Monday, 9 July 2012

Let's face it



Blogger sucks. I mean, it's crappy. I am moving over to my own site, all my reviews will be up here:
www.libbyroach.ca

Swing by and say hi!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Harbord House



Harbord House is a quaint ‘gastropub’ taking over the now defunct Rowers Grill on Harbord Street. In an area brimming with restaurants, the Harbord House is still a bit of an institution. Located in a charming Victorian house converted into a bar, the three floor (with two patios) bar/pub serves up the typical pub favourites and refreshingly only serves Canadian microbrews on tap. With its proximity to the U of T campus, mainly affordable menu, and kitschy themed meet ups (power walkers group anyone?) they are definitely appealing to a niche market.

Grabbing a table on the upstairs patio affords beautiful views of the city skyline. Every patio table is occupied upon our arrival, and when the cordial yet frenzied waitress speeds by to distribute menus, she explains that they are short staffed, so expect some delays. Being a former server myself, I can remember being in the weeds many a time, and respected her honesty (and the opportunity to bolt if we were in a rush).  We perused the mighty draught menu (11 beers on tap, all from Ontario except for one Quebecois), gave our waitress a moment to catch her breath, and enjoyed the sunshine. We ordered up pints of the Great Lakes Horseshoe Blonde Lager, Steamwhistle and Neustadt (all pints are democratically $6.05) and surprisingly our pints are swiftly delivered considering the circumstance. Owner and very hands-on operator John Oakes is usually found milling about and ensuring things run smoothly, which I’m sure had a lot to do with our drinks finding us so quickly.
When eating at a restaurant that is mostly standard pub fare (club sandwiches, wings and the odd meat and potatoes plate) I take their cue and go with the popular vote. But the Fish and Chips ($14), were rather meh-inducing. A bountiful portion with all the necessary components (including proper malt vinegar) was present, but the fish batter just didn’t coat the foot long haddock in the right ways. Much like a dress should hug all the right curves, fish batter should bubble and pop in all the right dimensions after the fryer. A fluffier batter creates bubbles and pockets, important to withstand the salt and malt onslaught.
The Harbord House Burger ($11), which I had heard a lot of buzz about, was sadly left to char too long, especially considering it was ordered a juicy medium. The lack of interesting condiments either means I’ve been spoiled by Hero Burger, Burger’s Priest et al, or these guys just aren’t trying to compete. Ketchup and mustard don’t cut the, uh mustard? anymore. The slightly toasted sesame seed bun further sponged up the remaining flavours resulting in a rather boring burger.

Flatiron Steak Salad ($15) with two cherry tomatoes, a surprising blue cheese (not listed on the menu), flaccid Portobello mushrooms and charred whole red onion tossed in a maple balsamic (that was neither maple or balsamic) was an exercise in futility. Trying to cut through a steak with a butter knife is like trying to tie your shoes with a meat hook. The rigorous see-saw action required to cut the steak coupled with a rickety patio table was irritating. Either cut the meat to smallish proportions, or equip the diner accordingly!

Sticky Toffee Pudding ($6) was another much hyped menu item, and although it looked like a mud pie a child would make, it was decadent and saccharinely sweet and satisfying.

I guess if you’re coughing up the dough to be a U of T student, or live in the campus area, this cozy and familiar pub will fit your budget and lifestyle. There’s nothing wrong with having a good reliable local place with friendly service and a ‘Cheers’ like atmosphere. Just helps if everyone knows your name first.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Restaurant Toqué- Montreal

Had the pleasure of dining at Restaurant Toqué in Montreal over the May long weekend. My best friend from kindergarten(!) came with me, celebrating her birthday. She had never had a tasting menu before, so I felt it necessary to pop her culinary cherry!

There was 8 courses in all, and we declined the wine flight (mostly whites, gah). Two standouts from the night were the Arctic Char, chunks of raw Arctic char, in a melange swirl of amazing flavour combinations, strawberries, spinach, creme fraiche, all in one of the nicest presentations I've seen in a while. Almost too pretty to eat.


I sorely wished for the cheese plate would feature some glorious Quebecois fromage, but unfortunately we got stuck with this, goat cheese mousse fluffed up to look like a fried egg. Very cool concept, which for a tasting menu I adore the bold choice, just wish I could have been mentally prepared for it first.









Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Oxley

The Oxley only recently opened its doors to the commoners living in the Yorkville area, but they are no doubt off to a great start. Sandwiched by their two quaint patios, their gooey middle is all charm and sophistication. In what every good and proper pub aspires to be, The Oxley exudes. Owned by the Queen and Beaver pub team and Ex-Pat’s Jamieson Kerr and Chef Andrew Carter, The Oxley is less sporty than its sister pub, likely a nod to the less sporty clientele.

Previously occupied by a Hungarian restaurant, the Oxley swung a hammer thru the galley style interior and infused well thought out comfortable pub décor, with nary a fox, toad or firkin in sight. Personal space is well respected here; tables aren’t choked all the way through the narrow dining room, elbow room is kept in high regard and conversations aren’t bounced across every wall in the room. An inviting pub you can actually relax in, without the fuzzy red velour that infects most competitors.

Service is just as swish as the tasteful interior. Friendly without being obtrusive, our server didn’t hesitate to suggest her fave dishes off the British dominated menu. If you haven’t experienced proper pub food (Guinea fowl, organ meat pies) then the Oxley will certainly surprise you. Offering a wide selection of ales and lagers, the server also suggested the cask ales which are traditionally served at room temperature (gives true meaning to pulling pints). We opted for the darker cask ale ($8.50) and a bottle of Stone Hammer ($6) which we expected to match our culinary cravings.


Channeling our English roots, and caving to our pickled hankerings, we started off with the Aged cheddar and Branston sandwich ($16) with house made salty crisps (chips). For those not inclined, Branston is a popular UK condiment that features pickled rutabaga, onions, carrots, all muddled into a black mushy spread that somewhat resembles jam. Spiced with mustard, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and more, it’s definitely an acquired taste. I tend to avoid the jarred stuff, but was compelled to order it when told it was in house made. Served on white bread, with buttery white cheddar, the pickle was salty as well as sweet and the flavours combined together made it memorable. The crisps were a nice touch, served in a parchment bag ensuring a good crunch, and tucking a few in with the cheddar adds a further dimension to the differing textures.

The Fish Pie with peas ($22) was Shepherd’s pie style, with a mashed potato topping replacing the puff pastry that’s usually a feature of most British pies. This resulted in one giant heavy trough of potato, cream and five types of fish: scallops, salmon, halibut, mussels and lobster. Each fish got the special treatment; cooked individually first guaranteed that the fish still retained its natural form and didn’t turn into a mushy fish mess.
The Rib Eye ($38) served on crisped white bread with a generous slathering of stilton sitting atop green beans was an inventive take on a classic. Steak and blue cheese is always a stellar combo, and the upgrade to proper British stilton propelled the juicy medium rare steak into meat glory.
The Sticky Toffee Pudding ($8) lived up to its name. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, the steaming pudding had definite notes of molasses and brown sugar. The portion was ample and the ice cream cascaded into a melting river of vanilla, adding a lovely creamy consistency that balanced the denseness of the pudding.

Serving options from the bar, brunch or full dinner menus promises those with varying appetites will be satisfied. And with the 2012 London Olympic Games coming, I predict the Oxley’s tempting commonwealth nibbles to shine a spotlight on modern British cuisine. Just remember, it’s still Yorkville, so mind your p’s and q’s and bring a few extra quid, it’s not your average Toronto pub.

The Oxley is located at 121 Yorkville avenue and does take reservations, although not for the patio.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Spacco

Spacco literally means a long narrow opening, and if you do happen to venture down the long corridor just off Yonge street that’s just what you’ll find. Greeting you is its 7 pool tables ($18/hr), decent lounge décor, a wood burning oven for their pizzas and a giant Italian dominated menu. The huge courtyard patio is a draw during warmer months, and there’s plenty of room in the dining room and bar for those not into billiards. They feature a DJ and dancing on weekends, although there’s no official dance floor.

A Yonge and Eglinton institution, Spacco has been around for ages. People feeling too lazy to go downtown often wind up here for drinks and pool. With a couple beers on tap (Mill Street Organic, Coors light, etc) and the standard bar rail, most people will find something to suit them. There was no official ‘bar menu’ so it’s likely best to stick to the classics here and save your trendy cocktail cravings for south of Bloor.

Saving pool for later, we were tempted by the standard pub fare classic, the battered calamari ($13). Crispy battered and flash fried, these chewy rings came in a bountiful portion, we didn’t even finish half of it. Sided with massive lemon wedge and a ramekin of caper aioli for dipping, the variations in texture were well balanced. The batter was well seasoned to boot with obvious flakes of spicy black pepper.

