Dad's 60th birthday! **Need extra-special restaurant!**
My husband's father is turning 60 soon, and we're looking for a truly SPECTACULAR restaurant to treat him to. Price is no object, but he's not going to be impressed just because it's expensive, it has to be dazzlingly good! He is a total chowhound and we really want to WOW him with something elegant, exciting, satisfying, and memorable.
So what do you think? North 44? Truffles? Susur? Scaramouche? somewhere else?
please help!! thank you! :)
You might want to try Noce on Queen West (west of Bathurst) Excellent (somewhat pricier) food, authetic Italian. Beautiful, cosy restaurant and owners are so friendly. Tell Elena or Guido it's a special occasion. Wine list is expensive. My favourites are homemade pastas and desserts
Of the high-end restaurants I've tried in Toronto (The Fifth, Avalon, Scaramouche, etc.), I think North 44 is the best. The view at Scaramouche is pretty nice AS LONG AS IT IS DARK. If you see it in the day time, it looks like you are looking out onto someone's apartment balcony (which is basically what it is). Food is pretty good but not great.
The one thing about North 44 is the wine pricing is insane (anything from California is particularly expensive, eg. Beringer Founders Estate offered at $14.50 per glass - this is a US$11 bottle of wine). The restaurant is pretty expensive (virtually every entree is $40 or more and most appetizer are north of $17). Dinner for two is about $280 after tax and tip inclusive of a reasonable bottle of wine (around $60) but excluding any cocktails or after-dinner drinks.
The food is good, often with a touch of Asian influence. Service tends to be attentive but somewhat casual.
I will second Noce. Their gnocchi is to die for. Melt in your mouth.
I have never had a bad meal at Scarmouche or N44.
Another option to consider (am I am very hazy on the details. I looked into it a couple of years ago and then got sidetracked but it sounded interesting at the time. The chef (former chef) of the Fifth hosts/cooks a dinner at his house (seats 12 I believe). Average of $120 per person and you bring the wine. Maybe other Chowhounders have heard of this and can help out. The name that sticks in my mind is Delroy Lindo but when I try to look it up, I keep getting an actor.
Here is the info that I found. I am not sure if he still does it. Hmmmm. Delroy Lindo to Didier Leroy. It was in there somewhere......my apologies Didier! Could not find a phone number but maybe another Chowhouder may have it.
Still dazzling them at The Fifth, on his days off master chef Didier Leroy opens his home to guests who pay from $125 to $200 (price varies with menu, B.Y.O.B.) per person prix fixe for French classical cuisine.
The setting is a gorgeous downtown condo loft outfitted with a six-burner gas Vulcan range and an industrial Hobart fridge -- built into the entrance hall.
Comfortably seating 12, a traditional blond beechwood Parson's leg dining table is set with Hermes placemats and Limoges dinner service. The exquisite silver-plated Ercuis cutlery weighs as much if not more than the plates themselves. One thing is clear: Leroy takes great care when it comes to the details of these intimate affairs.
You are in a way right. Under Didier Leroy (the chef's working name) The Fifth was more of a theatre than a restaurant, staring with the entry from the back of the building up the old freight elevator. I counted enough staff in the kitchen to run a Michelin 2? star. For all of this the food was relatively ordinary and sometimes just dumb. But a great place to take a woman if you wanted to increase the odds of getting lucky.
But The Fifth is memorable and better priced than Susur. You know, sort of an adult Chucky Cheese; so why don't you give it a shot.
Another of my disappointments is on the way out: the bar in the club downstairs has no bowls of peanuts set out.
There is nothing wrong with Susur for a celebration. However to really enjoy it you have to suspend independent judgement and enjoy running with fashion. And you will pay!
Now don't get me wrong. I did say that there is nothing wrong with Susur. It is not like some fancy places that depend on the customer's willing participation in a gastronomic Emperor's new clothes ritual. And it has to be exorbitantly expensive, because the more you pay the more psychologically difficult it is to admit that you have been had. Susur uses the best ingredients and his technique is impeccable. Some of the stuff even hangs together. But at the end of the evening something big is missing. For me anyway, but what do I know, I am a Polish peasant without polish.
Let me describe my first and last attendance at this temple of aestheticism. We enter and are ushered to the holding tank-bar.On the wall were three crummy oil on velvet paintings. Over the bar were hanging lights; the shades were foot long cylinders covered
with multi coloured plastic gems. They looked like poor cousins to the 1954 vintage hanging lights (from over my basement bar) which I had given to the charity shop. I had a flashback to Gio's and his clothes line with jockey shorts. Here I couldn't walk out: it was my wife's wedding anniversary or something. So I went bumpkin. I pretended to be engrossed (as opposed to being grossed out) by the "attitude". I carried on about how much I liked the art and asked if I could purchase one of the paintings. Mercifully, I was refused.
