Bero report -- go!
Went to Bero last night as a party of 8, and bottom line, this was the best meal I've had in Toronto in a very, very long time.
The space is small and simply, but warmly decorated. Enough soft surfaces and low music so that even when the restaurant was full, I could still speak and have my friend at the far end of the table hear me. A bloody (and most welcome) miracle, in my books.
The menu at Bero gives you three options: 1) a 4-course meal for $52, where you choose your 4 dishes from the 12 items on the left side of the menu, 2) a 7-course tasting for $84, listed on the right side of the menu, and 3) if you have at least 8 people, you can do a family-style dinner of all 12 items on the left side of the menu for $72 (with the likelihood of an extra treat or two thrown in). Option 3 is what we did and I truly can't recommend it enough.
Chef Matt Kantor is creating dishes with flavours and sophistication that I think no one else is quite doing in Toronto. There's an incredible amount of thought and care put into the construction of each dish and the flow of the meal. Now this is where I have to strongly recommend the full family-style menu — I found that the sequence of the dishes contributed hugely to my experience. The first 4 courses were these gorgeous, light, summery dishes exploding with the most wonderful flavours. Then we moved onto the gnocchi and mushroom courses that were beautifully rich and deep, while still remaining bright (don't ask me to explain that better, I'm clearly not a professional food writer! :). Then the 3 "meat" courses, all different, all delicious. And finally the 3 dessert courses, that were beautiful and difficult to choose a favourite from. If I had only had 4 courses and selected them myself, I'm not sure that my meal would have been as transcendent as it was.
One of the things I loved was how interesting and sophisticated the dishes were, but how they were still accessible.
Photos below. I'll try and recall the dishes, but there were a lot and I didn't take notes. We've asked Chef Kantor to email us full descriptions, so I'll come back later with better descriptions. Note that the quantities of the plates in the photos were for half the table, except for the soup and the peaches, which were individually plated.
Course 1: white gazpacho. Delicious soup, with these bright pops of flavours and textures from the orange blossom infused cucumber and a couple of other veggies.
Course 2: heirloom tomato and compressed watermelon with tomato marshmallows and parmesan cream. He separated the marshmallows from the tomatoes for us because of a lactose issue with of us. So many flavours here — the best surprise were the fried capers that added crunch and a great contrasting saltiness to the dish. It made us all start to ponder what we could use fried capers in.
Course 3: ceviche (European bass, I think) with poblano peppers, pickled onions and grapefruit ice. So fresh and summery. Once again, full of bright flavours.
Course 4: nordic shrimp with chermoula (a spice mix), cilantro puree, lettuce and banana "biscuit". Amazingly tender little shrimp brought to life with the chermoula.
Course 5: bone marrow gnocchi with fried shallots and garlic butter sauteed snails. Oh dear lord. These were THE most delicious gnocchi I've ever had. Melt in your mouth richness that was light as air. I could have eaten an enormous bowl of these and died happy.
Course 6: mushrooms, glorious mushrooms. This is no longer on the menu because no one was ordering it, and I'm so very sad for the loss, as it was my favourite dish of the night, next to the gnocchi. A timbale of shiitake mushroom, charred king oyster mushrooms and perfectly cooked chanterelles. Served with a vanilla and red onion sabayon that was swoon worthy.
Course 7: deconstructed arroz negro. A black rice croquette with perfectly cooked squid (braised in beet juice for an amazing pink colour), piperade and a delicious saffron mayonnaise. This was probably the weakest dish for me, mostly because of the balance of the ingredients. I wanted more piperade and mayo relative to the croquette. Still good, just not as awesome as the other dishes.
Course 8: lamb. Sous vide lamb saddle with wattle seed, with purple potatoes, zucchini and an avocado buttermilk cream. Delicious, tender lamb with a subtle flavour from the wattle seed.
Course 9: duck. Seared duck breast and duck confit wrapped in leek, over a smear of black garlic and a leek puree, with corn pudding and freeze dried corn. Really delicious with the garlic and leek providing huge flavour hits. And that corn pudding was ridiculously good.
Course 10: "surf and turf". Tender poached pork over chick peas and octopus. The octopus was so tender and had great flavour from smoked paprika. While this was very good, I felt the dish paled a bit next to it the more flavour-packed dishes in the other courses.
