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'Bero' - Went!!

My dining adventure at Bero tonight began not just 3 hours ago but actually more like 3 weeks ago! The whole episode began when one of our seasoned fraternity member 'TorontoJo' took a pioneering step, all the way from NOTL, to try out this new addition to the ever changing Toronto dining scene.

Reading her rave review and endorsement of the place started the motion going. As an avid foodie and passionate about Spanish and Basque cuisine, I took up TorontoJo's suggestion by organizing a group of 8 food loving relatives and friends to give Chef Kantor's 'EMP..esque grid matrix' tasting menu a try.

Braving the rush hour traffic, we arrived at the restaurant at around 6.45 pm. The dining room was warm, cozy and surprisingly small with soft Jazz music humming at the back ground. Apart from a party of two, we were the only occupants in the house and hence were pampered with truly personalized service by all three servers!! Oh! And Chef Kantor as well!!

We had the 12 course 'Omakase' chef tasting menu as planned. These included the following dishes:

- Peach Gazpacho, Beignet, Ham, Onion, Pistachio
- Sea Bass Ceviche, Poblano, Grapefruit, Celery
- Heirloom Tomato, Watermelon, Purple Basil, Curry, Kumquat, Tomato Marshmellow
- Octopus, Potato, Salsa Verde, Chorizo
- Gnocchi, Bone Marrow, Snail, Celery Root
- Arroz Negro, Squid, Saffron, Piperade
- Duck Margret, Corn Pudding, Black Garlic, Leek Duck Confit Wrap
- Pork Terrine, Haricot, Cherry Tomato, Cannellini
- Lamb Saddle, Avocado, Wattle Seed, Purple Potato
- Chocolate, Yogurt, Sesame, Orange
- Creme Catalan, Cardamom, Blueberry, Lemon
- Strawberries, Black Malt, White Chocolate, Milk
- Olive Oil drizzled Chocolate Truffles

First off, plate presentation was a feast for the eyes! Absolutely spectacular and visually stunning. So beautiful, it was hard to break up these artistic creation, piece after piece, in order to devour its contents.
Palette and taste wise, every dish incorporated a full complement of different textural components as well as flavour profile. Crispy, crunchy, chewy, savory, salty, sweet, sour, tart...etc, these seemingly endless list somehow work together harmoniously when eaten together. What was fun to me was trying to decipher and identify the various sauces and condiments on every corner of the plates.

Stand out dishes included the multi-dimensional and gorgeously presented Gazpacho, the refreshing Ceviche, the " better tasting than Bar Isabel's" Octopus, the multi-component duck dish ( featuring an interesting confit duck leek wrap and smooth as tofu like corn pudding), the ' mysteriously delicious' squid, the bone marrow and snail Gnocchi that can rub shoulder with NYC's 2* Marea.....etc. The only slightly 'off' dish IMO was the lamb which needs a bit more sauce to elevate it.
Of the three desserts, the Strawberries was the clear winner. One of the best dessert I have tasted this year. The other two were also delicious. However, care has to be taken to eat ALL the components together since I found both the Chocolate and Creme Catalan overwhelmingly sweet and need to be balanced out by the less sweet ice-cream.

Overall, the meal was a wonderful experience. Nowadays, It is commonly recognized that 'modern' tasting menu cuisine such as those served at Alinea, Eleven Madison Park, L'Atelier Robouchon....etc has to be enjoyed as a complete 'sight, smell and taste' package. If one prefers more intense tasting and 'macho' food then opt for bistro or tapas offering. However, if one would like to experience a more refined food adventure, then Bero would be an ideal candidate!

Lastly, with so many gorgeous tasting sauces being left behind, it would be a great idea if Bero would provide some bread for the patrons to mop up the sauces, on request!

A bit more thoughts need to be given to the 'quantity' of some of the ingredients as well. Casing point: 3 octopus tentacles to be shared amongst 4 people?!!

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    1. Yes, Charles, we got it the first time...
      Thank you for the photo-ups and detailed review. The duck, lamb saddle and the desserts look amazing.
      Is the last image the chocolate truffle? (derail: Love the refreshing blue plate!)
      Whats the price point?

      5 Replies
      1. re: happycamper

        $72 per person for the 12 courses! Party has to be at least 8!!

        1. re: Charles Yu

          Party has to be at least 8

          what does that mean?

