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For a food group in Toronto: The Grove, Farmhouse Tavern, Keriwa Cafe, or ?

Want to make a reservation for a large group (8 to 14 people) at a casual but amazing food destination in Toronto, well after Christmas. Adventurous eaters, one vegetarian, and Omnivore's Dilemma devotees. Does not have to be a private room, just a place that takes large reservations and serves fabulous tasty memorable food. We have just been to The Harbord Room but are also open to places like the Queen and Beaver.

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  1. Maybe something like Edulis, Yours Truly, etc.?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Food Tourist

      We went to Edulis last night and had a lovely meal. It is very small though, but if you planned far in advance you should be okay.

      1. re: hungryabbey

        Edulis can't take our size group in general. Over 18 people, they have a private upstairs room. Under 8 seems to be their general preference.

    2. Momofuku Daisho is made for big groups.

      5 Replies
      1. re: childofthestorm

        Do they have something for the vegetarian

        1. re: dubchild

          Yup a few things, and will accommodate pretty well with advance notice too

        2. re: childofthestorm

          The online booking seems full very far in advance. Are the $$$ large format meat meals really worth the high cost?

          1. re: Food Tourist

            Daisho's full, really? I've never had trouble getting a table, and the other week I had a table of 8. I have noticed though they that seem to cap tables at 10 people, so if you more than that should probably look elsewhere. I've had great experiences as a group at Enoteca Sociale's wine cellar, and also at Guu provided you're willing to eat around 9 and give them plenty of time to move things around for you. I just had dinner for 13 at Guu and it was a riot.

            Daisho large formats...I've only had the Bo Ssam and the fried chicken. I love them both, but the Bo Ssam is really something else, we were 8 people and we couldn't finish it. Everyone was losing their minds. It's a rewarding group experience for sure. $240 divided by 8 is $30 a head, seems fair to me. But careful with the cocktails, those ain't cheap, I dropped close to $1000 on that dinner mainly because everyone was hammering the cocktails (with good reason, they're delicious).

            1. re: childofthestorm

              Daisho only has 2 person reservations between now and 59 days from now, in general. Maybe it's a different story if you book through a live host/hostess.

              Enoteca Sociale - good reminder. Thanks.

        3. Have you eaten at Ursa? I think it's a good pick for your group.

          4 Replies
          1. re: katyenka

            what about woodlot? they have a great vegetarian menu.

            1. re: todc1996

              I think ursa and woodlot would be great. both very vegetarian friendly although wodlot is easier to approach and larger portions. Daisho must have vegetarian options although I'm not fond of their food. Yours truly would be difficult because the meal is more of a commitment although I've heard they are great with vegetarians

            2. re: katyenka

              I have been twice to Ursa (once for dinner, once for a drink) and it seems casual enough with healthy interesting food. I've only been once to Woodlot (at the communal high-top table) and loved the smoky aromas. Would a group at Woodlot be relegated to the high top?
              Daisho is a good suggestion, too. I've never been to Yours Truly.

              A place where they don't rush you out after a 2-hour seating time would be ideal. And mains under $25 would be best.

              1. re: Food Tourist

                Ursa will only do a very limited prix fixe set menu $65 plus tax, for larger groups on weekends. On some weeknights this may not apply.

            3. Can anyone speak to Farmhouse Tavern? I am going on Saturday and would love some advice re: menu choices.

              www.abbeyskitchen.com

              6 Replies
              1. re: hungryabbey

                How was it, Abbey?

                We booked Farmhouse for the 14 person dinner next month. They said if 12 people or less, then we get the back private room. More than 12, we get the church pew.

                1. re: Food Tourist

                  Havent been yet! Im going on saturday- I will report back. :)
                  Has anyone else been lately for dinner who can comment on hits and misses?

                  1. re: hungryabbey

                    I had really delicious gnocci with beautiful, mild, heirloom radishes two weeks ago at Farmhouse. They were housemade as I believe everything there is. We found the menu somewhat limited but we each found a suitable dish. My brunch a couple of months ago was just ok. Plan to try the burger one day. It wasn't on our dinner menu.

