Cosmo-retort to estufarian post 19DEC03
Estufarian's (hereinafter "est'n")opinion of Cosmo differs so much from mine and is so unmitigatingly critical that I spoke with the owners. Consequently I felt obliged to reply.
BACKGROUND. I found Cosmo in mid-July walking along St.Clair back from Marcello's. I have become a reasonably regular customer at Cosmo and have no other connection with the restaurant. I pay for my meals to the point that I am too embarrased to use my Entertainment card because I am known.
I found Chowhound at the beginning of August . I thought that Cosmo was a find so I posted a favourable note on 5AUG03 admittingly gushing a bit. Est'n posted critically on 21AUG03. The full posts can be found when you are in Chowhound, by date or by hitting "Control F, punch in "Cosmo" or "Omsoc" for the later posts.
This is est'n's post of 21AUG03:
"....I went there last month and had the worst meal I can recall having in Toronto. So bad that I could not do an objective review without trying it again-and I have no inclination to return!
Overcooked food, offhand service, uninspired wine list. Neither French nor Hungarian-Reminds me of home cooking -I left home very young"
I e-mailed est'n directly on 26AUG03 asking what the dishes were that displeased and why they didn't work; I accepted that I might be dead wrong.
Est'n replied on 27AUG03 saying that he had to look up notes and that he would respond in a couple of days. However he responded the next day. I overlooked the response, perhaps for that reason. Est'n in his 19DEC03 "Omsoc" reply post wrote "...I sent you a detailed review (to which you did not respond) ...Unfortunately I did not keep a copy of it or I would reproduce it here."
I searched my e-mail in box and found it. Here it is:
"OK found my notes.
Started with innocuous terrine (?chicken liver). Served with stale bread(according to my note.)
There was a salad-no description in my notes.
Filet Mignon of Veal. This was way overcooked. Surprisingly tough for veal, and lacking flavour.
Chicken Parikash. The chicken was dried out. Sauce had right colour but only slight hint of paprika.
Dessert was a fruit crepe(palascinta?) which was excessively sweet.
None of the dishes was fully eaten! And nobody asked why"
On 18DEC03 I posted a favourable report of a lunch at
Cosmo, "Omsoc makes backwards work". Est'n's aforementioned 19DEC03 response (url at bottom if I succeed) inter alia reiterated his condemnation: the worst meal in Toronto in memory.
I showed the communications to the owners.
OVERVIEW. The owners investigated restaurant records and advised as follows.
Est'n's sole (by his own admission) visit to Cosmo was at a Port Wine of Canada banquet meeting held on 15May03 for 60 persons.The owners know this because the dishes listed in est'n's post were the banquet menu. (I was shown the Port Wine Club invitation card.) The Veal Filet Mignon was served never before nor after; Cosmo opened at the end of February and records were easy to check. From there, the owners remembered est'n, and remembers him as a comped guest (see further re: "freebie").
The owners stated the obvious. Food quality and service at a banquet are inferior to a restaurant setting with individual preparation. You sit down as part of a crowd, the food selection is limited and not of your choosing, and mass produced food is shoved at you by a server who needs to keep moving. Unplanned for speeches upset timing.
Eest'n's post was akin to attending a banquet at the Four Seasons and then reviewing Truffles.
The owners assert that that there was nothing wrong with the food within the limitations of a banquet setting. The Port Club organizer's only complaint was that the crepes had been folded into a triangle rather than into cylinders. The organizer is Hungarian and had set the menu and wines.
"offhand service" The owner asserts that the service was efficient and politely unobtrusive. This was a business banquet with speeches being made and wine bottles being passed around. It was not the place of a waiter or an owner to interfere with someone else's meeting by bothering their guests with the establishment's concerns. In any event, the great majority of the plates came back bare.
"Veal ..overcooked..tough...lacking flavour" The Veal Filet Mignon was with a Budapest ragout. A Budapest ragout starts with sauteed onions; tomatoes, green pepper, mushrooms and chicken livers are added. The reason that something this strong was put on as delicate a cut as veal filet was that the organizer wanted a fancy Hungarian dish but avoided beef because of the mad cow scare. The usual meat carrier is beef filet. Perhaps est'n's complaint about the veal really stems from the strong ragout. If his plate sat waiting in the a hot part of the oven during a speech, this cannot be helped.
"Chicken paprikash...sauce had the right colour but only a slight hint of paprika." The owners do not understand this complaint because it is axiomatic that if it is the right colour, there is enough paprika. Perhaps est'n was looking for the crude character of workman's fare.
"stale bread". The bread comes from a Portuguese bakery across the street. I say that their bread is good as Toronto Portuguese bread goes nowadays and has always been fresh when I have been at Cosmo. It is unlikely that bread from across the street would be served stale for a 60 person banquet.
"uninspired wine list". I cannot understand why or how Est'n criticized Cosmo. The banquet wines were set by the organizer. But putting this aside, let me continue. Cosmo's wine list does include such "uninspired wine" as Santa Rita Cab and Gallo Zin. These are good and reliable workmen who give good value and go with many dishes. They are inappropriate for a wine-bar but good in Toronto for a French style bistro. (A bistro in France is the first step in the restaurant hierarchy and strives to keep prices down so that customers can come at least weekly.)