The Beet Salad ($13) was a lovely blend of red and gold beets sitting atop a mound of baby spinach and accompanied by a sliced chicken breast, then finished off with a generous helping of creamy goat cheese.  The white balsamic dressing played nicely with the rich goat cheese, and took the edge off the baby spinach that can sometimes taste bitter.

While we were off to a good start, the Porcini mushroom risotto ($19) missed its mark. Chock full of field and porcini mushrooms, the risotto was oozy and cooked well enough; too bad it was literally swimming in olive oil. The fresh rosemary garnish promised on the menu was conspicuously absent, replaced by a smattering of parmesan cheese.

The Tutto Carne pizza ($16) was a meat-lovers fantasy; pepperoni, Italian sausage, pancetta and cappicollo liberally spread over a mozzarella and tomato sauce. Cooked in a wood oven, I was hoping for more charred pieces and bubbly crust, it definitely could have used a few more minutes getting fired up, resulting in some doughy crust.

While the food occasionally left something to be desired (hello rosemary!), on the whole Spacco is a decent alternative to the standard pub fare, and the patio alone is worth checking out this summer.

Spacco Restaurant and Bar is located at 2415 Yonge St.

Spacco takes reservations and has event planning available for larger parties.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Deq Patio opening at Ritz Carlton


Deq kicked off patio seaon in high style with the launch of their new courtyard patio at the Ritz Carlton Toronto.

Guests were treated to stylish performances in many musical varieties, opera, Dj and saxophone mingled together at the Bacardi Rum sponsored event, with bartenders muddling mint for their signature mojitos at blistering speeds. Garnished with sugar cane, the cocktails were the perfect complement to the sweltering temperatures.


Deq patio features it's own freshly planted mint and herb garden flanked by two bars and loads of plush seating. Dj's will be spinning almost nightly here, making it a sophisticated yet playful choice for the adult set looking to avoid the King West mayhem.






Deq is located in The Ritz Carlton 181 Wellington Street West.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Menchies Fro-Yo


I took the wee ones to Menchies at Yonge by Lawrence the other day. With the warm weather here, and all the buzz circulating about this American import, I needed to know the truth. Does Menchies compare to Pinkberry? What about my Canadian go-to Yogen-Fruz? Summer is around the corner and I NEED to know, where do I safely spend my frozen yogurt bucks?


A simple enough concept- Menchies does the whole lazy 'do it yourself' mantra. Enter, get a one-size fits all cup and select a flavour from the frozen wall of upgraded slurpee machines, then toss on some 'toppings' and weigh in.


Simple enough, right? Well sure, unless you take into account the flavour options. We tried Pina Coloda (topped with fresh pineapple), Mango (topped with sprinkles) and Strawberry (topped with fresh gummie bears and when I wasn't looking sprinkles too). There are two topping 'bars', one with the candy-type options (sprinkles, gummy worms/bears, marshmallows, chocolate chips, lucky charms, well, you get the idea) or the healthier toppings, which were largely fruit based. Dairy free options are available as well, so no lactose, no problem.


We weighed in after getting our cups in order (also upgradeable to waffle cups), which came to almost a full pound of yogurt. Before settling in (ample seating is much appreciated) to the modern and spacious neon surroundings the helpful cashier gave my kiddos stickers, tattoos and the little fold up cars that they are currently giving out. I'm all for corporate branding, but the tattoos were in the garbage before we hit the sidewalk.

Taste test wise, I gotta say, I prefer the Yogen. The texture is just strange, maybe it's the low-fatness of it all, but it tasted gritty. The Pina Coloda was absent of the coconut/pineapple mash up that you come to expect, and that was WITH the addition of actual pineapple. The strawberry was much the same, pink blandness melting as fast as my hopes for a frozen yogurt alternative to Yogen-Fruz.

All in all, very kid friendly. The peace and quiet from them eating their low fat, high sugar combos was worth the expense. For my caloric intake, I'll save it for the fruz!


Monday, 7 May 2012

Cafe du Monde- New Orleans



Café du Monde is a mandatory stop on any New Orleans trip, so we buckled on a Saturday morning and lined up like sheep for the ‘best beignets’ in NOLA.  The line moved quickly, shockingly, since there’s no hostess or staff assisting you. It’s best to push yourself through and grab the first (dirty) table.

While wait staff mostly grunt at you, the menu is your choice of beignets, or more beignets, and of course, the popular chicory coffee. Having heard so many glorious things about square patches of deep fried dough, expectations were high. So was my blood sugar. With three to an order, I ate maybe 1/3 of my beignet, leaving the other 2 to my pal. Sage advice from a friend who had eaten there before ‘Don’t wear black, or you’ll look like a coke fiend after’. Well said LP. They were absolutely covered in fluffy icing sugar.

