'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?!!
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.
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?!! :)
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. :)
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!
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!