A GROOVY Tasting Menu Dinner at 'The Grove'!!
- Charles Yu Dec 5, 2012 10:06 PM
For a restaurant to be rated by one of Canada's major publication as ' 2012 New Restaurant of the Year ' plus ' One of Canada's Top 50 Best Restaurants ', the food from its kitchen, IMO, must be pretty spectacular to warrant such an accolade!
Curious to find out for ourselves, fellow chowhounder 'skylineR33' and I decided to join up downtown and give this new star a try. The result was IMHO, a solid Michelin star caliber meal that was near perfection and begs the patron for an early re-visit!
After reading from one of many rave reviews that the Chef offers a multi-course tasting menu, our party of 4 decided to give our culinary fate to the hands of the British chef. ' English Omakase ' here we come!!!
Our 7 course tasting menu consisted of the following:
- London cure Salmon, Beetroot, Kohirabi, Apple
- Shrimps on Toast, Pickled Cucumber, Marie Rose
- Seared Scallops, Confit Chicken, Sunchoke, Cider Vinegar
- Parsley Root Soup, Snails, Bacon, Fried Bread
- Beef two ways ( Seared Onglet and Braised Short Ribs ), Carrots, Horseradish, Barley
- Lamb two ways ( Roasted loin and Braised Lamb Tongue ), Brussels Sprouts, Potato Cake,
Huckleberry, Bread Sauce
- Lemon and Huckleberry Eton Mess!
First off, plate presentation of all dishes were artfully conceived and beautifully presented. The chef definitely understood the meaning that we all ' Eat with our Eyes'!!
As for the food. Both seafood and meat dishes were perfectly cooked. Every dishes were composed with a multitude of ingredients each contributing to various taste, flavor and textural profile/sensation. The Chef managed to bring together harmoniously, various sweet, tangy, salty and savory taste components and combined them with chewy, crispy, crunchy textural components and form a super sensation oral experience!! A great example was the ultra creamy and smooth Parsley Root Soup augmented with crispy snails, crunchy and chewy sweet Maple Bacon bits and crunchy fried bread! Wow!! So Good!
The only slight mishap was the addition of some rock salt to the London Cured Salmon which rendered the dish a little bit over-salty. A miniscule misstep that can be easily corrected
All in all, most dishes of this meal surpasses both visually and taste, the Michelin 3* Tasting Menu I had at New York's Jean Georges a few weeks ago! Creativity and taste wise, some dishes can easily rub shoulders with a few similar dishes I had at Michelin star establishments across the border and across the ocean!! A true testament of the chef's skill and culinary vision!
A groovy meal and great company!! What an evening!!
I cannot wait to pay this gem of a restaurant an early return visit!!
Thanks for the review Charles
I was a big fan of Ben Heaton when he was chef at Globe and I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at The Grove and I've never understood why the place didn't get more love here.
I was there on Saturday night- we didn't get the tasting menu but we tried most of the same dishes and a few others. I found the food to be very good- but the service was inexcusable.
Our servers (I guess everyone kind of helped out), were friendly enough but incredibly forgetful and even inattentive. Cutlery was brought and changed (thankfully), but getting what we ordered was a bit of a mess. Two of our (under aged) diners ordered pop/tea, both of which never came until we had to ask about them 20 minutes later. Next, I ordered a cocktail, which just never even came (or appeared on the bill, thankfully). When we ordered dessert, three of us asked for cappuccinos. We probably waited about 12-15 minutes for the desserts to come, and the cappuccinos didn't make it until AFTER we had finished our sweets. It's one thing if the bar and servers were slammed, but the place was still pretty quiet, and I saw the cappuccinos sitting on the bar mantle for at least 4 or 5 minutes before getting picked up.
We also got seated at the front door despite the restaurant being empty (VERY drafty- even the server agreed), so then she moved us to a table at the back. We sat down , ordered drinks, and were told we had to move again because someone actually requested that table- so the 5 of us squished into a 4 top at the back of the restaurant.
Having said that, I did find the food tasty and like you mentioned, Charles, well balanced. I also found in general, everything to be seasoned perfectly, which in my books, is an oddity across an entire meal. I wondered if the service issues were related to us dining with younger company, where had it been just my partner and I as usual, it may have been different. I will try it again in the new year.