So do you absolutely HAVE to go to Café du Monde? No. There is another place in the French Quarter that serves up beignets, shockingly called Café Beignet. I did not get the opportunity to sample these ones for comparison, but there’s always next time.

Café du Monde is located at 800 Decatur Street.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Cowbell- New Orleans


While visiting friends in Central City, they eagerly suggested we eat at Cowbell. With its kitschy décor and chuggable ‘adult’ pops Cowbell was a delicious alternative to the gumbos that I’d been mass eating since I got there.

We shared a portion of the mac n’ cheese ($6, which is usually a side for the ribeye). It was heavenly, so cheesy with crunchy little tiny breadcrumbs and parmesan dusting on top. The sauce is a delicate balance of gruyere, aged white cheddar in a heavily reduced cream sauce. Shallots, thyme and peppers increase the adult quotient and allow the dish to stand on its own two feet, although a whole portion of just these tasty tubes would likely guarantee a blissful carb induced nap.

Up next, under direct pressure from my table mates I ordered the Cowbell Natural Beef Burger ($10.95 + $2) topped with apple wood smoked bacon and a fresh farm egg. I was impressed. Although the fries were a titch soggy, the burger commanded my full attention anyhow. The egg was pleasantly runny, ensuring it was a 10-paper-napkin-meal. Fresh thick tomatoes, rings of red onions and crispy lettuce upped the nutritional value, but the cholesterol crescendo took over. I did not finish the burger and every time a hunger pang hits I’m reminded of what could have been.  
Chef Brack May and his partner in business and life Krista Pendergraft-May run the ship so if you’re in the Central City part of New Orleans drop in, and come hungry. This place rocks. Also, go by the Maple Leaf bar down the street and let me know if it’s a good time. Place was so rammed I couldn’t be bothered!

Cowbell is located at 8801 Oak Street ring ‘em at 504-298-8689.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Café Reconcile



Café Reconcile exists to do two things; assist those affected by poverty through life-skills training in a real restaurant surrounding, and cook absolutely mind blowing New Orleans style soul food at easy to swallow prices.
Located in ‘Central City’ on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd, Café Reconcile hopes to open more locations throughout the city in the next coming years, allowing them to accept more at risk youth into their highly sought after program.
I heard about the Café through my travel companion, and headed over for lunch (they are only open select hours for lunch and not on weekends). The staff is so warm and effusive, it does not smack of despair or charity, only hope and hard work. We had many servers over the course of our lunch, all stopping to ensure we were enjoying our food and making chit chat.

Being my first day in New Orleans, I was keen on trying the special Seafood Gumbo ($6.49), with a side of fresh baked jalapeno cornbread ($2.49). The gumbo had a complex deep brown roux, the hallmark of a good gumbo, and the seafood was tender and tasty, especially with a good helping of the popular Crystal hot sauce that is so ubiquitous in New Orleans.

The cornbread was a fluffy chunk of sweet bread, speckled with a few whole jalapenos which were spicy but a great complement to the gumbo.

I really wish they would consider either opening in Toronto, or delivering. I think for now I’ll just hone my own roux skills and look forward to my next trip down there!

Café Reconcile is at 1631 Oretha C Haley Boulevard New Orleans  and can be reached at 504 568-1157.



Tuesday, 24 April 2012

California Almond Board at the Drake




The California Almond board invited members of the foodie scene and special guests from as far as LA to kick off a nutty night of everything almonds at the Drake Hotel last week.  Showcasing the multi-talented nut was Chef Anthony Rose (formerly the head chef at the Drake), NYC Pastry Chef Jenny McCoy and Hollywood Mixologist Matthew Biancaniello creating several concoctions of nut related deliciousness.

First guests were treated to Matthew’s ‘Lost in Laos’ gin based cocktail, infused with almond milk and green Chartreuse.  Expecting it to be somewhat creamy and thick, it was anything but, offering a delicate nutty flavour that was balanced out with the kaffir lime leaves.

Cooking demos led by Chef Anthony gave gawkers the opportunity to learn how to properly stuff a pot sticker and a walkthrough on his lemon roasted halibut. Chef Jenny turned her almonds into a delectable almond milk panna cotta with a crispy almond praline and strawberry rhubarb compote. Small sample plates were distributed ensuring guests a sample of every dish, which were not only almond rich, but seasonally accessible as well.



