefs changing hand all the time....etc. Have any fellow chowhounders eaten at any OR all three establishments recently? And if so, can you rank them in order ( with a few whys given? ). Since local moderators forbid my using ' overseas examples' as standard reference. My 'local' reference yardstick for our forthcoming meal is the Tasting menu with wine pairing of David Lee when he was at the helm of the 'Old Splendido'..

Thanks in

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  1. Sounds like safe & boring choices to me.. I would say contact david lee, take over his private dining room and tell him "go nuts" and do a chefs choice tasting menu, give him a budget and cite the langdon hall example as being underwhelmed but tell him you want something he never did at Splendido . Most chefs like nothing more than a challenge.

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

    5 Replies
    1. re: RogerDoger

      Agree. Those are pretty boring choices. N44 is a shadow of it's former self, AdP I've never been impressed with, and Centro? really, centro?

      What about Blacktree?

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      Centro
      2472 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4P 2F5, CA

      Blacktree
      3029 New St, Burlington, ON L7N, CA

      1. re: justpete

        Have to agree. Of the three, I'd choose N44, but I can't really imagine any of them living up to old Splendido. You can get a tasting menu at N44, but it would probably still be underwhelming based on what you're looking for. RogerDoger's suggestion is probably pretty good.

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

      2. re: RogerDoger

        Has anyone had any success getting David Lee to take on this "challenge"? What kind of price range does/would it require for him to take on something like this. Agree that its worth checking out though...if nothing else it might help inspire Lee to get back to his old ways.

        1. re: T Long

          Depends on how many people you'd have - if only a few, I doubt he'd do it based on how much he'd have to charge to make it worth his while. If, on the other hand, you had 10-12 people@$250-300, he might be game... Just go through Yannick.. and ask nicely. :)

          Charles, let me know if you need some bodies. Hehe.

          1. re: justpete

            if you need more bodies... T_T does it have to be men only...!?

      3. Sorry to say but I think any of these three will not give a better experience than Langdon Hall. If I have to pick one, I will go for the tasting menu at Auberge. I have not done tasting menu there though, only a la carte a few months ago, but we almost tried all the items on the menu that time. Taste overall is above average in Toronto standard with generous portion. Atmosphere is quite romantic in my book.

        Just notice that they charge $19.5 for a glass of 2009 Belle Glos 'Meiomi' Pinot Noir ... better ask if you can BYOB !

        2 Replies
        1. re: skylineR33

          I'm sure "romantic" is exactly what Charles is going for.

          Had to tasting menu at Auberge last fall and loved the earthiness of it.

          1. re: skylineR33

            Auberge has corkage as far as I know!

          2. Thanks for all the input!

            To clarify: Men Only means exactly that. No wife invited!!

            Having David Lee cook for us is a great idea! Unfortunately, even though we both know David and Yannick in person, we are no Warren Buffet and Bill Gates!! I doubt he'll open up the private dining room and cook just for the two of us?!

            @ Justpete. I tried the 'renovated' Centro with its new chef Jason Carter a long while back. To my surprise,the meal was actually very very good! The sweetbread was much better than most restaurant in town!! In fact even better than Mario Batelli's version at Babbo a few weeks earlier in NYC !

            I'll take your advise skylinR33 and bring our own bottles However, I think Auberge corkage is $40?! No?! In fact I think all three like to make a killing with BYOB corkage!

            As for N44, my last meal there was sub-par. Quality of food definitely not commensurate with the price they were charging. However, I'm always a sucker to try restaurant that has received a 'promotion' in rating, be it Michelin or our local Toronto life. As such, I'm just curious to find out why it was bumped up from a 3.5 to a 4 stars by ToLife.

            Lastly, Blacktree is a bit far considering we need to 'drive' back to TO/Richmond Hill after our meal. Besides, we both prefer a multi-course tasting menu dinner

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            Centro
            2472 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4P 2F5, CA

            Blacktree
            3029 New St, Burlington, ON L7N, CA

            17 Replies
            1. re: Charles Yu

              It never hurts to ask... and if its only two you do not need the private dining room, I am sure they can repurpose some disses on the menu and create some new ones for the occasion, I follow their twitter feed and they seem to like doing "specials". Like I said it never hurts to ask... Other options is to ask Cava or ICI if they would do the same... both chefs have the pedigree to make it a success... Or try a newer spot Like Franks Kitchen and ask them to do a tasting or Boehmers..

              Lastely look at booking the Ritz table in the cheese vault, I have not heard if they do tastings but again never hurts to ask..

              I bet the price would be less then you think for a custom tasting...

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              Cava
              1560 Yonge St., Toronto, ON M4T 2S9, CA

              1. re: RogerDoger

                Ritz table in the cheese vault?!?!?! First let's get past the obvious cracker jokes and then ask how have I not heard of this? I'm shocked that they would seat a full table tasting menu in there being humidity and temperature controlled. Please elaborate

                And Charles, for my money I would either ask JP at ICI if he would do a tasting menu, or just go a la carte there. Seems much more interesting than the three staid options you suggested. If I had to pick I would go with Auberge tasting for the value. I was never impressed with Centro and I believe N44 is for expense accounts only. Great food buy waaay overpriced.

                1. re: downtownfoodie

                  Given up on Bistro Ici after trying three times to book a table there but without success!