See photos here: http://abbeyskitchenblog.blogspot.ca/...
Our party was lucky! We arrived early ( around 6.30pm ), place was empty, so service was very 'personalized and attentive'! Everyone, including owner and chef met and chatted with us. Wine was brought to us on time, timely refill of water and a smiling lady server checking on us after every course, all contributed to pretty nice service.
Yes, though seated inside, we too find it a bit drafty when ever the door was opened.or shut.
Lastly, I'm so glad to hear a fellow foodie sharing my same thought about the food!! Phew!!!!!!
re: Charles Yu
Yah, we were there at 6:30 too, and the place was also pretty empty, hence my surprise with the forgetful service. I can often excuse issues when servers are slammed... but they were often standing around at the bar and there were several of them in anticipation of the later seating.
Regardless, I surely will return. One of my dining companions is also a very "experienced" foodie/diner, and was impressed with everything he ordered.
I agree, milly. To be honest, I would rate service as more important to me then food when I go out to eat because dining out is about the experience for me- I cook good food at home :) So yah, it was a turn off.. and I am wondering if it has something to do with going with younger family (which is NOT an excuse of course), but I would give them another chance down the road, solely because the menu is really my style of eating.
I've been twice - about 6 months apart and found the service to be casual - about par for a neighbourhood restaurant (that isn't family run) but then, I found the food about par for a neighbourhood place too. I only went back when I heard that the accolade was pending to try and find anything I'd missed the first time - same sloppy service and the food was entirely different from Charles' pictures - little attempt at composition; indistinct flavours, mostly missing aromatics, but good quality ingredients treated (mostly) with respect.
If it was around the corner in my neighbourhood, I'd probably drop by on impulse - but not worth driving across the city for.
BUT I'm intrigued by the pictures - I find it hard to understand why this is so different from my experiences.
Interesting!!! May be for your next visit, you should call ahead and request the chef for a tasting menu??!!
But then, isn't this type of inconsistency common on the chowhound board?!! We both LOVE Splendido but there are certain people who posted and claim its their worse meal ever?!!
Maybe I'm nitpicking here but I don't mind casual service - which to me might be a little laid back or familar, as in less formal but still the elements of service exist.
What hungryabbey describes is shoddy. Besides that, being asked to move and the manner in which it was handled indicates to me poor front of the house management.
Although I do agree, the food looks and sounds great and I do hope they do well.
I'm with you milly. We definitely prefer casual service- we want a server who is professional, but can take a joke when my SO decides to pull one.
But this was just unprofessional and lazy.
I didn't mention this, but since we're nitpicking, as milly said lol, at the end of our stay, the manager, Richard Reyes, brought us our coffees (finally). No smile, no conversation. So I asked him what the sauce was in the lemon curd, he told me it was an elderflower puree. I looked at him funny thinking "no, that was definitely a berry sauce.. it was dark blue", so I clarified that "the sauce? its elderflowers?" and he said "yes, theyre pureed". At that point, not only was the service unprofessional, but with Reyes, it was actually cold. At least our lady servers were friendly.
Again, having said all of that- the food was good and consistent. I don't know that I found it very imaginative or innovative- it was eton mess, pie, shrimp on toast etc. Its classic British comfort food, dressed up and executed WELL. If you want a satisfying MEAL, it may be a good spot, but as an overall wow experience, nope.
I rarely post but I had to make a comment to this thread in particular and I only had time to write something today.
After reading this review, I gave this restaurant a try on Dec 14th - I called ahead and asked for the head chef to prepare a tasting menu for the 4 of us. While I did not agree that the presentation of the food was to the same level of quality that I have seen from actual Michelin star restaurants, I did think the plating was creative enough and was expecting a meal of unparalleled taste that can rub arms and shoulders with the best of what New York has to offer - in other words, if Michelin stars were given in Toronto, this restaurant would be it.
Well, food, quality and consistency was good but fell far below expectations. Perhaps I was expecting too much when such a claim is made that "most dishes surpasses both visually and taste" compared to the 3 michelin star tasting menu from Jean George's in NYC.
Don't get me wrong, the food was good at The Grove and it is what I would expect from a hidden gem for a neighbourhood restaurant, but it is extremely FAR from the level of quality in both taste and visual from Michelin star restaurants that I have visited in NYC, Chicago, LA and Paris. The dishes at The Grove cannot even come close to the level of creativity and ingenuity of dishes that I have had over the years.
