Feasting Room - Four visits in a month
- estufarian Jul 5, 2012 09:20 AM
Can’t recall the last time that has happened – so I guess I like it.
The food is good (but not spectacular); the service is enthusiastic and competent; the ambience is – well let’s stay positive!
The format is ‘nose to tail’ (OK I know that’s hardly a novelty) but the idea here is to change the animal each week. So, cow, pig, rabbit and lamb have all featured (with duck and chicken upcoming). But the important thing is how well this is done within that format.
A new menu every week – and that doesn’t mean just change the protein and leave the rest of the dish as is – and even the ‘week’ is a misnomer as there are changes, potentially daily, as certain parts of the animal are not sufficient to prepare large numbers of servings (e.g. we missed lamb sweetbreads – used on a different night, but did receive the ‘fries’).
The supporting ingredients are all fresh (last week had a pea soup (more of a puree) served with crispy strips of pig ear – great texture and flavours). There are typically half a dozen different ‘cuts’ of the animal served – the menu is a graphic of the animal with the parts numbered according to the courses – but the details are ‘mostly’ a surprise until the dish is served. Portion sizes are small (course #5 typically is slightly larger and serves as almost a main course).
But overall it’s a sense of fun that dominates – clearly everybody involved is enjoying this venture which is relatively informal (albeit structured) and doesn’t pretend to be fine dining – although the chef (ex St Johns in London) is clearly both creative and accomplished.
Because of the format, I’m not going to describe all the dishes we had – you’ll get something different anyway, but just give a few examples – even the dessert ‘attempts’ to stay within the theme (some liberties might be taken).
The dessert for the rabbit evening was ‘Rabbit ‘n’ Waffles’ – a riff on the chicken dish, using rabbit ‘nuggets’ , indeed served with waffles and a sweet sauce.
During the lamb evening, one of the courses was a liver pate with a fava bean topping – and the accompanying (optional) wine was, of course, a nice chianti.
One of the pig courses was the spleen – this had been flattened, bacon strips laid on it and rolled, then sliced to give a pinwheel – accompanied by steamed fiddleheads – which, of course, have a similar shape and appearance. Incidentally, don’t be scared by the thought of unusual parts – they don’t dominate(although always appear) – at the same meal the pork belly was served ‘2 ways’ – one piece braised to a tenderness; the other roasted and the rendered fat captured on a thin bread layer (fried bread) to give a crispy version.
So four meals – 24 courses (plus amuses) – only two repetitions (how many ways are there to prepare potatoes and fava beans?) that I can recall – none in my top 10 meals, but every one fun and enjoyable.
Clearly this pop-up (6 month planned) doesn’t take itself too seriously. Price is $65 for the 6 small courses (and usually a couple of amuses e.g. pork crackling with apple dust and a dipping sauce). Wine pairings for $35 (typically 4 small pourings) – a small wine list available.
Also, as it takes place in a ‘night club’ – after 10:00 (Thur-Sat) the music starts up later in the evening (and the restaurant essentially closes). Closed Tue/Wed.
I went last week Friday, they were surprisingly not busy. It's like estufarian said, go for the food, not the ambiance, hell I would say not even the plating. IIRC Fergus Henderson doesn't think much of "artful plating" to begin with. Meal was excellent, creative, well executed, nothing was superfluous. Had a wonderful time talking with the staff there too. Can't wait to see them open their own, and I'm planning to go for pig week.
If you dine late, I hear Monday night is the best night since they have the venue all to themselves. Never hurt to call (I'm always looking for late night spots).
I was beginning to think that this thread had dropped into a black hole - so I actually made notes on last nights dinner - the final one for 'duck'.
Started with a couple of amuses:
Confit of duck neck with powdered foie gras and cherry sauce;
Soft-boiled duck egg with toast 'soldiers'.
Then on to the 6 courses - the menu had a picture of a duck with outlines of different parts, and the numbers 1-6 hand written on various parts (there are more than 6 potential options, so presumably some parts were served other nights)
Course 1 - Confit of duck gizzard salad with asparagus and mustard dressing
Course 2 - Pan seared duck hearts deglazed in sherry served on swiss chard and chopped sweated onions
Course 3 - 'Buffalo' style duck tongues with rainbow carrot sticks (and celery) with blue cheese dressing, served with duck fat fries (yes, indeed - a riff on chicken wings - and apparently the duck tongue version was 'new' just for Monday night - I'm guessing earler diners got 'duck wings').