My real retort to "uninspired wine list" is that Est'n on this occaision was narrow-minded. A Chow-hound at Cosmo should ignore anything that he can pronounce and ask for Hungarian wine simply because he doesn't know it; he should get pleasure from the adventure. Cosmo has seven Hungarian wines, and they are unlikely to be found elsewhere. They are even good and being Hungarian, go well with cooking, and they are reasonably priced.
"Neither French nor Hungarian". It is audacious of Est'n to write this if he had not lived in Hungary for an extended period. The owners are 10 years out of Hungary and speak English with a distinct accent. Their culinary training was in a Budapest technical institute, and one should understand that in Europe technical training is much more rigorous and respected than in Canada. The training was classic French. One owner apprenticed in the kitchens of the Budapest Inter-Continental and spent time in his mother's restaurant in Budapest. The other apprenticed lower and spent 10 years in Canada cooking in various Italian fine dining restaurants. When Cosmo makes its wiener schnitzel which I do like, and its crepes, which I don't like, let alone the filet with a Budapest ragout, who am I to say that the cooking is not Hungarian? The most that I can say is whether I like it or not.
But I doubt that Est'n would approve of classic Hungarian cooking. In my Hungarian cookbooks virtually every recipe has large amounts of lard, bacon and sour cream. (The owners tell me that contemporary Budapest cooking has changed dramatically.) Popular standard such as pigs feet, tripe, carp or sauerkraut-pork mixtures would have few takers here and are a menu for for a restaurant's quick demise. The Canadian-Hungarian stalwarts of Bloor and Queen St adapted to Canadian reality and serve(d) a bastardized and low cuisine. They deserve(d) respect according to how they achieve(d) their ambition. (I lament the closing of the zenith or nadir of the genre, Nick and Leslie's Hungarian Goulash Party Tavern on Queen St., a gastronomic hog wallow.) Cosmo is in a different class, much more refined and with French cooking values.
If Cosmo's cooking is not to everyone's taste or different to Nick and Leslie's, then sorry, but even on a bad day it cannot come to "the worst meal I can recall having in Toronto" (per Est'n), a town where turkeys are regularly served up.
"freebies". On 19DEC03, Est'n added " I also received an offer of a free meal -I don't accept freebies. And I wouldn't have mentioned that either except for this (viz. VVM post 18DEC03) subsequent recommendation". The self-righteousness is unnecessary because the innunendo of bribery is wrong. The owner was sincerely interested in why Est'n was displeased and like a good and honest businessman wanted to satisfy his customer. "Goods satisfactory or money refunded" was a an operative principle for Eaton's for over 135 years. In Cosmo's business, it is not useful to request the concurrent return of the digested items; instead, lets try again!
Est'n must mean that he doesn't initiate freebies initiated by owners. The owner remembers Est'n as comped at the Port Wine Banquet; indeed he was a freebie twice over. A certain Mr. X , who was a comped guest, took along Est'n and his wife as fellow comps. But again, there is nothing to get excited about here. This aggressive mooching is the way of the food business.
Now erley's post . The owners agree that the Cornish hen was unacceptably dry if erley says so. The kitchen has a problem with this item. The supplier has been changed to get a better bird. It has been relegated to a week-end special. If the hen still doesn't work, send it back; another dish will be substituted gladly. Indeed the owner expressly requests this course of conduct with any dish that any customer finds unsatisfactory.
I did not try the Cornish hen even though I mentioned it with favourable implications. My wife's mother had it and I inferred good quality because she picked it to the bone. I now tried questioning her about it, but she is 80, hard of hearing and the phone conversation about what she ate five months ago
half way around the world was difficult. I myself never order high fallutin fowl such as Cornish hen or Guinea fowl because I find them unsatisfying: there is nothing like an honest roast chicken nicely executed. I had at Cosmo recently as a special, roast chicken with chestnut stuffing with a lingonberry sauce and it was delicious.
The owners say that with any new venture changes are being made as they become established; they opened only in late February. And erley may have gotten unlucky in choosing from the menu. The owners apologize, are eager to receive constructive criticism, and will contact erley directly.
To conclude, "Reminds me of home cooking", quoting Est'n. Est'n's criticism is not meaningful. French bistro and brasserie cooking is essentially home cooking. My idea of the skill of the average French housewife may be romanticized. But I wish that more Toronto restaurants created the comfortable pleasures of a good home cooked meal; that they treated both the customer and the food with respect, rather than stage a child's tea party for the jaded. Agreed that Cosmo cooks without frou-frou; if this is sought, go elsewhere. Cosmo does cook with honesty and skill and is good according to the station that it seeks for itself, le bistro au coin, and is priced accordingly. As a bonus, Cosmo's table settings and room service are nice enough to host a celebration.
You must have strong feelings about this restaurant.
My meal was truly awful, and the hen had definitely been reheated to the extreme..
I never review average, which is most restaurants.
I eat out a lot because my husband and I work to-gether, and it is easier. I comment on, only excellent or terrible.
Perhaps I will try it again.
We may have hit a bad day, which can happen.