          1. re: shekamoo

            Their regular menu has a 4-course option for $54 and a 7-course option for $84. But if you have a party of 8 or more, they will serve the entire menu, family style for $72/person.

            1. re: TorontoJo

              I think if you can round up a group then the 12 courses for 72/person is a steal! I agree that if you're dining solo or in a lesser # group some of the dishes could use a bit more sauce to provide added flavor. e.g. the lamb and ceviche. Otherwise the effect is too subtle.
              I'm still thinking of the strawberry dessert. I wish more restaurants in Toronto put that much detail and thought into their desserts. Too often they're an afterthought or they're just phoning it in!

        2. re: happycamper

          @ happycamper
          BTW!! I posted the review after midnight!
          I also send a note to the Moderator telling them that their system must be haunted and a ghost is doing funny things to my posting as eluded to by justxpete.

        3. Oops!! Left out picture of my favorite Strawberry dessert

          4 Replies
          1. re: Charles Yu

            ps - I think the reason you always reply multiple times when you post pics is because you click the "reply" button multiple times - I posted some pics recently and it took quite a while. Maybe just click once?

              1. re: Charles Yu

                Weird... Maybe there's a ghost in your computer!

                1. re: justxpete

                  Well, it *is* currently the 7th Month on the Chinese Lunar Calendar, which we call the Month of the Hungry Ghosts.

          2. Oh hooray, so glad you enjoyed it! Your favourites were some of the standouts in my dinner as well. That squid was perfectly cooked. I see that he upped the amount of delicious sauce on that dish -- one of the minor quibbles we had with our dinner, so that's great. And as someone who generally doesn't care for ceviche, I thought Bero's was a thing of beauty on a hot summer's evening.

            And my table almost fought over the last bits of that strawberry dessert.

            I think the price point makes this one of the best fine dining deals in Toronto. But as I said in another post, I honestly wonder if I would enjoy dining there as much with the 4 or even 7 course menu. I guess I'll just have to try. :)

            1 Reply
            1. re: TorontoJo

              I am planning to head back just to try out the 7 courses, I'm interested to see how Chef Kantor does with 'individual' plating rather than communal big portion sizes! Our impression to the first dish - 'individually presented' Gazpacho were a collective 'Wow'!! So pretty!
              BTW, I wonder if Matt will kill me if I bring along a 'hidden' baguette to mop up some of the sauces. LOVE that 'black garlic paste' that goes with the duck! Since the place was pretty quiet due to being 'Wednesday', I was almost tempted to ask him for a portion of the garlic paste! Ha!

            2. BTW, Great news!!
              I've been informed by Chef Kantor that Bero is in the process of putting together a 'great bread program' to augment the great food!! Something to really look forward to!!
              Project is a collaboration with someone 'outside of the industry'!! Anyone fancy taking a guess as to who or whom?!! :)

              1. I finally got down to the east end this weekend, and my meal at Bero was well enjoyed. Nine courses were tasted, and most of which I would order again.

                Octopus! - perfectly tender, wonderful spicy paprika marinade, CHORIZO to complement, oozy smoked potato puree was spot on, trumps Bar Isabel, Buca, and even Hopgood's (previous favourite and must try)
                Foie Gras - absolutely unreal, incredible texture and silky smooth, wonderful acidic side elements, I'm bringing my own toast points for next time

                Gnocchi - I enjoyed the dish, but there seemed to be a textural element missing. In all, it was too mushy for me, as the overly pillowy gnocchi tasted like play-doh. I would love to see a marrow sear on these, and will keep dreaming.

                Might just be the night:
                Peach Gazpacho - Too much acid left a chemically tingling on my throat. My best guess is too much wine vinegar. The onion fritter was also very heavy and greasy.

                Will be back for more modern when chef Kantor changes up the menu for fall.

                1. BERO ANOTHER RE-VISIT:

                  It is customary for people of Oriental origin to celebrate the incoming Lunar New Year by having a nice dinner on New Year's day. Rather than enduring the agony of lousy 'production line' food and bad service at 'packed' Chinese restaurants, I opted to have my New Year dinner at an out-of-the-way western cuisine place instead

                  I was glad and fortunate that Chef Kantor manage to fit us in on such short notice.