                    1. re: hungryabbey

                      So four of us went on Saturday for dinner.
                      A look around the room, and I felt like I was visiting a flea market with my grandma out in cottage country. For example, old stove broke up the sides of the dining room, and served as a station for storing napkins, cutlery and water. Food was served on platters similar to those my grandmother had in her hutch, while water and cocktails were served in quirky mis-matched glassware. Every piece had its own unique story that evoked my own memories of childhood and family.
                      Service was incredibly friendly, patient and knowledgeable. Our server was friendly enough to play along with our cheeky jokes, all with a smile and a follow-up remark. I always appreciate it when the server can remain professional, while having a little fun with us.
                      Consistent with the restaurants' local theme, all of the beverage offerings are sourced from Ontario. This is totally fine by me (I am a huge supporter of local wineries), but for some palates, the Niagara region might not cut it. For those less enthused by local wine or brews, cocktails are the way to go. The menu was tiny with only three "house" cocktails described to us, but the bar could accommodate requests. Over the night we had a few classic Old Fashions, an "Apple Spritz", the "Maple Sour", a glass of Ontario Merlot and a full round of Ice wine. The apple spritz was light, but not overly sweet and the old Fashions were prepared simply and to my dining companions' taste. The maple sour was delicious and way too easy to drink- it had a nice balance of sweet, sour, and almost creamy consistency from the frothy egg white on top. I can't honestly say I detected any maple, but the drink was balanced and satisfying nonetheless. Our only issue was with the glass of Shiraz my girlfriend originally received, which had an obvious acidic, off- aroma. Our server very professionally replaced it for a Merlot, which was much more palatable.
                      Like the cocktails, the food offerings were limited and were displayed on a large chalkboard on the wall marked up as dishes sold out. With so few dishes to choose from in the first place, I do tend to get annoyed with dishes selling out when reservations are set ahead of time and the chef knows how many heads in the house. To be honest, I don't know the best way for restauranteurs to deal with this without being wasteful, but it's just something to consider for diners who may be already limited by their palate or dietary needs.
                      With dishes not really assigned to a specific meal course, and portions varying across the board, I'm not sure if I love or hate the way the menu is arranged. It certainly allows for more meal-time flexibility based on hunger and company, but it really makes ordering difficult. There were only a handful of menu items, and yet we still bantered back and forth about who would order what, and if we wanted to all get in on a larger item to split.
                      Over the evening we tried:
                      Ploughman's Platter- A lovely selection of buttery toast, duck confit, thick bacon, soft-boiled egg, pate, rillettes, cheese, mustard, preserves and pickles. Both the confit and bacon was crispy and decadent, despite being served cold. The pate was smooth, sweet and buttery, and the pickles were briny and bright. My only criticism would be that it definitely needed more toast, and while the the chunks we received looked and tasted fantastic, the wedge shape is really not appropriate for eating with pate, cheese or rillettes- it's an egg yolk or preserve sopper-upper, and that's about it.

                      Beef Cheek Poutine- Rediculously delicious. This dish was definitely more about the tender, sweet beef cheek than the fries, cheese or gravy- and at $18, I would hope they were more than garnish. The fries were seasoned perfectly, the gravy was delicate and not a gloopy- corn-starch-thickened mess and the cheese was not overwhelming. This could easily make for a totally decadent main dish for one.

                      Crispy Lamb Neck with Baby Beets- This reminded me a lot of the ham hock dish I had the night before at Hopgood's Foodliner. It was essentially very tender braised lamb, packed into a cylinder shape and fried to golden, crispy delight. I loved the savoury rich lamb against the bright, slightly acidic and inherently sweet beets. Definitely a winning dish.

                      Surf and Turf (Steak, Oysters Rockefeller, Bone Marrow) - The boys went with the beef, and boy, was that a massive piece of beef. Our server told us that it was the kind of dish that two boys could not share, but a lady and a man maybe could. Apparently, she doesn't know this lady's appetite because I wouldn't want to have to fight it out with someone for the last bite of marrow. The massive steak was cooked perfectly, and was so tender it melted in the mouth. While I am a big proponent of seasoning beef well, we did all agree that the meat was a bit of a salt bomb. There were also a lot of unpleasant inedible bits of gelatinous fat, so in the end, it wasn't as massive a steak as it originally seemed.

                      Sunchoke Ravioli-This is definitely what I'm talking about when I say the dishes seriously vary in size. My two-ravioli main dish looked silly beside the massive board of steak sitting next to me. Nevertheless, I was actually thankful for the portion, because the pasta was so delicate and satisfying, I wouldn't have needed more. The pasta was cooked perfectly, but I found the sunchoke filling a little stingy as several bites yielded only pasta. I also found myself wishing that the sunchokes had been pureed to a smooth, creamy consistency, while they were left rather chunky inside. The flavours, however, were spot on, with the sweet slightly nutty note of the sunchokes enhanced by the candied nuts on top. Stunning.

                      Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Candied Root Vegetables- Desserts, unfortunately, did not fare as well. The ice cream had lots of tangy goat cheese flavour, but its consistency lacked the luscious silkiness of ice cream. Rather, it was dense, chalky, and left a bit of a film in my mouth. Unfortunately the "candied" root veg (as described by our server) were not candied at all, but rather tasted like unseasoned boiled sweet potatoes with nothing added. This would have been so fabulous had the vegetables been coated in a crunchy caramelized coating to shift this dish from savoury to sweet, and a provide a nice textural contrast for the ice cream.

                      Beet Granita with Cows Milk Panna Cotta- Like the ice cream, this was another dish that was in dire need of some sugar. Again, we felt that we were eating another savoury course, and unfortunately, not a very delicious one. The main issue with the dish was the panna cotta, which was much too gelatanous, and actually lacked any flavour or creaminess at all. It actually tasted like I had set 1% milk with gelatin and left out the sugar or vanilla.

