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Black Hoof..what happened??

Just came back from dinner at the Black Hoof. Black Hoof was always one of our fav. We've been there 4 or 5 times in the past, but not in the last year. But unfortunately, today's meal was a mess. We had the charcuterie board as usual, and it was good. Everything else was downhill from there. here's what we had.

Liver and Onion: Given the name, I thought it was grilled liver, but it was actually a duck pate when it arrived. Oh well. It had lots of flavour, but was really really salty. And it didn't come with any bread, as you would expect.

Tendon and Grit. This was a big disappointment. Four small bite size tendon deep fried croquet style. The tendon was cooked to almost liquid. Grilled rapini and lots of hot sauce on top. The tendon really had no flavour or texture. All we can taste was the hot sauce. Again, too salty and not a good value at $16.

Duck and black bean. This was the dish that crossed the line. For $19, one duck leg with Chinese black bean sauce and pickled cabbage. The combination did not work at all. And way over salty, as you would expect with a thick black bean sauce.

I wonder if anyone had a better experience lately. For us, we don't think we will return to the Hoof again. We could not stop drinking water after the meal from all the salt.

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  1. I haven't gone since Grant left, I feared a place where the current owner walked away from a hugely successful brunch place, then stopped a 2nd idea of a multi-course fine dinning restaurant.... only to focus on a cocktail bar... the food would go downhill at the original restaurant.

    Not to mention other key hoof people have left on to start some good food ventures.

    1. I've eaten there a fair bit since Grant left and it's been as good or better, than ever. Hopefully just an off night?

      1. I had a ridiculously good spicy horse tartare there a couple months ago. One of the best dishes of 2011 for me.

        Probably just an off night.

        1. We were there a week ago.

          Before we order, we always ask about the dishes. Its obvious to us that "liver and onion" can mean many things. At the Hoof, you never assume. Three words on a menu board don't give you the dish's intricacies. I ask about everything new on the menu so I can enjoy the chef's creativeness. So we were pleasantly surprised to find out it was a duck liver pate instead of the traditional grilled ________ liver and onions (insert animal here)

          We ordered: liver and onions, tendon and grits, raw horse tartare, pork tacos.

          It was all excellent. they suggested we order bread with out liver and onions (sucks you have to pay for bread for a dish where you need bread, but whatever). it was beautifully executed. the horse was the best out of all of them. the smatterings of nduyia mixed in with the tartare gave it such an amazing taste.

          my wife loves the tacos. i think they're good but its the least exciting and imaginative dish that the Hoof has. but they're very good tacos.

          the tendon and grits was the most creative out of the dishes we ordered. my wife found the texture to be undesireable. I really liked this dish. my other tendon experiences were gross (once at dim sum, where it was like eating a dog's snack and the other was a stringy mass put inside pho) but this was like eating a cheese-filled croquette. my only complaint (and I told Jenn) was that it could have used more hot sauce. I used the salsa from the tacos to put on the croquettes and it tasted excellent. A melted buttery hot mess!

          The only area where the Hoof's changed since Grant left is with its charcuterie. There's less focus on the board and over the past year, I found that the board's creativity has dropped slightly. Eh, no loss. the mains have certainly kicked it up a few notches and we never leave disappointed.

          Truth be told: even though Grant was the man behind the food's vision, things haven't really missed a beat since he left.

          13 Replies
          1. re: atomeyes

            I agree entirely.
            The charcuterie board was exciting when first introduced - but around my third visit I was tired of it.
            And, of course, those bemoaning Grant's departure and not having been since don't have a credible opinion anyway - especially as he was hardly seen there for 6 months before departing.
            Bread has ALWAYS been extra charge - nothing has changed. Except perhaps the server didn't ask you - last time I was there I declined - then realized it was essential for the liver and onion dish and just ordered it.

            And my recent favourite has been the blood custard.

            1. re: estufarian

              I always felt the charcuterie board was rather average there, the strong points were definitely the creativity in the small plates.

              The taco while good, is better @ Grand Electric. Colin was the creative force for tacos on the Hoof menu when he was running the show. I rather have them there.

              desserts have stepped up its game, way up.

              but man, that horse tartare.........