Course 11: "pre-dessert". I had picked some perfectly ripe Niagara peaches that morning and asked Chef Kantor if he wanted some. He ended up making a ridiculous dessert out of them: caramelized onions, warm peaches and star anise ice cream. It was OMG amazing. I never would have thought to pair these flavours, but the savouriness of the onions against the star anise and the peaches was simply perfect. It's one of the best and most interesting dishes I've ever had. He needs to put this on the menu.
Course 12: strawberries with strawberry mousse over a caramelized white chocolate ganache and a milk sorbet over a beer "soil". My favourite of the desserts on the menu. Essence of strawberry and the ganache was like a perfect dulce de leche. Great combination of textures.
Course 13: crème catalan with cardamom and blueberry. Really good.
Course 14: flourless chocolate cake with halva and eggplant frozen yogurt. A surprising and surprisingly delicious combination of flavours. I didn't like the yogurt on its own, but it was delicious when combined with the cake.
And that was dinner. Remember, this was all for $72. Service was excellent, too.
My apologies to the chef for butchering any of the descriptions and for the crappy phone photos. For really beautiful photos, you can check out the Toronto Life preview: http://www.torontolife.com/daily-dish...
If I had to choose 4 courses from the current menu, my recommendation would be:
2) Gnocchi (seriously, don't even consider getting anything else for this course)
3) Lamb or duck
The chef said that they will be changing the menu pretty regularly, as what's in season changes or as they get bored with a dish. They've only been open 3 weeks and they've already refreshed the menu once.
Please do yourself a favour and go to Bero. The closest comparison for quality and composition that I can think of is what Victor Barry is doing at Splendido. But Bero is a different kind of experience (neither better nor worse) and the value is amazing, especially the family-style meal.
Photo 1: the menu
Photo 2: the chef hiding behind the gazpacho
Nice detailed review of a fantastic meal, TorontoJo.
The highlights for me were the ceviche, deconstructed arroz negro with calamari and saffron mayo and the strawberry dessert.
For anyone looking for a special meal at a restaurant where the background noise levels are kept low, this is the place. Apart from Bero and Opus, I can't think of too many upscale restaurants where the background noise doesn't compete with the conversations at the table.
I went tonight. I think this is a promising addition to the Toronto dining scene each dish clearly had a lot of thought and craftmanship put into it. That being said I was a little underwhelmed compared to TorontoJo and Jlunar's experiences. I had the 7 course but comparing my notes to their 7 course I think they got the better version. Service was fantastic, very considerate and engaging. I had the following in my 7 course:
ceviche-rather muted, good texture with the pink grapefruit gratin but I could have used a bit more piquantness.
foie gras-interesting preparation but this didn't knock my socks off. unusual pairing of foie gras torchon with apple sorbet, again loved the textural contrast of the puffed quinoa.
bone marrow gnocchi with snails-loved this dish. light as a feather pillows and a nice flavor from the bone marrow and parsley.
mackerel with compressed cucumber, radish, good solid dish. clean flavors.
sous vide lamb loin with summer squash, purple potatoe, apricot, and avocado puree. good preparation with the lamb but rather muted flavors all around.
grey owl cheese course-loved the rye berries accompaniment! lot of thought put in this dish for a cheese course.
dessert-strawberries with dulce de luce, malt soil, and milk sorbet truthfully this was the only dish that knocked my socks off. a standout in flavors and textures.
So honestly it was just okay for me but I think it's a promising addition to the Toronto scene. I think $84 was okay for the work put into each dish but I would have like to have tasted a bit more oomph with each dish aside from the dessert and gnocchi. Also I'm a bit peeved I did not get a truffle as a send off when other tables did. Solo diners are important! Flavors were rather muted overall with a few exceptions. I wish them well.
Thanks for the great write up, deatbot! I must admit that I worried about this a bit -- that the 7-course or 4-course experience wouldn't live up to the family-style dinner we had that had 12+ courses. The strongest dishes for me were all of the appetizer courses (no foie course for us) and the desserts and the weakest were the mains. The first 6 courses for me absolutely shined with flavour and texture, as did the 4 dessert courses. It was the 3 mains that were good, but the least interesting overall. And at $72, I feel like it's a better deal than the $84 tasting.
I look forward to more reports! Also looking forward to going back when the menu changes up.
Wow!! Great review and great pics!! A 'mini-EMP' in Toronto!! Glad the meal was well worth the drive for you!!
Right now, trying to figure out 7 more people to round up, to try out your recommendation!!