                  1. re: Charles Yu

                    If you are willing to plan a couple of weeks ahead, you shouldn't have a problem getting a table. You may have to be flexible on what time you eat. It's worth planning ahead.

                    1. re: sloweater

                      last time I called for a Sat reso they didn't have anything before 9:30 for four weeks.

                    2. re: Charles Yu

                      I had no problem week in advance for mid week early seating.. One of my top meals this year.

                    3. re: downtownfoodie

                      Sorry I did not mean the whole meal but they do cheese tastings for guests in the cheese "cave"... http://www.traveltowellness.com/toron...

                      1. re: RogerDoger

                        That's WAAAY out-of-date.
                        They don't even have a cheeses 'menu' any more - you just have a choice of a set # of cheeses for the day.

                        1. re: estufarian

                          Umm, the article was from July 21st... 6 weeks is not "WAAAY out-of-date"... maybe there was a "recent" change...

                          1. re: RogerDoger

                            Then I can only assume that they have 're-introduced' this programme, which certainly was no longer in effect last time I visited - which I thought was early July, but could have been in June.

                  2. re: Charles Yu

                    A shame Blacktree's too far. I was going to suggest Haisai.

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                    Blacktree
                    3029 New St, Burlington, ON L7N, CA

                    1. re: Crispier Crouton

                      Thanks to all of you who suggested 'out-of-town' options. We don't mind driving all the way to Blacktree or Haisai for great food. However, its the return 'long' trip at night with all the alcohol in our system that worries us!!
                      With Auberge just a short drive from the other 'birthday boy''s home, most probably this will be our final choice. I understand Auberge has a new chef 'Marc St. Jacques' who was a graduate of the CIA and executive chef of the Michelin 1* Michael Mina at the LV Bellagio. With this credential, I think its worth a try. Besides, they are only one of a few restaurant in town that offers an 8 course tasting menu! For those fellow chowhounders who gave a thumbs down to Auberge. Were your comments based on the present chef or previous chef?!

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                      Blacktree
                      3029 New St, Burlington, ON L7N, CA

                      1. re: Charles Yu

                        I had the tasting menu for the first time at Auberge around 2 months ago and was not impressed. There was nothing on the menu that made you think, "Wow - that was amazing!" The service was less than stellar to boot. Methinks Auberge has been way too overhyped on Chowhound.

                        1. re: Charles Yu

                          Depending on how long ago you had David Lee at Splendido - remember that Victor Barry was the Chef de Cuisine under David. Also Splendido offers a tasting menu (once again).

                          My experiences at N44 and Auberge are all 'old' (reflecting my opinion of them). Have been to Centro this year and it was very good. Both service and food - but the bill was higher than Splendido!

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

                          Centro
                          2472 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4P 2F5, CA

                          1. re: Charles Yu

                            We had the tasting menu last October. Not sure who the chef was at the time. I really enjoyed pretty much every dish.

                            Here are the photos (minus one course I forgot to snap)
                            https://picasaweb.google.com/10745926...

                            1. re: Charles Yu

                              And I should add that service was impeccable.

                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                If you are considering out of town options, maybe you should make it a super luxurious
                                evening and get a driver or a limo..... LOL

                          2. Wow! Such diverging view points on Auberge and Centro! Guess this is a reflection of current Toronto's fine dining scene - ' Inconsistency'!! How I wish we have a NYC Eleven Madison Park or Daniel type calibre restaurants in town. No guess work or fingers crossed /hope for the best decision!!

                            -----
                            Centro
                            2472 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4P 2F5, CA

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Charles Yu

                              Just book Splendido and call it a day already. Its better now than it was before.

                              (coming from someone who dined/dines frequently during both iterations)

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

                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                I believe the sous-chef at Splendido comes from Daniel!

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

                                1. re: estufarian

                                  Interesting! May be we'll end up giving Carlo a call?!!

                                2. Why not try Hashimoto? I've heard all of the arguments against it and believe me, I understand better than most but with the lack of current fine dining options I'm almost tempted to do so myself out of sheer boredom.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                    I disagree, with $300 (+ tax and tip on top) a person, it does not worth it at all.

                                    1. re: skylineR33

                                      I know, I know, and this is the argument that I'm talking about against going to Hashimoto. I feel however that I've grown bored with basically every other place in the city that I'm almost willing to give him a chance out of sheer curiosity.

                                      Also, I'm gonna chill for a bit before I head over to Japan so maybe this lack of Kaiseki is getting to me. I know the lack of Sake is...

                                      1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                        True, but still .... it is too hard to imagine I am in Kyoto while I am at JCCC ...

                                      2. re: skylineR33

                                        @Skyline33: Hashimoto is worth $300 or it isn't worth $300??

                                      3. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                        My brother-in-law just left for an Asian business trip. During his three days stay in Tokyo, his business assiciates will be taking him to Sukiyabashi Jiro and Hamadaya for sushi and Kaiseki. Doubt after those Michelin 3* meals, he'll be in the mood for Hashimoto?!!

                                      4. Have decided on Splendido. Will be asking Victor/Carlo to add a couple more dishes to their regular tasting menu.

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

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Charles Yu

                                          They do a phenomenal job. Here's a recent visit where we picked dishes to share and they kitchen tossed out a couple extra dishes to make it a tasting menu like thing. http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlunar/s...

                                          That brown butter ice cream is deeeeeeeelicious.