              1. re: aser

                I'm in two minds on that tartare.
                I LOVED the spicing - just perfect!
                But the horse (for me) didn't have that much flavour - texture and consistency were both good - but lacking in actual FLAVOUR. Horse is so lean it needs a little more fat (IMO) to punch up the taste. Also (and probably highly correlated) it was served a bit too cold - but that's probably a health requirement - or maybe I was just unlucky (I arrived at 6:00 and it could have been straight out of the fridge).

                1. re: estufarian

                  That's a good point. It's amazing how much a difference of a couple of degrees in either direction makes with a tartare in regards to flavour.

            2. re: atomeyes

              Yes, the charc board hasn't been anything I get for years now (unless I'm taking someone new) and their dishes have always been of more interest to me. They've been going strong without Grant (who did indeed leave long before officially doing so).

              That horse tartare sounds good! And better desserts now too!? Time to go back. Soon!

              1. re: jlunar

                I'm on the haven't noticed a difference in quality camp. Each time I've been over the years it has been a success. In fact, despite the adventurous dishes they attempt I've never had one that was complete failure. Some were better than others but never a disaster.

                1. re: jamesm

                  Those who haven't been getting the charcuterie board won't then have noticed how much it's changed, for my taste for the worse. Under Grant there was a flavour progression along the board and a degree of uniqueness in at least some of the items and a nod to the supposed Spanish inspiration for the name of the place. The last "cured meat" board I had there could have come straight from a deli counter in Kensington or on Roncy, and the pickled veg on the side tasted like soap.

                  Everything else thought was still very good.

                  As for a complete failure, I recall an octopus dish from Grant that was a tasteless mushy mess but that was a rarity.

                  1. re: jamesm

                    Personally I think the blood custard is a fail. I guess that's just me though because everyone else seems to love it.

                    1. re: haggisdragon

                      Badly wanted to try the custard!

                      I think Grant did great things for the food scene in TO, but I went a couple times when they first opened and was disappointed with some dishes.

                      I've been back several times since Brandon became the head chef, and i love it now. To me it went from over-rated experiments (for certain dishes) to delicious love! There are still some dishes that aren't my favourite, but its because they push out a lot of really damn creative and wonderful ones.

                      1. re: jayseeca

                        I was actually waiting for someone to say exactly what you just said, to get me to give BH another try.

                        Personally I have been twice, both in the "Grant days" and my dishes varied from "okay to good". Never once really truly blown away. It is a place I wanted to like alot more, because people whose opinions I really respect absolutely love this place.

                        Since my time in Toronto is usually limited to 1 or 2 dinners per visit, I typically try new places (Marben last vist, which was amazing) and return to favorites (Beast, Nota Bene) Hearing that someone is more impressed with the food under the new Chef would nudge me to give it another try.

                        Just to chime in on the one dish that I found really terrible though, was a Sweetbread dish I had my first visit. It tasted like Oily, badly fried Chicken and I typically love Sweetbreads.

                        1. re: Matt H

                          Exactly. The sweetbreads tasted like fried chicken, and my brain ravioli was lacking brain. I can't remember what else we had back in the day, but those stood out as disappointments.

                          Also make sure to save room for dessert! The past few times they've served up refreshing, light desserts which were a great finish.

                          1. re: jayseeca

                            plus the service is now bang on. they know their stuff, they're efficient, they clean up crumbs, replace cutlery.

                  2. re: jlunar

                    I still like the charc. It may not be super exciting but its still very very good.