Thanks again for heads up!
PS: Have you tried the new Treadwell yet?
re: Charles Yu
Definitely worth the drive, Charles!
I think estufarian would appreciate the food here, so I'd say he's a likely suspect. :)
And yes, I've been to the new Treadwell a couple of times now. A very, very welcome addition to the NOTL dining scene, ESPECIALLY on Queen Street. The space is great, much smaller than the old place of course. But I love that they are set up a bit like the old JK Wine Bar, with a bar at the open kitchen in addition to the regular bar, and a number of tables and a long banquette. Even better is the large, shaded patio tucked just off of Queen. The meals I've had have been very enjoyable. On the pricey side -- I'd say equivalent to the Trius and Peller restaurants.
I'm quiet (for the moment).
I visited already but had some real problems - not prepared to comment until a second visit.
I'm hoping that my issues relate to a drug regimen I was on, which may have affected my tasting ability. The antibiotics are now finished, but I'll leave it for a few days to ensure no after-effects.
And, for information I HATED the open kitchen at JK Winebar - I was forced to endure the aromatics from other people's dishes which conflicted with my own dishes. Aromatics (and textures) are extremely important to me and (for example) my experiences at Alinea (Chicago) were severely impaired by such things as burning leaves wafting through the dining room as other people are served different dishes.
On the plus side, I've encountered two restaurants (both in my Top 10 ever) where the restaurant is doused (not sure that's the right term) with a specific fragrance e.g woodsy, so that diners start the meal from the same (fragrance) starting point. If taste is indeed around 70% related to smell (according to unnamed sources, as I'm not motivated to look this up), then ambient fragrances certainly affect enjoyment.
There have been several occasions where I've asked to be moved to a different table when assaulted by after-shave or perfume from a recently arrived restaurant patron (probably less than but approaching double figures) - and the same principal applies to food aromas.
Ooh, I hated the burning thyme and rosemary stems they burned at JKWB for their flat bread and dips plate. That was a huge turnoff for me. Totally killed my taste buds.
Re: Bero. I hope your second visit redeems your first. But, to be fair...I think I've found over the years that you and I have differing palates. I'm pretty sure we look for different things in our food. I recall how much you loved LAB and how disappointed I was with my experiences there. As you know (I hope!), I have much respect for you, but I guess I wouldn't be surprised if we disagreed on Bero in the end. But I look forward to the report!
An update - I returned and am now almost certain that my original problems were related to the drug.
Both visits showed excellent plate preparation - visually the plates are a knockout with superb use of colour and shape.
Again, both visits featured great textures - most dishes had some crunch and/or chew in them, and the ceviche was a standout with different temperatures also.
On the 'drug-affected' visit I was unable to detect any aromatics and almost no flavours - hence my reticence to judge on first appearances. However the revisit (where I chose different dishes) showed no problems/issues at all. Flavours were pretty good and aromatics were fine (without being knockout).
Overall I though it a very good meal - well worth a visit. Some components didn't quite work for me, and some dishes seemed overly fussy - multiple components that didn't always 'layer' but occasionally 'mushed together' (that's flavour, not texture - textures were very good).
I'm not sure how 'commercial' the food is. Essentially only a 4 course prix fixe(?)for $52 with a choice of 3 dishes in each course. The 7 course adds a couple of extra dishes plus a pre-selection from the regular choices. But at the price point, this is excellent value and well worth a visit. I will certainly return.
I have to admit to being a little underwhelmed with my experience at Bero. I think it may be partly my fault as my expectations were really high. We opted for the 4 course menu and between my husband and I we ordered:
- the shortbread- I really enjoyed this dish, it was presented beautifully and tasted great
-the mushrooms- I didnt enjoy this, I found the pear taste overpowering but my husband really liked it
- the gnocchi- both my husband and I did not love this dish, I felt like it needed another texture to really lift it, maybe a crunch of some sort as I found this dish quite mushy
- the sturgeon- the sturgeon was cooked perfectly but the popcorn grit dragged this dish for me
-the lamb- this was good but not particularly memorable
- Chocolate tarragon cake with turkish coffee ice cream- I loved this dish and it was probably my favourite of the night
Creme catalan- interesting flavours
What I loved most was the shelf with recipe books, they have a great collection (heston, EMP, Maze, Noma, Toque...) I really appreciated that the chef offered to let me help myself to a few books to go through between the courses.