Course 4 - Duck leg confit 'shawarma' with cridpy duck skin served shawarma style with all the accompaniments.
Course 5 - Sliced duck breast with blueberry blintz and sweet potato latke.
Course 6 - Bananas Foster with Foie Gras Ice Cream, served with seared foie gras and dulce de leche (and maybe the best dessert I've had in many a year!).
OK - you missed it - for me the most consistent meal yet (and all are 'small plates' - so easy to skip something you don't usually eat - just pass it on to me).
Coming up next Chicken (starting Thur) and then Lamb.
I was there this past Friday and had almost the exact same meal, except we did indeed get a wing instead of tongue and the amuse was a duck foot prepared the exact same way as the neck you got. I have to say that I was really not impressed, and neither were my friends. Every dish seemed to have something 'off' about it or else it simply just did not blow me away. For example the swiss chard in the heart dish completely dominated, likely because they chose to use a large number of stems (which have a very strong earthy flavour). The heart was all but lost in what was basically a dish of mediocre swiss chard. The blue cheese dip that came with the wing was incredibly overpowering, and we are all huge blue cheese fans. The shawarma bite was just ok, however more skin would probably have elevated the dish to 'good.' The duck breast with blueberry blintz was just kind of confusing - the blintz did not really marry well with the other elements, and our breast was unfortunately also quite dry. The foie gras ice cream was by far my favourite (even though I am not a dessert person). It was was really good, but could have done with a larger piece of foie gras and they really could have lost the bananas, which again overpowered the rest of the dish.
The portions were also incredibly small, so much so that we actually went out afterwards to eat! I usually scoff at people who make comments about small portion sizes, but this was honestly ridiculous. I was extremely glad that I had eaten a few hours prior to going because if I was starving I would have been very upset.
All in all I was really excited to give this place a try, but in the end I was disappointed. I would love to give it another chance because the concept really appeals to me, but for the money I just don't think it is worth it.
That’s too bad.
Different strokes I guess. But it does give me an opportunity to discuss, in more detail, the meal I had.
As far as quantity goes, I’d describe the dishes as tapas (in the Spanish sense (size only), rather than the ‘small plates’ that are often misnamed in Toronto). My rule of thumb for tapas is about 15 for two people (for ‘small plates’ it’s 6/7 for two). So 6 courses *2 plus 2 amuses is about 14 total – I’ve never left hungry (although, to be fair, I’ve never left stuffed either). But over the 5 visits there have only been 1 or 2 selections that I haven’t completely finished.
As far as the duck dinner was concerned, my reactions were obviously more favourable.
The powdered foie gras was a gimmick (which I enjoyed) and the cherry sauce was a little too sweet – but I ‘excused’ that as it was clearly a homage to the ‘duck in cherries’ dish that, at one time, was considered fine dining (I nearly put ‘tongue in cheek – but given the dishes that followed it could be misconstrued).
The soft-boiled duck egg was just fun – a throwback to a common childhood (at least mine) dish.
Both the amuses seemed deliberate ‘throwbacks’ – a huge trend in UK (in particular) right now, where both traditional and childhood dishes are all the rage. I was ‘truly amused’ (in all senses) by these starters.
The salad used seasonal ingredients (several microgreens). I loved the dressing although the plating was a bit sloppy – I got pieces of white asparagus while my companions got mainly green (one got both).
The duck hearts were actually ‘made’ by the onions (for me) which is why I specifically mentioned them. The sweetness of the onions moderated the bitterness of the chard, and the earthiness (for me) came from the hearts. I also loved the way the hearts had been sliced (in half), leaving a ‘traditional’ heart shape (perhaps my version had been sweetened by the addition of the onions, based on earlier feedback – I also have had some disappointing swiss chard in the past).