                  For our 'early' dinner, we selected the Chef's 7 course tasting menu and let him work his magic.

                  The menu consisted of the following dishes:

                  - Amuse of carrot puree and crispy Quinoa 'maki'

                  - HAMACHI, salt cod, cured ham, chili, chicken broth

                  - FOIE GRAS, almond ice, vanilla, thyme, house brioche

                  - GNOCCHI, bone marrow, snails, celery root

                  - OCTOPUS, pig face, pequillo, sweet potato

                  - RABBIT, leek, trumpet mushroom, thyme, truffle sauce

                  - RIOPELLE, popcorn, honeydew

                  - LEMON, kalamansi, cheese curd, kaffir lime

                  - Campari gummies, dark chocolate truffle

                  Beverage pairing of Huff and Tawse Riesling, Red Burgundy.

                  Visual appeal of the plating was as beautiful and stunning as usual. Taste of the ingredients and various components were bold, forward and well defined. They combined harmoniously well when eaten together. Highlight of the meal belongs to the clever way Chef Kantor managed to integrate various textural components together into enjoyable bite-feel sensation. One fine example was the introduction of tiny ultra-crispy garlic chips into the soft fluffy Gnocchi and chewy escargos mix. Perfect!

                  As for the food, I'll just let the photos do the talking!
                  Every dish was tasty and good. The chewy, garlic butter soaked snails, the ultra-tender and smokey octopus, the 'taste like free range chicken' rack of rabbit......so on & so on. Even the Campari gummy jello of the Petite Four was great! However, the stand-out has to belong to that chicken broth in the Hamachi dish. Wow!! Sooo good and intense! Made from chicken and Serrano ham, the broth, with a slight spicy heat infusion from the chili, was spectacularly delicious! After eating all the content, I picked up the bowl and drank every last drop of this elixir!!

                  Only slight downside of the evening was the ultra-mini portion of meat protein that belongs to the rack of rabbit. A bigger piece of 'meat only' Venison or Beef would be more enjoyable since the truffle sauce was so delicious, yet has nothing to mop it up with!

                  Based on the few times I dined at Bero, I am totally at a lost as to how the Toronto Life food critic can give this fine eating establishment only 1* out of 5 and calling the delicious food a 'flavor flop'?! Either he or she was under the influence at that time or they must have a de-ranged palette?!

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: Charles Yu

                    Left out the cool looking stiletto blade used to cut up the rack of ' Bugs Bunny'!! Ha!

                    1. re: Charles Yu

                      Ah, a Laguiole knife. They had a 4 pack of them at Costco (And maybe still do) and I was tempted to buy some just for special occasions ($around $40ish for the 4 pack IIRC).

                      Thanks for the updated review and the photos!

                    2. re: Charles Yu

                      Based on the enjoyment factor of the above captioned meal. Using Toronto Life's rating system, I would give Bero 3 - 3.5 stars.
                      One star?!! Come on!!!!

                      1. re: Charles Yu

                        Toronto Life long lost its food relevance.
                        Its rating system is confusing and down-right stupid. I remember when they gave the Spadina shithole Lucky dragon 1.5 stars. I went there and marvelled at the dust and grime conglomerating on the air ducts in the dining area as the fluorescent lights reflected off the plastic wrap table top.

                        Not sure if anyone really takes TL's star system seriously. they're giant hacks.

                      2. re: Charles Yu

                        I went to Bero a few weeks back, and thought the meal was good but not great imo. Me and my cousin went with the multicourse tasting menu, and had most of the same dishes you did, but we ordered an additional dessert of Asian Pear Tart with Earl Grey Ice Cream.

                        Some of the things that I didn't really care for was the brioche that accompanied the Foie Gras dish. The Foie Gras dish by itself was great, but I didn't think the house made Brioche that accompanied it was that good. I certainly appreciate the novelty and the concept behind it, using duck fat instead of butter to make the bread. But I've had much better store bought brioche than the in house made one that was served and felt they missed their mark on this one.

                        Another item was their Gnocchi with Snails, that was overhyped up by the server. When I ate it, it was texturally really flat and one dimensional. I understand the garlic crisp are suppose to add contrast in texture, but it wasn't enough imo. I think they would've been better off making the gnocchi the traditional method, by pan searing them after cooking them in boiling water.

                        I'm not dismissing the restaurant as a great dining destination, however there are components that need reworking.