re: Charles Yu
OK, here's the menu that Chef Kantor sent to us:
White Gazpacho - Compressed cucumber infused with orange blossom - coffee-soaked chai seeds - red veined sorrell
Nordic Shrimp - burnt scallion puree - compressed romaine hearts - chermoula sauce - banana biscuit - cilantro
Ceviche of branzino - poblano pepper - black radish - pickled onion - grapefruit granitee- lime granitee - cilantro puree
Heirloom tomato part 1 - tomato marshmallow - parmesan cream
Heirloom tomato part 2 - heirloom tomatoes - bleu cheese mousse- olive oil - opal basil - kumquat - fried capers - compressed watermelon with kaffir lime
Arroz Negro - beet-infused squid - Saffron Mayo - piperade - deep-fried black rice
Bone-marrow Gnocchi - bone marrow celeriac cream - parsley puree - fried garlic - parsley
King Oyster - chanterelle - timbale of crimiini and shitake - pea and mint puree - peas - vanilla sabayon
Lamb Saddle - peruvian potato - apricot - buttermilk-avocado puree - zucchini - wattle seed
Surf and Turf - Pork loin - octopus - garbanzo - smoked paprika - red onion - mango--yogurt sauce
Duck - roast duck breast - leek and duck confit cannelloni - leek puree - corn custard - freeze dried corn black garlic sauce
Niagara peaches (supplied by the host) - onion caramel - star anise ice cream - olive oil
Creme Catalan - cardamom-chickpea sablee - chamomile-infused blueberry - blueberry sauce - lemon balm
Strawberries - strawberry meringue - black malt and beer soil - caramelized white chocolate ganache - milk sorbet
Chocolate - flourless cake - eggplant frozen yogurt - halvah - orange oil
A highly impressive dinner all-around. Fourteen beautiful and well-composed dishes for under $80 makes this incredibly accessible and worth checking out. Though only hinting at Basque country (I'll be better able to speak about that after May next year..!), the menu and inventiveness is more reminiscent of my experience at Eleven Madison Park - and that was my most memorable meal in 2012.
For me, the first half of the meal superseded the second half. I really, really loved the colourful parade of dishes that celebrated the flavours of summer in a way I haven't experienced on the palate in some time. Favourites include the gazpacho, tomatoes, shrimp, gnocchi, and mushrooms. Thought the desserts interesting, especially the eggplant frozen yogurt and the peach/onion/anise combo.
Leslieville is a great neighbourhood and Bero adds a relaxed sophistication to the already impressive stable of restaurants in the area. With good food and an atmosphere that invites conversation, Bero should have a lock on the locals and with people further out.
--- White Gazpacho ---
Shallow bowls cradled a cluster of compressed cucumber infused with orange blossom. Against these vibrant shades of greens and yellows, a single leaf of sorrel sat, its red veins in colourful contrast against the verdant backdrop. With its pulpy texture, coffee-soaked chia seeds that sat hidden below gave an interesting dimension to the creaminess of the soup. The gazpacho itself was devoid of the traditional chunky texture that comes from processed bread and nuts and retained a subtle garlicky tang. Very refined in composition and lovely way to kick off our meal.
--- Heirloom Tomato ---
Waiting for us next was the heirloom tomato duo. Part 1 was a soft, spongy marshmallow of tangy tomato and a salty smear of parmesan cream. The intense and bright tomato flavour played well with mallow's delicate texture. Really fascinating to eat with it pushing my expectations.
Heirloom tomato, part 2. An eye-popping dish of shades in red, green, and yellow accompanied the marshmallows and would usually be plated together. Fried capers burst with briny explosions against the more subtle flavours of kaffir lime-compressed watermelon and the sweet acidity of heirloom tomatoes. Rings of golden kumquat lent a floral citrus note and along the edge of the plate, quenelles of blue cheese mousse added a subtle hint of earthiness. A truly crazy pile of flavours that worked deliciously well.
--- Nordic Shrimp ---
Nordic shrimp sitting with a burnt scallion purée and rolls of compressed romaine hearts. A chermoula sauce (often made of a mixture of herbs, oil, lemon juice, pickled lemons, garlic, cumin, and salt used in Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian cooking) with spongy banana "biscuit" and cilantro. Delicate and delicious shrimp along with the joy of sucking the shrimp heads were the standouts on this dish.