The Buffalo tongues dish worked for me on multiple levels – this was inspired. Clearly riffing on the wings dish, I could have taken it even hotter. But the strips of multi-coloured carrots and green celery was a beautiful presentation. And the traditional blue cheese dressing was certainly not overpowering (again, possibly because it had been toned down after not working for previous customers). I was also surprised to discover the texture of the tongues worked perfectly – I hadn’t known of the cartilage in the duck tongue. And overriding all this was the reference to ‘Buffalo Tongue’ which is one of the best dishes I’ve EVER eaten – while the outcome was tragic, and I certainly don’t endorse it, the reality was that early North American hunters often used to kill the buffalo and only eat the tongue – which was considered the tastiest part. Or maybe I just have a heightened imagination! Plus fries made in duck fat!!!
I loved the textures in the shawarma – maybe I got more skin than you (although the sauce was a little bland). Also loved the sprinkled fleur-de-sel that lifted several bites.
I agree that the duck breast dish didn’t quite work (at least for me) – but I was full of admiration for the effort.
Serving duck with fruit is very traditional and the use of a blintz was (again) probably inspired by childhood (maybe continuing into adulthood). Blueberry blintzes (under many names) are traditional throughout eastern Europe – and most prominently among the Jewish population in North America. So by serving the blueberry ‘blintz style’ and then adding a latke (also switched up by using sweet potato – note the repetition of the word sweet) was an inspired re-creation for me. Personally I found this dish needed a ‘sour component’ – the blueberries were just too sweet. But even though not my favourite ‘taste’ – I give full marks for imagination on this presentation. The duck breast I found perfectly tasty but visually unexciting (but not dried out) – I’m guessing yours sat a bit too long at the pass.
Not sure what more I can say about the dessert. Maybe it needed some d’Yquem to accompany it! I did get to discuss this with the chef and it evolved from a brainstorming session. He also said it was a hugely costly dish to make (they used a whole lobe of foie gras just for the icecream). Certainly (again) it might have been ‘lifted’ with some acidity (maybe lime foster?). But it was just so good that I won’t make any complaints here (in the hope that he’ll make it again!).
I thought that, for $65 this was a bargain for the quality of ingredients and the imagination of the whole meal. Of course I’d have liked more foie gras (who wouldn’t) – but I’ve had too many ‘bargain priced’ meals where the plates are padded out with huge quantities of cereal (mainly) and I’d rather have small quantities of fresh ingredients – although if it’s badly prepared or cooked then I don’t want it at all.
here's a drive-by report...
i went to the saturday duck dinner and was very happy with the experience overall that i'm planning another visit, just have to decide what animal i am going to eat. my main issue is that... i scarfed down a brisket sandwich and fries at TTS nearly right afterwards. i think that the next time i'm going to mention that to them and see if they can help me out a little. (btw, i left NOTHING on the plates... peeled my egg to dip more and eat the whites, swiped every sauce off the plate)
overall the place is fun! riffs were playful and i like that and can appreciate what they're trying to do. mind blowing no, happy to do it again, yup.
- egg should have been cooked less for more yolk dipping
- foie gras powder was heavy on the tapioca starch, barely tasted the foie
- duck wings were over confited/braised so they were just too soft, almost mushy
- shawarma was bland and meat again over cooked
- damn, that salad! I could have used less roasted garlic or had it more integrated into the dish as a whole but i would essentially change nothing about it
- hearts and duck breast were perfectly cooked for the texture of my liking
- the duck fat fries reminded me of why i like duck fat frying (the fries at wvurst must be cut with some other fat because they're nothing like this)
- the dessert was pretty wicked
Clearly my appetite is sated more easily than some contemporaries.
Overall, my original comment was "fun and enjoyable" with food "good but not spectacular". If I now add, 'some people may find the portions less than generous' - I think this still stands as an accurate assessment.
I'm looking forward to chicken - rarely have I said this before (except in a few third world countries where free-range chickens are the norm).
I love chard, and all kinds of greens, so I had no problem with chard being the dominant flavor. I found everything to be well balanced and well executed. Maybe I would've preferred the mustard dressing to have a bit more heat, or the overall meal to be more "offal-centric", or the dessert was 3 times the size.
I did go for noodles in Chinatown afterwards, not because I was hungry, but I was craving noodles. It's always a "treat" for me to leave a restaurant not full, give me an excuse to have another meal.