                      So for 12 alcoholic beverages, 2 appetizers, 4 mains, and 2 desserts, the bill came to about $425 including tax and tip, a rather expensive meal for a casual setting. Having said that, we did each have 3 drinks, and the boys had the pricier large mains ($36 each). Would I return? I definitely would. It was a big trek across town, but I would love to try one of their larger share meals (pork belly, "big bird" aka duck) or even their Brunch some time. I loved the cozy cottage feel, and the warm, pleasant service. I would give the dessert a try again, but only if I'm promised it will satisfy my sweet tooth.

                      Check out pics here http://abbeyskitchenblog.blogspot.ca/...

                      1. re: hungryabbey

                        Thanks for the details! Hopefully they will not run out of choices for our group on Feb 1st. I've already told them we have one vegetarian.

                        1. re: Food Tourist

                          Hm, that would be tricky with that menu.. though, Im sure you will be fine as long as the vegetarian isn't picky otherwise. There were two veg pasta offerings (the ravioli I had, and a gnocchi), and neither were sold out. Enjoy! Report back! Hopefully dessert will be better for you. I really would skip it though if they are offering the same two we had.

                2. Had an amazing meal at the Grove yesterday night! Great food and Great value!!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Charles Yu

                    They have been really helpful with a group booking. The only hitch is you need to provide a credit card guarantee.

                  2. Richmond Station is also very welcoming to large groups. They booked 11 of us with ease on any night requested before Christmas.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Food Tourist

                      That being said, Richmond Station for groups of 15 or so require a set menu. They can add "bubbly and oysters" for $10 pp.

                      Snacks for the table
                      Eggplant Caponata
                      grilled baguette, goats cheese, pine nuts
                      Polenta Fries
                      spicy mayonnaise, marinara, cilantro
                      Lobster Cocktail
                      tempura lobster, iceberg, cocktail sauce, lemon aioli, celery
                      Chips and Lox
                      potato chips, crème fraiche, pickled onion

                      Appetizers
                      Daily Soup
                      We change the soup every day!
                      or
                      Roasted Beets
                      maple vinaigrette, goat cheese, arugula, hazelnuts
                      or
                      Beef Carpaccio
                      pine nuts, watercress, lemon

                      Mains
                      Coq au Vin
                      pommes puree, pearl onions, bacon
                      or
                      Grilled Sea Bream
                      potato rosti, fennel puree, swiss chard, herb salad
                      or
                      Mushroom Fettuccine
                      baby spinach, green beans, tomato confit, fine herbs

                      Desserts
                      Smashed Pumpkin Pie
                      butterscotch mousse, sable, stewed blueberries
                      or
                      Dark Chocolate Cake
                      eggnog icecream, pine-port reduction, hazelnuts

                    2. Just noticed that Guu Sakabar takes reservations Sunday-Thursday for up to 15 people. For future reference!

                      1. Enoteca Sociale has a private room downstairs that looks to be about the size you need. I bet they will customize the menu to accomodate the lone vegetarian.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ComerDemonio

                          We had 12 in the private room and it was pretty snug. No more than 10 would be ideal.

                        2. Reporting back. Had a memorable night at Farmhouse Tavern last night with a group of 12 in the private room (used for future Hunt Camp dinners). Chairs are a motley of sizes and styles, not all are comfortable, but we at least fit around the huge long table.

                          Overall the food taste and pricing was decent. Some people didn't enjoy their medium-rare $20 burgers due to meat itself (topped with duck egg, goat cheese, etc.) and there was certainly "too much" fat on the $100 cote de boeuf for 2. Fun fact: send the fat back to kitchen to be stir fried with General Tao sauce - delicious results.

                          Highlights seemed to be the mushroom soup (4 kinds of mushrooms, smoky rosemary, broth poured at table), rockefeller oysters; crispy pig ears (thin sticks tossed with spicy red pepper - delicious!); parts of the $24 ploughmans platter (couple of nice stinky aged soft cheeses plus trout gravlax, duck egg, pickled cauliflower and peppers, beef bacon, pork belly - all meats served hot - no cold cured meats); carrot salad; and pork belly main ($33) received a rave review.

                          Surf 'n' Turf ($36) involved a massive steak with 2 rockefeller oysters and salty bone marrow that was used after the meal to "funnel" Buffalo Trace bourbon for an extra $7. Hilarious fun. No vegetables or sides to be seen.

                          3 desserts available - caramel ice cream with some whole grain croutons on top (a bit strange - the ice cream tastes of effervescence from dry ice; supposedly this is a dish inspired by a NYC restaurant - I didn't think the croutons added to the taste experience of the intense caramel), goat cheese ice cream with candied fruit, or a panna cotta. Seemed off-season to have so many cold desserts when comforting warmer desserts in winter seem more apropos.

                          Affordable wines and cocktails.

                          Overall, the food is good but not great - the service is good and the atmosphere is good - but I might stick to brunch in future or try their more vegetable-based or gnocchi type dishes.

                          For a group, however, it fit the bill and even though not everyone enjoyed their food, they had a fun and interesting evening.