                2. Having heard raves from several friends who've been there, I finally got to try Black Hoof recently: my partner was willing to take me anywhere for my birthday, and this is what I chose. It was not an unqualified success.
                  The good:
                  -Loved LOVED the bone marrow. The little toasts, the Maldon salt, the chimichurra- all divine.
                  -Liked the tongue on brioche, though the meat lacked the robust flavour I was expecting. Still very tasty.
                  -Liked the service: discreetly sweeping crumbs, replacing cutlery, server was friendly and knew his stuff. Also- having heard Jenn was not the most friendly with customers, was pleasantly surprised that she responded sweetly and efficiently to a minor complaint.
                  -Only one dessert offered, but it was imaginative and extremely tasty. Loved it.
                  The not so good:
                  -if I am spending $18 on a cheese plate (featuring tasty but TINY portions of cheese) that comes with spreadable accompaniments... why am I expected to spend extra on bread? Could a few crackers not be part of it? Strikes me as extremely mingy.
                  -Bone Marrow listed as "MP" (Market Price) on the chalkboard. It's a CHALKBOARD. Would it be too much to ask that they actually write in the figure every day, or is it the yacht of charcuterie: if you have to ask, you can't afford it?
                  -Cocktail: not as delicious as expected, really, and not for that price. My partner loved the beer list, however.
                  -The place appeared to be a bit overstaffed for such a small room: there seemed to be four guys in that tiny kitchen, in addition to the dishwashing boy, plus two bartenders and two or three servers.
                  -Partner's comment: "Sorry, but if I'm spending a hundred on dinner, I want cloth napkins, not paper!"
                  Final result: partner glad to make me happy, but after spending what I assume to be the aforementioned hundred bucks for three plates plus olives, bread, a dessert and a couple of drinks.. one of us was full, and the other was not. So from there we went up the street to Sneaky Dee's

                  for a cheeseburger. I wish I was kidding.

                  Edited to add: partner read this review over my shoulder, and commented, "I didn't want to tell you how much it cost, but honey, it was enough over a hundred bucks that saying it was that much would be misleading." Yikes.

                  -----
                  The Black Hoof
                  928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: SpiceMustFlow

                    Went there two weeks ago by myself and i had six dishes. I think the pace is better than ever, still miss having brunch three though (the bone marrow beignets!).

                    And most regulars would know that the space the cannot accommodate a grill in the first place, so i don't see how you can expect the livers to be grilled.

                    I agree with the above comments on the sweetbreads though, it's the same problem i found at Beast. They just aren't the same when deep fried as opposed to seared with clarified butter.

                    1. re: Inkou

                      They may not have a grill, but I think they do have frying pans, as "most regulars would know". Man..tough crowd here.

                      It was our fault for not asking, I'm not blaming the restaurant for that at all. If I wasn't clear in my post, it was the over kill in salts, the questionable value, and the awkward (to me) combinations that put me off.

                      It does sound like many folks continue to enjoy the restaurant and find them decent value though.

                    2. re: SpiceMustFlow

                      weird. I never complain about the prices. We always leave so stuffed. We always have 1-2 cocktails each and i think our bill's just over $100 incl tip.

                      meanwhile, you have Acadia, where I left hungry and unsatisfied and it was well over $100.

                      The Hoof's a great "deal" for what it is. Find me another resto in Canada that's serving innovative offal dishes at that price.

                      1. re: atomeyes

                        I do think its overpriced for what they are serving but they are packed so they can charge what they want. I don't really understand why they have to write market price on bone marrow bones? That doesn't make much sense to me. I buy a whole fresh beef leg bone (about 4 black hoof sevings) for $1 at a butcher.

                        Was just there, the horse tartar was good but was very oversalted. Plus I am a smoker so usually I like things saltier than others, but this was obviously way oversalted.

                        First time having the tongue and it was tasty but not amazing IMO. I would order again if I felt like a sandwich and it was $11

                        1. re: szw

                          well, everyone's entitled to an opinion. i see what you're saying about the price for bones. i have noticed that the size of the bone varies on each visit. i assume that its not overly easy to get bones.

                          disagree on the tartare, unless you had a bad batch. perhaps the n'duyia salami they put on that dish has the salt blast you didn't dig. while i'm not saying that i'm THE tartare expert, i can safely say that the Hoof's horse tartare is one of the best i've had (the honour still goes to Au Pied du Cochon's amazingly executed tartare).

                          pricewise, you're also paying for the creativity and thought that goes into the menu. like, deep frying tendon to make it like a cheese crouquette? brilliant!

                          1. re: atomeyes

                            yes maybe it was just my order that was oversalted. i still think it is a fantastic dish. I think my salt blast came from the potatoes. I found the best perfect bites had less potatoes and a good proportion of the hollandaise.

                          2. re: szw

                            Have any of you checked the price for offal recently? Bone marrow bones are $2 for a big bag at Ellas. Tongues, eyes, prairie oysters etc are really cheap. Anyone working in a restaurant who mentions "market price" for these items needs their head checked, or a kick in the oysters.