Look at it this way, most of the dishes described are more "playful" and "tongue in cheek", perhaps we can fault them for prioritizing "playfulness" over flavor, or how "playfulness" seems to precede flavor in their conceptualization of dishes. I'm not saying they did that, but I don't think it was meant to be a gastronomic experience as opposed to a fun night out. And yes, sometimes those two oppose each other.
Still going to pig week.
please report back on chicken! i'm curious more than anything.
so far the best restaurant chicken experience i've had so far was today in mtl at 400 coups with a sous vide guinea fowl. perhaps the chicken itself could have been more chickeny but the texture and treatment was phenomenal and overall that is my concern with the feasting room. i can accept and enjoy playfulness but i at least want properly cooked meat. enough of my duck was verging on mushy to be of concern.
By request – the chicken menu.
Incidentally went with friends and everyone was fully sated – guess our appetites are declining (in size anyway).
- Confit of gizzard, breaded and fried, seved with a roasted aioli
- Chicken foot, braised in vinegar, sugar and chili
Then the 6 courses
Country chicken parfait (not smooth and velvety, more texture) served with pickled fiddleheads & carrot
‘Wings & Potato’ – the chicken wing had been deboned and stuffed with minced chicken thigh – served with a port/madeira reduction. The potato part WASN’T Fries – instead a cool Vichysoisse (much more appropriate for a hot summer evening).
Chicken Pot Pie (thigh, carrots (multicoloured & diced), peas – the surprise here was that Chinese ‘Blue’ Chicken was used
‘Chicken In A Basket’ – Fried chicken in a buttermilk batter, gravy and a SUPERB biscuit (I know biscuits aren’t an animal – but if they ever do a ‘biscuit’ evening, I’m there!).
Leek stuffed with chicken breast mousse and wrapped in caul fat (sort of a sausage) with tomato concasse
Bread pudding with blueberries and cinnamon (and egg) topped with crispy chicken skin (bacon?) both regular and blue skins.
I must admit I was probably less excited by the prospect of chicken than all the previous meals – but again this easily exceeded my expectations. More evidence of creativity – and they even avoided the ‘chicken ‘n waffles ‘ that I had anticipated (already did this as part of the rabbit menu). But great fun as always.
Next up lamb (already done once, so I’m interested to see whether it’s completely new or a rehash), then a week off as they're 'on assignment' at the beer festival.
I am visiting Toronto in a few weeks and checked the Web site to find out what would be on the menu for when I will be there. I was initially disappointed to find it was pig. Of course, I am a fan of pig in all of its forms ("That wonderful, magical animal" as Homer Simpson called it), but I was hoping for something more unusual.
This post gave me hope that I would indeed find interesting dishes made with pork. I am looking forward to it.
I went to the goose feast last night. Really liked the food, and loved the whole concept. We enjoyed it enough that we've made a few more reservations.
It sounds like they are going to move more into game meats over the next couple months. We were told they are hoping to do wild boar and buffalo in the near future.
I'm really hoping that the final feast in November turns out to be something really wild.
Really enjoyed duck on Friday night - such a shame it was so empty! The staff was so enthusiastic and the cooking so fun and imaginitive, I wish they were more popular.
Amuses of deep-fried gizzard and maple glazed foot were tasty though I don't think I'd repeat the experince of sucking on a duck toe. For me the star of the evening was a raviolo containgin confit leg and shallot, and served in a pool of duck essence - a deeply savoury and intense broth. Then hearts with celeraic puree and roasted cauliflower, the buffalo tongues, a confit leg, some breast which I thought could have done with slightly crisper skin. Dessert was a duck egg meringue with pan-fried liver, and a liver custard served in an egg shell. I couldn't stomach the custard at all, but the other two loved it.
The wine (and beer) pairing was successful and surprsing in places - wouldn't have expected a rose with the ravioli but it worked well. I agree with estuafarian about the plating: I got lots of bacon in one dish and the other two got none, so I had to share it around! But a minor slip, and I'll definitely be going back for pig week and when game season starts. They weren't able to tell me much about the game other than that there would be venison, and probably not bear...