We were seated near a wall. (The table was ready when we came in, I suspect that our stop at the holding tank-bar was a station of the path to the bank.) The room was gloomy. Much of the light came from neon lighting against the wall. These changed colour gradually and what we got was pastel gloom. Then there was the so called music. It sounded as if the upstairs tenants were having a party; what came through sounded like random thumping from above. Continuing in bumpkin mode, I complained about the supposed tenants repeatedly but to no avail other than to be told that there were no upstairs tenants. Between the bad light and and noise there was no pleasure from the ambience; certainly the junk decoration at entry didn't contribute to our goal of an evening of luxurious elegance and pleasure.
Now on the whole I don't pay much attention to ambience; I am really interested in the cooking and accept a restaurant according to the station in life that it claims for itself. The object of my desire is what is on the plate, not on the wall, and I understand the need to keep costs down. Here I felt as if I was getting conned and I resented it.
Now for the food. I had the tasting menu. All that I could remember was excellent technique, perfect ingredients, but that is it. The individual dishes not at all, except that there was a lot of brown. To summarize, the cooking was short on soul. And I don't think that my lack of pleasure in the food was because I let the funky decor put me into a funk. My wife remebers liking a great deal what she had, but doesn't remember what it was. And this is from a woman who never lets me forget.
One should not leave what is considered to be one of the greatest tables in Canada and have next to no residual memory of the meal other than that we had no objection to it at the time. And I don't think that the problem lies with us. What I was left with at the end of the evening was a small headache from the bad light and bad music, and a large bill. There was no temptation to linger in this temple of aetheticism. I had relief once I got out past the front door.
But if what Susur offers is your cup of consomme-----
re: Vinnie Vidimangi
I know you are a valuable regular contributor to Chowhound - but surely this post is an attempt to ignite a flame war!
No review of the food because you have 'next to no residual memory of the meal'.
Susur has his idiosyncrasies certainly. And it may not be to everybodys taste. But with over 20 years cooking in Toronto, he must be doing something right.
The person posting requested a recommendation for a special restaurant to celebrate a birthday party for her 60 year old father-in-law. She proposed Susur as one choice, as has often been suggested on this site.
Given that the goal of host is to please the guest, I thought that it would be a service to describe our "celebration". My overriding comment was that Susur's technical skill and standard were so high that the host would not be embarassed; if Susur's shtick gives the host, or rather the guest, pleasure commensurate with the size of the bill, make the reservation.
In my mind it is a large and powerful criticism of Susur's food that we have next to no residual memory of the meal. When I enjoy a meal I remember it. I have vivid and fond memories of the food at establishments high and low; sometimes of the meal from beginning to end. Here I was in Toronto's most expensive restaurant with a chef-owner who has been the toast of the town for many years and what I remember was that the food was mostly brown. (And also in response to the waiter's lengthy and affected description of the "presentation" (i.e.food), that I was peeved enough to feign confusion and ask if the doily on which the bowl sat was intended for eating. For a moment I had thought, from the lengthy description of the the otherwise not apparent parsnips and Susur's acknowledged skill, that the parsnips had been turned into an elegant doily crisp. At Susur the ambience had a negative impact on the food to the extent that I was glad that the meal was over so that we could leave. What more needs to said about the food and the pleasure to be derived from it?
I agree that Susur has done very well for over 20 years cooking in Toronto. It would take a long sociological study to explain why; his success is due to much more than to his high standard and technical skill. But integral to Susur's success is his celebrity, and integral to his celebrity is that he clicks with the clique. It publicizes Susur constantly and uncritically; he has become the toast of Toronto. Other chefs and owners who have deserved to succeed have been ignored or made subject to goofy aesthetic criteria and have become toast.
If a dissenting opinion provokes discussion, perhaps it is for the better.
re: Vinnie Vidimangi
Have to agree with VVM -- and why should someone as overpromoted as Susur be beyond criticism? It's one thing to win praise by giving Jacob Richler a free meal, but quite another to please the people paying their hard-earned cash for his dissatisfying inventions. For a tenth the price, you can eat beautifully at Vanipha Lanna, and they don't make you feel like a rube.
re: Vinnie Vidimangi
I agree with this post. Dissension is fine if reasons are given (as they are in your comments here). It was the original piece which indicated you couldn't recall the food which bothered me as the basis for the critique was missing. This piece adds the context perfectly. And I still think Susur is the best chef in TO - but hate his backwards menu which destroys any reasonable wine matching. So I order several appetizers and specify the serving order.
re: Vinnie Vidimangi
I also went to Susur and had a not-so-wonderful experience. My night involved a 7 course vegan meal that was so bland and for some courses truely horrible, we only ate them as we were hungry!
Half way through the night the waiter split a glass of wine on my partner then gives me a glass of club soda to clean it off his shirt and pants. He then gives the now almost empty glass back to him without a second thought. Now at a minimum of $50 a bottle at least apologise and give a new glass of wine - any restaurant would do that but Susur beleaves it is above that.
I donot care how long a restaurant has been there - I have been to many execellent restaurants that have just opened - but the behaviour was disgusting and the food wasn't much better.
not only will i not recommend Susur I advise everyone to stay away from it and spend your money on the many other wonderful restaurants you can find in Toronto.