Is Bymark worth it?
- Toronto K.G.
This is the weekend my daughter and I have a girl's night out treat to a nice restaurant. We have been to North 44 a couple of times in the past and this year she wants to try Bymark. I have heard mixed reviews about the place. And frankly last year at North 44 I thought the service and quality of food was not up to par - my previous visits had been much more satisfying. Any comments? Other suggestions for a truly incredible dining experience?
Rain is a fine place to take tourists from Moose Jaw - wow, black decor and black-clad staff and even a waterfall thingie! But if you want to be "au courant", you don't want to go to Rain. It's very 2001, not to mention there's nothing particularly special or novel about fusion food unless it's in the hands of a true master like Susur Lee.
Oh no, not Rain! Rain is a downtown Toronto cliché: contrived, overdecorated and overpriced. Rain is so over, even the badly-dressed from Scarborough or Mississauga can get in these days. Sad thing is, Rain thinks tall food is still fashionable.
If you want something currently trendy (and not as pricy as Rain), try Brassaii or Blowfish. If you hate that whole unsavoury air-kissing scene, and just want a grown-up dinner featuring serious cuisine, there's always Avalon or Susur.
In my opinion, Bymark is absolutely worth it. Please see my review from a few months ago below.
In addition to Bymark, I'd recommend Sen5es. Many are saying Sen5es may dethrone Susur as Toronto's top table in the near future. Review: http://www.toronto.com/feature/12828/
June 29, 03
It was a beautiful night tonight. The heat was finally tolerable again, and the rain seemed to be holding off. I've had a bit of a difficult time lately with family stuff, so Amanda (girlfriend) offered (make that insisted) that she take me to dinner at a restaurant of my choosing to help take my mind of some of the more negative things going on this weekend for me. I chose Bymark.
Amanda bought a new dress for the occasion and looked absolutely breathtaking. I was honoured to be dining with such a beautiful woman.
In short, it was wonderful. Everything from the valet parking attendants, to the hostess, to the sommelier, to our server was wonderful. The room has great ambience. Very subdued lighting, clean lines, almost Asian in feel. Comfortable banquettes and chairs, and big, beautiful oversized plates to be used as a canvas for some pretty amazing food.
Service was efficient without being intrusive. My only complaint was that they were a little stingy on the bread. I like bread with my meals. They don't offer a basket of bread for the table, but a bread "sommelier" walks around and deposits a few pieces on your side plate as it empties. However, mine emptied after about ten minutes and I never saw another piece. Eventually I requested more bread to help mop up the sauce left from my venison dish. Great bread, by the way.
Seared Tuna Sashimi with Endive, Avocado, Watercress, Sweet Onion & Yuzu Soy Dressing.
Really nice. A little skimpy on the portion size, and slightly heavy-handed with the Yuzu, but still relatively balanced. The tuna was PERFECT. Absolutely stunning. Seared along the outside with a bright ruby red interior. The avocado salad it was served atop of was a nice buttery counterpoint to the otherwise bright flavours of the dish.
Oven Cured Tomatoes With Buffalo Mozzarella, Bay Leaf, Basil & Orange Marinated Olives.
This was Amanda's choice for a first course. It was good, but it was salad. The tomatoes were absolutely BURSTING with flavour. Perhaps the best tomatoes I've ever had, actually. The mozzarella was average, in my opinion. The orange-marinated olives worked, but the pits make them a challenge to eat "elegantly".
Roasted Venison Loin ( Medium Rare - Rare ) With Roasted Baby Beets, Cipollini Onions, Truffled Risotto and a natural jus.
This was astoundingly good. Cooked perfectly medium-rare as requested, it almost melted in my mouth. The accompanying risotto was BY FAR the best risotto I've ever had. It was creamy, rich, yet still had texture all at the same time. I could've eaten a bucket full of that stuff. The vegetables were nicely done as well; nicely caramelized and deep with flavour. A blueberry compote was also served alongside the dish - a really nice foil to the rich gamey flavour of the venison. Great course.
Roasted Pickerel with Sake Maple Marinade, Peruvian Potatoes, Organic Carrots & Scallion Fritters.
Beautiful. The sake maple marinade works VERY well with this fish. I only had a small taste, so I can't comment in any great detail. It was gorgeous on the plate, though. The Peruvian potatoes (blue) were a gorgeous contrast against the red beets, white fish, and green fritters. Amanda was very pleased.
We then opted for the cheese course to share (5 cheeses). I have no idea what they were, but I loved every single one of them. Specifically, I really enjoyed the blue they served, as well as a triple-crème cheese that was absolutely sinful. Honeyed walnuts, grapes, apple slices and baguette came along with the cheeses.
Warm Chocolate Torte with Roasted Banana Ice Cream & Crisp Banana Tuile.
I have a deep love for bananas. This ice cream was SOOOOOO delicious that I have no words to describe it. It was rich, creamy, buttery, and had the clearest banana flavour I've ever tasted. It tasted more like a banana than a banana. The torte was light as air; almost soufflé like. Semi-sweet, and incredibly rich. It worked well against the somewhat "fun" ice cream. I really loved this dessert.
Crisp Pear Fritters With Milk Chocolate Sauce & Poire William Spiked Ice Cream.
This was Amanda's dessert choice. It was good, but I wouldn't say it rose to the level of my dessert. She was pleased, but not "wowed". The pear fritters were a little TOO crispy to be easily manipulated. The ice cream was good, but the Poire William had a hard time shining through the rich cream.
We drank a Vineland Riesling (2000) throughout the meal. I love this wine. Disregard anything I've said about other Canadian Riesling offerings in the past, this is my favourite. Perfect Riesling. I'm going to buy a case, actually. It was showing wonderfully this evening.
The portions were a little small, especially for the prices they're charging. The flavours were worth the money, but I certainly could've used bigger portions -- especially with their apps.
The entire meal with 2 apps, 2 entrees, a cheese course, 2 desserts and a bottle of Vineland Riesling was $270 before tip.
Would I go back? Absolutely, but I'm looking to try some more of Toronto's top tables first.
Haven't tried Bymark...yet. Chowspouse has been 3 times - enjoyed it but VERY expensive (over $200 for lunch!).
Another possibility (New) Splendido on Harbord west of Spadina. Have really enjoyed all 3 meals I've had there (but also not cheap).
And skip Rain - the comments of others are accurate.
Another possibility Xacutti - very trendy - but the food's better.