Bohmer- A remarkable experience
93 Ossington Ave
The room is WOW! The set up is great- a hostess, a manager, lots of waitstaff, five people in white in the open kitchen.
Now the food.
The menu stretches pocketbooks but few palates. E.g ,mains- Pasta with sausage $18, , trout $28, salmon $28, chicken fricasse $28. veal chop, $39, rack of lamb $34, strriploin (10 oz), $37.
1. House baked bread and butter $3
2.. Harvest Platter. Bits and pieces. I had three of nine choices for $14- (a) 10 year old cheddar,(b) Pickled beets, artichoke and gherkins, (c) Warm olives with rosemary. Served with fruit and nut crostinis
3. Pan roasted rainbow trout ,peaches and cream corn, confit garlic, olives, beurre blanc. $28
4.Coconut panna cotta $10.
1. The bread was touted as sourdough. Yippee shit. It had been badly handled and was sodden. Not particularly tasty. They would have done better by buying from Caldense around the corner.
The butter was a nothing - just lubricant and calories. Not enough for the amount of bread, but that was OK.
2.Harvest Platter. The olives (black) weren't much notwithstanding the promise. At least they weren't out of a can. But there was a problem. There were two kinds and they look alike unless you are paying attention. Fortunately I started with the ones with a pit, which I looked for. But the the others had no pit. If I would have gone the other way I would have risked breaking a tooth.
The pickling was interesting and good and appropriate for a restaurant at this level. The best thing for the night.
Now the cheese. I got two triangles of cheddar, each about 125% the size of what you get in a plastic pack on an airplane. I have a bit of experience with cheddar cheese. I live(d) in New Zealand. Until relatively recently, cheddar was almost all that NZ made. It is as ordinary an item as potatoes ( which incidentally are almost all sold as named varieties), it is excellent and cheap. The cheese served cold and so salty that a Russian salt addict would have liked it. It was soft (high moisture content=cheaper).
The addition of salt is part of the cheddar making process, but what I got was good as a beer snack. As for the softness, it was like no cheddar that I ever have had, of all ages, and I have had lots both in NZ and the US, and aging (10years old!) makes cheddar dryer.
I sent the cheese back, telling the waitress that for $14 the cheese should not be from the fridge and salty. She brought a little dish with more cheddar, I declined, saying sorry, too much salt. After a while some different cheese was brought, with was just as soft but OK good. Nothing special.
The fruit and nut crostini sounded good on the menu and looked good on the plate, but "crostinizing" turned them into a disappointing nothing. I didn't feel like telling , myself that I was wearing clothes.
There were enough olives and pickling for two, but not enough cheese. To make the plate as a (smaller) starter for two (and I did go at the bread) one would need to order two more items. Five items for $24, which would be OK if all the items showed the talent of the pickling. But basically almost all the items were brought in and $24 is a lot for some assembled bits.
2. The trout. The fish was a fillet, and sat on a mound of chopped corn kernels. a bit of rapini, a couple of nondescript black olives, three small cloves of garlic that still had a sharpness. The fish was nicely cooked and the whole dish was a quite alright dish. What one should expect from a competent kitchen serving a diverse clientele, but for $28n a restaurant that sees its self as special everything should sing and in harmony. Incidentally, rainbow trout is $4.00 a lb wholesale , cleaned and scaled, and $4 gives you two fillets each larger than the one that I got. Rapini and corn were in season and cheap. You get to raise the price if you call yourself a locavore.
I didn't want to question the fish type with either the waitress or the manager (see infra). I wondered if the fish was rainbow trout. The colour of the flesh varies with what the fish has eaten, but this flesh was brownish -grey and had no tinge of orange- red, which colour is characteristic of rainbow trout. At least in my experience. The shape was unusual also. The first piece, the front was quite thick, the second piece, the tail, was thin. For a moment I thought whether the middle was missing, but I didn't bother looking closely. There was a tinge of a muddy taste in part which can be trout like.
I let this one pass; I had already made trouble , the palte was alright and what do I know anyway.
3. The coconut panna cotta with tropical fruit gelee and guava sauce. This sounded flamboyantly fruity and delicious.
The panna cotta came from a mould and had the texture of hard Jello. The taste was faintly milky and faintly coconut with atiny bit of coconut texture. A nothing. On top - the tropical fruit gelee- was I think some guava paste from a big container which I get at from a Latino store for $1.99. On top of this was some red stuff (more gelee!) which had no pleasing characteristic and which I couldn't identify. The plate was drizzled with some fruit syrup, which was the best part of the dessert.
I peeled off the topping and ate it. I left half the panna cotta. The waitress came and asked if I liked the dessert . I answered no, its texture was close to being rubbery. It was taken away.
Now I am not big on desserts and don't have them often. I know little about their making. But the times that I have had panna cotta previously the custard was sensualy smooth and delicious. But these were in really good places. To b ethat good , I thought that panna cotta was made in a bain marie and requries great skill to get the consistency right. I asked the Ms., who could be pastry and dessert chef in the best kitchen in any town in which she has lived. No, she answered, panna cotta is a made in a single pot on the stovetop with gelatin and is very easy. You need to get the recipe and ingredients right. Glorified Jello (?) at $10 better be good and this one wasn't.