                        1. re: asagiri

                          Tastewise, I have no issue with the Gnocchi and Snails. However, I do concur with you that, textural-wise and may be even taste-wise, the dish can be kicked up a notch by the addition of say some salty and crispy 'bacon bits' made with Serrano Ham?!

                          1. re: Charles Yu

                            I dunno, the addition of crispy Serrano Ham would solve the issue of texture, but it might be too salty and overpower the delicate flavour of snails.

                            I remember in the Rabbit dish I had, they included some fried enoki mushroom. If they included that in the gnocchi dish, it would be a more cohesive dish. As the mushrooms wouldn't overpower the other components and provide great contrast in texture.

                            1. re: asagiri

                              Personally, I found the Gnocchi and Snails under-seasoned hence the suggestion of a 'salty component' addition.
                              Interesting you mentioned the rabbit. Tasting like 'free range chicken' i wish they could have given me at least a couple of racks more!! Very tasty meat with the right amount of chewiness!

                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                The Rabbit was good, and like you mentioned it did taste like good quality free range chicken. The quality of the rabbit was fine, but I wish we didn't get the rack as I found it a bit fiddly to eat with a knife and fork. So it didn't eat elegantly imo. I think it would've been easier if they boned out the loin from the rack and serve the rabbit as medallion pieces instead.

                      3. Really enjoyed our belated Valentine's Day dinner here this week. Chef Matt is by far the friendliest chef I have EVER met! He brought out most of our dishes himself and was super nice and chatty. Other than the room being really quite cold despite the space heater at my ankles, it was a wonderful evening.

                        We each had a four-course dinner + cheese, and an extra dessert, so by sharing everything we created our own 10-course meal… We found the portion sizes adequate - I suppose they were a little small since we can't usually have an extra dessert, but it was great to get to try so many things and not feel overwhelmed. We also shared one wine pairing per course, which was lovely and just the right amount for us.

                        Amuse - Circle of rye bread with mustard, pear, miso, nasturtium leaf: good but a bit overwhelmed by the mustard

                        OYSTER with verjus, salmon roe, cucumber, horseradish cream: good, not remarkable

                        BEET CONSOMME: Incredible warm syrupy thick beet consomme with coca nibs and a dehydrated beet and red cabbage. Garnished, amazingly, with a sphere of liquid goat cheese with a skin that made it pop just like an egg yolk. This was very creative and extremely delicious!

                        HEN EGG: Probably our favourite dish of the evening. From the top down: potato chip coated in nori (they should sell these by the bag!), smoked-potato whip, poached hen egg, and perfectly melty braised lamb neck in a thick flavourful sauce. Matt said it was a riff on shepherd's pie, but it also reminded us vaguely of oeuf en cocotte.

                        SQUASH: Many tasty versions of butternut and acorn squash - lightly pickled rounds, roasted puree, dehydrated thin sheets. Also deep-fried strings of spaghetti squash. Garnished with black garlic cake (almond financier with garlic reduction/puree).

                        SWEETBREAD: Another highlight - absolutely perfectly done sweetbreads (still thinking 'wow' at the recollection), with sweet and salty black malt, romescu cauliflower, cauliflower puree.

                        MUSCOVY DUCK: Beautiful medium rare duck with PERFECT crisped skin, morcilla (blood sausage) smear, salty toasted rye crumb, creamy broccoli puree log with salt and togarashi (ramen spice!), pickled broccoli stem. Terrific.

                        CHEESE: Perfect La Riopelle with olive oil, and a fragrant smear of honeydew honey (from honeydew flowers in Gaspe), popcorn cracker.

                        LEMON: We enjoyed all three desserts but this was our winner. One larger steamed lemon pudding and three smaller calamansi curds (SE Asian citrus fruit), all soooo delicious. They were garnished with kaffir lime powder, unpulled mozzarella curd, and candied ugli fruit.

                        CHOCOLATE: Chocolate bomb (white chocolate mousse on meringue around a spearmint fondant), caramelized white chocolate biscuit, bittersweet cocoa ice.

                        TART: Asian pear tart, bergamot gel, earl grey ice cream, drizzled mascarpone cheese, very tasty sherry-soaked financier.

                        Final treat was a tasty brown butter brownie with a square of really bitter (great!) campari jelly.