--- Bone Marrow Gnocchi ---
Bone marrow gnocchi, with celeriac cream, parsley purée, fried garlic, parsley, and snails. Everyone just about lost their minds over this dish and I am pretty certain we could have all eaten a bowl to ourselves. The rich and subtle flavour of marrow with the soft gnocchi and chew of snails - unbelievably good. I loved the tint of green in the gnocchi that came from the addition of parsley.
--- Mushrooms ---
Mushroom lovers take note: golden brown king oysters, yellow hues of chanterelles, and a timbale of cremini and shiitake. Raw peas and a mint purée provide a fresh foil to the earthiness of the mushrooms. Bright yellow mounds of vanilla sabayon gave the dish a sweet creamy touch that could have doubled as dessert if it were on its own.
// Dish-by-dish breakdown & photos: http://www.foodpr0n.com/2013/07/29/be...
It looks delicious. Are those the portions for 8 people or were there additional dishes brought to the table? (i.e 2 of each dish?). For example looks like there are 4 portions of meat on two of the plates. Did you guys need to cut all of those in half?
I did Richmond Station's chef's menu and it was served family style. I probably wouldn't do family style again unless there are not any pick eaters at all or I am really comfortable with the people.
re: Charles Yu
re: Charles Yu
My review above still holds.
HOWEVER, my theory of drug-affected taste-buds on my first visit is now cast in doubt. I had similar dishes to Alan Vernon and, as already mentioned, found little taste and aroma - a similar response to the one documented on dine.to .
Of course, much of the review is suspect anyway, but just commenting - I had a much less positive reaction to my first meal - the second visit was certainly much better - and I had similar dishes to Mr. Vernon first visit and very different dishes second visit.
Which also supports the strategy of visiting at least twice before reviewing (which I generally do here, unless someone else has already commented).
I will STILL return!
re: Charles Yu
There's a remarkable amount of ignorance in that review. One would think a reviewer would do a bit of research on things before writing about them. Not knowing what white gazpacho is and not looking into the name, but ripping on both things just seems unprofessional to me.
And yes, I rather love Kantor's response.
I have to agree that the reviewer did not do any intelligent homework. I'm surprised that Kantor's response is quite restrained considering most people would be completely frustrated that someone was able to publish a poorly written review of their livelihood.
Review aside... all those pictures are making me wish for a reservation but deadbot note of 'solo diners are important too' are placing this in the middle of my 'must try' list.
Got to try Bero and had the four course menu with the added cheese course – who doesn’t love a little grey owl?
Well dinner wasn’t perfection, it is nice to know that we now have a decent place in the hood that can put out some nice plates at a fair price.
Between the two of us we had the following dishes: ceviche, gnocchi, pork, octopus, duck, mackerel, crème catalan and chocolate.
The highlights were by far the gnocchi and the octopus but the duck was a very close third. The gnocchi, as everyone has already said, is amazing. Pillows of potato heaven. Really truly, I would have been happy to have three bowls of just gnocchi and snail with one order of octopus. The potato foam with the octopus was seasoned aggressively and that made me very happy. The smokiness of the dish was perfect with the flavour of the octopus.
The ceviche needed a little more seasoning and acid for my personal preference. Well the bf enjoyed the pork I didn’t at all. I found it a flat and I didn’t like the layer of aspic or gelatine that had been layered on top – I have serious texture issues with anything jelly like.
The eggplant ice cream that came with the chocolate dessert was delicious! Well the crème catalan has good flavour and the chickpea crumble was lovely, the texture of the crème itself was lacking. It seemed like there was far too much gelatine. I thought it was just me but the bf doesn’t have my texture issues and he said the same thing.
Overall a good solid 7 out of 10 and we will be back, many times I’m sure.
Had a very good meal at Bero last night.
Had the 7 course tasting with a supplement of the sweetbreads along with wine pairings.
Standouts were the gnocchi, sweetbreads, and savarin.
Absolutely A+ service the entire night.
I thought the value for dollar was extremely high. I will definitely be returning.
re: Charles Yu
I had dinner there two saturdays ago.
Like others have commented, the gnocchi and snail dish was a standout.
Everything I had tasted "good", with some stuff better than that (kudos to serving halibut moist). I think as an overall experience, the service and textures of the food and visible effort by the staff and owners makes it a winner. I think it's a destination restaurant in Toronto. Pretty good value to boot.