So far the meal was unremarkable for Toronto- pretentious, overpriced and flawed.
Now the remarkable part of the evening.
Then the manager came over. He introduced himself as Derek, said that he was the manager , and sat himself down across from me.
He said that I had been harassing the waitresses. I answered no, I had not accosted them, nor volunteered. They had asked me and I had told them. There was a lengthy conversation of which he was in charge. Inter alia, he questioned me, asked me where I was from , whether I was a chef. I tried to make nice in order to end it without adding to the agitation. He did not back down, although he did say at the end that the cheese had been served cold the first time. I remember answering to make nice, ah! that's why the salt taste had been pushed.
We moved onto the panna cotta. I repeated that it was rubbery, he suggested too much gelatin. I came out that I didn't understand how it was made.
He also asked me how I liked the fish plate . I answered , it was quite alright, His retort was, "alright" , is that it?" I answered that it was alright, what else is there to say?
I subsequently sent him an email asking about the so called rainbow trout. I didn't get a reply.
$55 for the food, pre- everything. Conclusion? Res ipsa loquitur.
Your title says "remarkable" experience. I was excepting great praise for this spot but I am kind of confused by your post. Overall was the trout dish enough to recommend it? If not, why isn't your title "mediocre" experience or something else. I was thinking to myself "oh, I should have bought one of those vouchers for this place" until I read what you posted :)
re: Vinnie Vidimangi
I am curious, did you happen to be using a voucher? I wonder if the attitude you got back was based on the previous experience they had had with voucher holders.
I would still suggest a change of topic because someone who just sees "remarkable" may associate it with a not to be missed restaurant and not actually click to read through.
Funny, I always expected classic vvm, the ironic twist of the knife.
vvm, they probably thought you were harassing the servers because your responses no doubt put them on edge. One should never ask a question if they don't sincerely want the answer. You'll never hear a great performer ask how the show was.
yslf. What's a guy like me doing in a nice place like this? Yes I had a voucher, but neither the waitresses nor the manager knew it until I paid.
I don't make a problem at a restaurant when I don't like the food unless the error is egregious and indisputable, and I am offended by the sham, and a large part of the sham is a high price. I had it all here with the "Harvest Platter at $14 coupled with the $3 sourdough bread and butter. And I complained notwithstanding that I am even more restrained when I have a coupon because I feel that I am more a guest than a customer.
And yes, on a coupon I always tip nicely as if I didn't have a coupon, even here. It's not the workers' fault.
foodyDudey. I went to a Jesuit university and took Latin from the fathers.
iMarilyn. I went to Bohmer rather my regular places where I know that I will get a good meal because once in a while I to try to move up the feeding chain. The triumph of hope over experience. But with enough of a concession to Toronto reality to do it on a coupon, and the newspaper reviews looked OK, not that I rely on them.
My meal began at $55 menu price for food and ended up costing net $42.50 plus parking . It was worth $25 max. menu price if I didn't have to pay for the pomp and circumstance. And at $25 I am entitled to this meal without the flaws that I mentioned and which could have been eliminated without difficulty nor expense in a competent kitchen not distracted by its self image. It takes just talent, a higher standard and caring.
I should have gone to one of my regulars. Better food and for less. Plus free parking.
By far my favourite post of the year.
you, sir, should eat out and post more often.
you're pretty much bang on with your post. I had a better experience than you did, but wasn't wiping my pleasures from my trousers after my meal like so many of Toronto's press folks were.
So the restaurant serves a cheese that is made and sold by cheese professionals across Ontario / Canada... and maybe the world and because you have lived the the Cheese meca of New Zealand you are qualified to say that it was not made correctly? And somehow that becomes the restaurants fault?
RogerDoger. New Zealand has four million people and five milion milking cows. It is the second largest exporter of cheese in the world and half of the exports is cheddar. There are now small producers making different cheeses.
Salt is integral in the cheddar making process, but there was too much of it . It was as if in preparation from a recipe someone had subsituted salt for sugar. I am sure that someone out there likes food this way, but most people, regardles of the degree of refinement of their palate, would say that the cook had made a mistake. Being a cheese artisan doesn't mean that you turn out a consistently good product. I am not obliged to pay to bask in the artisanship.
Charles Yu. The fish was not tilipia. Tilipia look like a plate on its side, stretched and pinched. The fish served had looked like a tube. However the front end fillet was disproportionately thick (to the whole fish, particulalrly the front portion of the fillet. And it was thick with respect to the small distance from the top to the bottom (dorsal to ventral? ). The second fillet was thin and there was not much of a transition. I concluded that there wasn't a missing section . I had thoughts of Pamela Lee.
Every rainbow trout that I have seen was like a long, thin, steamlined rectangle. And with a different colour and different taste because of the colour. Texture can vary with cooking so I didn't want to conclude anything based on texture. But there is this criterion to consider.
Prima. The cooking was not a con. It was not contrived and silly as it is in some establishments in Toronto. The goal was to be sound, conventional and without adventures. That's fine. But just as schools are a reflection of their society, Bohmer's cooking standard and the whole get up are reflections of Toronto dining culture. No surprises here. It was the manager that was remarkable.
re: Vinnie Vidimangi
VVM. If the cooking was not a con, was it solely the pricing that was a sham?