Aside from the meal, the service was mediocre at best. Granted it was a busy weekend so anyone reading this thread should be prepared to expect typical neighbourhood friendliness but when it gets busy, expect to wait for anything to happen - including the pace of dishes coming out. In comparison, service at Michelin star restaurants have a high degree of professionalism, attentiveness, attention to detail, convenience and customer care - you really are pampered and feel like a celebrity by the end of the night.
In the end, the meal was good but not wow - the taste (and presentation) was certainly not to the level of inventiveness that Michelin star restaurants offers. Both my wife and I, as well as our equally as experienced foodie couple agreed. Expect neighbourhood service in a casual setting, and enjoy a good meal that is a step above comfort food.
I have to agree with Abbey's quote: "Its classic British comfort food, dressed up and executed WELL".
Would I go back? Yes for good upscale food - but do not expect Michelin star quality.
Most interesting??!! Sounded like we ate at two different establishments?! Ha!!
Like yourself, I too have had the good fortune of eaten in Michelin star restaurants all over the world. As such, I can often compare and relate new experiences with my 'Michelin reference data base'.
Our meal at the Grove a while back was indeed very impressive by Toronto standard, and when compared to the 'dud of a meal' I had at NYC's Jean George a few months back,
the Grove meal was much tastier, not to mention much better value for money! BTW, our service at Jean George was one of the worst Michelin experience ever!!
This is not the first time such diverse review cropped up on this board. The most recent being the newly opened 'JaBistro'.
It is a pity 'inconsistency' often play a part in our review efforts?!:(!!
ate at the grove last night. overall a very impressive meal with only a couple small hiccups that, really, didn't impact the overall experience at all.
we all opted for the 7 course menu, opened with 3 amuses, freshly picked radishes with a green cream sauce of sorts (that was somewhat lacking in flavour, although the radishes were delicious and fresh as you can find), the chips and curry ketchup (delicious), and a gougere-esque cheese square that was also very tasty.
shellfish broth with various herbs, shrimp, something else - delicious, light broth, poured tableside over the very nicely plated (bowled?) other ingredients. no complaints, but i wasn't blown away by it either.
asparagus with cinnamon cap mushrooms, citrus (i think meyer lemon?) - we all ended up having this course, and the portion of mushrooms was significantly bigger on one of the plates than the other 2. served with a slice of lemon as well as a couple of citrus-y sauces, overall a good opening dish and a good vegetable dish. i felt it was lacking something, perhaps a crispy component, but still good.
salmon with dill, kohlrabi, cucumber, apple, something crunchy - this was a huge winner. everyone enjoyed this dish thoroughly and i don't have a single bad thing to say about it. no guy fieri but i could eat 10 or 12 of these.
ling cod with fava beans and cinnamon cap mushrooms - the fish was cooked perfectly, but the fava beans replaced an advertised "seaweed butter" that i felt would have probably worked better in this dish. it lacked seasoning and the beans didn't help in that department. but again, perfectly cooked cod.
sturgeon, mussels, cabbage - this fish was fucking fantastic. another favourite course. seasoning was on point, fish was incredible, just a real winner overall.
albacore, pomegranate, watermelon radish - another fantastic fish course. an excellent interplay of flavours, the pomegranate added a nice little pop that didn't overwhelm the other elements, great dish.
duck egg, artichoke, rye berries - this was ridiculous. probably the favourite dish of the evening overall, judging by how quickly it was hoovered by myself and my duck egg loving companions. sous-vided duck egg was fantastically cooked and plated on a green sauce that i can't remember the taste of (we had some cocktails), and the rye berries added a great textural element as well as flavour. the artichoke was definitely not an afterthought but i could have lived without it, although overall, just a really great dish.
onglet, marrow vinaigrette, ramps - this was also great. the meat was cooked perfectly rare, the ramps were slightly charred, the sauces that i don't remember (except that one of them was green) were great. this is what a steak, or a meat course, should be. perfect portion size as well.
goats cheese, honeycomb, some kind of jelly, toast - a scoop of goats cheese with a piece of honeycomb stuck in it, topped with a dollop of some kind of red jelly and a lil piece of bread. i'm not often one for a cheese course but this was delicious.