And just in case you didn’t get your daily quotient (which according to the California Almond board is an exact 23 almonds) there was a clever self-serve almond bar with eight different flavours to fashion yourself a grab bag for the way home.

So, no excuses people. Almonds are good for you; they’re easy to eat, readily available and highly adaptable to just about every recipe. So get out there and get nuts!

Recipes are re-printed with express consent from the California Almond Board. For more information on almonds and more recipes, check out almondboard.com

Lost In Laos


Ingredients 3-4 kaffir lime leaves 3/4 oz (21 g) of fresh lime juice 3/4 oz (21 g) agave syrup ½ oz (14 g) of Green Chartreuse 2 oz (55 g) gin 2 oz (55 g) unsweetened almond milk

Directions In a cocktail shaker, muddle together kaffir lime leaves, lime juice and agave, approximately 2 minutes. Add liquors, almond milk and ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a collins glass with ice, Garnish with kaffir lime leaves on the side.

Lemon Roasted Halibut with Crunchy Spring Mix

Ingredients 2 cups (500 mL) yellow quinoa 1 bunch asparagus, cut into 6 pieces on the bias 4 cups (1 L) sugar snap peas, cut into 4 pieces on the bias 2 cups (500 mL) shelled green sweet peas ½ lemon, zest and juice ¼ bunch chives, finely chopped ¼ bunch tarragon, finely chopped 3 oz (85 g) extra virgin olive oil 6 (5) oz (142 g) halibut filets 2 sprigs fresh dill 2 lemons, thinly sliced 1/4 lb (113 g) unsalted butter ¼ cup (60 mL) white wine 1 cup (250 mL) toasted crushed whole almonds Salt and pepper, as needed


Directions Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
Rinse quinoa thoroughly and place into a rice cooker with 3 cups (750 ml) of water; Cook until done.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare a large bowl with ice water nearby.

Blanch asparagus, snap peas and sweet peas by placing them into the boiling water for about 1 minute. Strain and remove to ice water for another minute to stop the cooking. Drain well and set aside.

Remove quinoa from rice cooker, place into a large bowl and mix together with lemon zest, chives, tarragon and olive oil. Season to taste with salt & pepper

Season fish with salt and pepper and place onto a parchment-lined sheet tray. Place a sprig of dill onto each piece of fish; layer each with 3-4 lemon slices and top with 1 tsp (5 mL) butter. Splash with white wine and cook uncovered approximately 7 minutes. While the fish is cooking, brown the remaining butter in a pan over medium high heat. Add the remaining lemon juice and blanched vegetables and toss quickly. Season to taste and add toasted almonds to vegetables. To serve, arrange quinoa and fish on a plate and spoon vegetables around and over the fish.


Almond Milk Panna Cotta
Makes 8 to 10 servings
Ingredients ¼ cup (50 mL) almonds, finely chopped 2 tbsp (30 mL) almond paste, finely chopped 3 ½ cups (875 mL) unsweetened almond milk ¼ tsp (1 mL) almond extract 2/3 cups (150 mL) granulated sugar Pinch fine sea salt 1 1/3 cup (325 mL) heavy cream 2 envelopes powdered gelatin


Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C) Set 8 to 10 four-ounce (120 g) ramekins on a baking sheet.
Spread almonds on a baking sheet and toast until deep golden and fragrant, about 6 to 8 minutes.
In a medium saucepan, bring toasted almonds, almond paste, almond milk, almond extract, sugar, and salt to a boil. Turn off heat and let steep at room temperature for 15 minutes; return to a rolling boil.

Pour heavy cream into a mixing bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the surface of the cream. Let stand for about 5 minutes, then whisk to incorporate. Add hot almond cream and whisk smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large metal bowl. Place bowl over a larger bowl filled with ice water and stir until cool.

Divide panna cotta base amongst ramekins. Carefully transfer to refrigerator and chill overnight until fully set.

To serve, dip ramekins into a bowl of hot water to loosen the side of the custard. Gently invert onto desired serving dish. Top with Strawberry-Rhubarb Preserves and a piece of Almond Praline.

STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB PRESERVES
Makes 4 cups (1 L)
Ingredients
2 ½ pounds (1.135 kg) rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into ½" (1.3 cm) pieces

½ pound (227 g) strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters

Seeds of ½ vanilla bean, optional

1 cup (250 mL) water 4 ½ to 5 ½ cups 1.125 L to 1.375 L) granulated sugar, to taste ¼ tsp (1 mL) fine sea salt Juice of 1 lime

Pinch of fine sea salt

Directions
In a large pot, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, vanilla bean, and water over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes, or until the rhubarb is just tender.

Add sugar and salt. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until jam has just thickened, skimming off and discarding any foam that rises to the surface. Add remaining sugar, to taste, if needed. Continue cooking until jam has reached 220°F (104°C) on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice.

Carefully spoon jam into heatproof jars. Let stand uncovered until room temperature. Store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

ALMOND PRALINE
Makes 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients ¼ cup (50 mL) granulated sugar 2 tbps (30 mL) light corn syrup 1 ½ tsp (375 mL) light brown sugar 1 ½ tsp (375 mL) unsalted butter, softened ½ tsp (2 mL) fine sea salt ¼ cup (50 mL)plus 2 tbsp (30 mL) almonds, finely ground

Directions Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir until evenly combined. Refrigerate overnight to harden.

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet with a silicon baking mat.

Divide praline base into 8 to 10 pieces and place on baking sheet, evenly spaced apart. With the palm of your hand, press praline firmly to flatten. Bake until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet to room temperature.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Getting Octagonal at the Octagon





The Octagon is not trendy, exciting or new by any means. It is, however, a purveyor of well executed cuts of meat and seafood, stellar service and a killer wine cellar.  Consistent, accessible and approachable, The Octagon has been in business for decades, and there’s an obvious reason for it. What it lacks in excitement it more than makes up for it what we came for : meat.


Located in Thornhill, just north of Steeles on Yonge street, The Octagon is hard to miss, especially as it lives up to its geometric name, the entire building is a house of crazy eights, in and out, hard angles all at 135 degrees, carved out of oak and cherry woods positioned in between stunning panes of stained glass. This is definitely the type of place you would take Dorothy Manthooth out for a nice seafood dinner and never call her again.

Channeling the steak house vibe, we tucked in for some overpriced cocktails, a spicy Bloody Caesar ($12) and the kitschy classic Long Island Iced Tea ($11). Certainly tasty, not worth the expense though. An in house complimentary pickle tray helped take bite out of cocktails, and the basket of buttery garlic bread was a nice touch. The Caesar salad for two ($29) was prepared table side in a large well-seasoned wooden bowl; you could tell this was going to be a serious salad. A half dozen ramekins containing all the various ingredients (raw egg, anchovies, parmesan cheese, red wine vinegar, lemons, croutons, bacon bits, Worcestershire sauce, tabasco sauce, pepper, garlic) are all portioned out to ensure consistent results. It’s quite a process, but entertaining to watch as well. The servers creating the salads make it look like artwork, our server this evening had been working there for close to 20 years. And the proof is in the pudding, this is easily the best Caesar salad in the GTA. Portions are huge, and the creaminess of the dressing doesn’t disguise the standout ingredients. Almost like a symphony, the salad soars with every bite and every component complementing the next.
The bacon wrapped scallops ($16.95) were tender, salty and pleasantly plump. At about the size of a baby’s fist, you would expect some level of chewiness, but it literally breaks apart in your mouth, seeping the buttery-lemon juices into your mouth.

Steaks are served in every size and cut; we both opted for the Cadillac of all, 8 ounce Filet Mignon ($39.95, or $51.95 for the gut wrenching 12 ounce option). Cooked to a bloody perfect medium rare-rare (so medium rare, but more towards rare than well) I was in meat heaven. Aged a lovingly 45 days and charcoal broiled you really don`t come here for the chicken. Steaks are served simply enough, only a couple mushrooms and a sad piece of parsley compete on this platter. But, there really is no competition. The steak is just so glorious it needs nothing to accompany it. Unlike other upscale steakhouses, The Octagon does offer a side at no charge, so our steaks were quickly followed by a baked potato and circular home fries that were mostly ignored. A perfectly cooked 8 ounce filet is about 4 ounces too much for me anyway, I had no shame in doggy-bagging it here, and looking around most tables had their little Octagon-stamped bags ready to go. 


We rounded out our meal with a fabulous liquid dessert, Spanish Coffee ($10.95). Once again we dragged our server back to our table, this time with an open flame. George lovingly prepared our coffees with great flair and precision. No third degree burns here.

I kept expecting Ron Burgundy to pop out and serenade us with some Jazz flute, but aside from that, this stereotypical steakhouse lives up to all its hype. A little weathered, a little dated, but it`s still a classic restaurant that steak lovers will return to, again and again.

The Octagon is located at 7529 Yonge Street, call 'em at 905-889-8989