carrot cake - good, but i'm not a huuuuge dessert guy and this was also like 3 hours and several drinks in.
chocolate thing - REALLY GOOD
finally they broke us off with a trio of mini salted caramel tarts that were fairly chill. a nice way to end the meal.
i do, though, find the system they have to be a bit cumbersome. we managed to order everything, but somehow ended up with both an extra onglet (all 3 of us ordered it but we ended up with 4) and a third asparagus that was supposed to be a second albacore. i'm not mad, because it was all fantastic and really, really reasonably priced, but it seems maybe stressful for servers and the kitchen to get it all nailed down.
cocktails were pisco sours (fantastic) and a sloe gin fizz (less fantastic). also had a couple junction brewery something or other ales, that were great, and ended with a round of picklebacks, something i was very pleased to see on the menu.
the service was good, pleasant staff who were attentive and quick to refill water, replace cutlery, etc. there were a couple points where we had to wait a bit for drinks, but again, i'm not mad.
overall a fantastic meal well worthy of a birthday celebration. hell i'd go back any time, sixty dollars for seven good-to-really, really great courses plus amuses is kind of a stupid deal. it's a good time to eat around these parts
We had the 5 course tasting yesterday. Between my companions, we tried all the dishes and we were all confused by the flavour profiles and found the overall food experience underwhelming.
I think none of the listed ingredients were poorly prepared. All the proteins (beef, pork, lamb) were flavourful, tender, perfectly made. But in combination with all the other flavours on the plate, it was just all too odd and at times inedible.
Case in point:
Parsley root, snail, horseradish
- snails drenched in parsley broth. They could have stopped at the perfectly sauteed (I think) snails sitting on delicious pureed parsley roots. Why drown the snails with grassy, watered-down broth?
Pork, broccoli, cheddar
-perfect crusty and tender pork belly - except for the dollops of cheese whiz tasting sauce on the side. Why?!
I adore the wine menu, but didn't find the sommelier (?) particularly helpful.
The pluses, for me, are the friendly and relaxed atmosphere, the overall effort in plating and creating an experience with the added treats at the beginning and end, and the reasonable price.
The minuses are that much of the food was not hot enough and, as happycamper mentioned, some of the pairing seemed odd. The feeling I had from the dishes is that the chef started with a main ingredient and then added the rest of the ingredients to add texture, acidity, flavour contrast etc. The exercise may make sense on paper but the experience of eating it left me wondering what was the point of eating this the way it was presented. I didn't get the sense of the plates being about anything other than this is a composition of ingredients for the sake of being a composition of ingredients. Nor did I get the sense that I was being presented with the best way of eating those particular ingredients. I never said to myself, wow, this is how ingredient x should always be cooked.
Despite the criticism I think it is worth trying once and judging for yourself. The food reminded my of the style of cooking I found at Eleven Madison Park in NYC and I have similar criticisms of that food. But that restaurant gets raved about, so maybe this will also find its fans.
Artful plating, unique (odd?) pairings, brown butter turned into powders, multiple course meals at $55 is enough to exceed many diners expectations.
Agree that during the past few years, plenty of Chefs, some even great ones, are coming up with rather 'confused and over-reaching food creation and plate presentation'. Nothing wrong with that if they manage to hit the right note ( Some dishes from NOTL's Treadwell or Bero are fine examples ). However, I agree sometimes things can get pretty unappealing and nasty if things did not jive!
In Toronto, Grove was not the first one to go 'abstract' and created 'misses' in the process. I recalled in the past, a lot of such mishaps came out of Claudio Aprile's 'Senses' or Colborne Lane's kitchen. For me, his ' Heirloom beet dish ' is a notable disaster.
Even Michelin star establishments like NYC's WD 50, Britain's Fat Duck, Hong Kong's Bo Innovation or Chicago's Alinea can sometimes come up with totally confusing and discord dishes! However, they are still getting rave reviews and multiple stars! To each his own?!!
Therefore, for me, once in a while, I do love having just a simple 'back to basics' traditional meal. 3-4 key ingredients and components, perfectly executed. Nothing fancy! A perfectly cooked fish dish from Starfish is a fine example!