There are many dichotomies that exist in the world. Numerous works of literature have been penned which attempt to paint a picture of such polarity. Charles Dickens tells us a tale of two cities. Robert Louis Stevenson describes Dr. Jeckyl and Mr Hyde. It is no wonder that this concept has crept its way into the culinary world.
Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain have traveled across North America on their Good vs Evil Tour, embarking on friendly discussions of the triumphs and perils of the culinary culture. Chef Ripert is a distinguished chef and a poster boy of the cliché French chef with his frosty hair, pristine chef’s coat and seductive accent. 10 Arts, his restaurant in Philadelphia, is an example of his simple, clean cooking style with probably the best octopus I have ever had. Anthony, on the other hand, is a pop culture icon, traveler, author and a celebrity more than he is a chef. He’s a bone-sucking, bug chewing son of a bitch who tells off food critics and television executives at will. They are sort of the Beauty and the Beast of the culinary world.
It’s no surprise that Beast, the King West Bistro, was a sponsor of the Good vs Evil tour’s recent stop to Toronto. It boasts the same premise; good and evil wrapped into one. Other examples include the art, which showcase nubile figures with animalistic heads. With brunch, you are offered sweet ketchup together with fiery, housemade hot sauce. During brunch, you can get a fresh French pressed coffee with a cherry, coconut donut or one of the filthiest breakfast sandwich in the GTA. Even the name, Beast, leads one to picture either a noble and majestic animal roaming a grassy plain or flaming soul stealing Lucifer.
I rarely eat brunch and I’m rarely in Toronto with my kids. The mention of a breakfast joint with donuts closed the deal. They offer a platter of 4 for $10. On this day, there was maple bacon, cherry coconut, a Jack Daniels twist and a Kahlua filled cream donut. Watching two kids fighting for a maraschino cherry is always a blast (in this regard my daughter is good, my son is evil). They were sinful and quite divine, reminiscent of old school donuts before Tim Horton’s redefined them with their current, par-baked, flimsy version. The finishing touch was a number made to order french press coffee options served with a timer for optimal brewing time.
Beast takes advantage of puffy brunch prices with a $12 bacon and eggs but with a twist…a bottle of Labatt 50 (a testament to the fact that hipsters still can’t let go of beer their fathers and grandfathers drank). Since my daughter is not a fan of 50 (and the fact she is 13), we opted for the good version (booze free) for $10. She did get a non-alcoholic ginger beer, which was an aggressively powered elixir which was a bit over the top for a teen palate. I finished it off and she went with a safer freshly squeezed OJ. As the breakfast, it was an average bacon and eggs, with crisp bacon and slightly soggy potatoes.
The progression from good to evil finished with the beastwich. Touted as one of the best and nastiest breakfast sandwiches in town, I longed to to see why. The equation is as follows…biscuit, fried chicken, cheese, egg and sausage gravy. I am a bit biased having a love affair with a similar dish at Lucky’s in Cleveland. The biscuit was fluffy, the chicken was spot on, I wished for a little more yolkiness with the egg and the gravy was a little less complex than it could have been. That being said, it held its own and can be considered a leader in GTA breakfast sandwich supremacy. The potatoes could be a bit better and it would be nice to see that void on the plate filled with some grapes, strawberries or another acidic fruit which could tear into the richness of the sandwich. Is $14 worth it? I’ll let you decide.
Beast offers a fascinating brunch, offering everything from fried pickles to poutine to pork hock. Even naming their chorizo after Luis Suarez, one of the sweetest yet beastly strikers currently in the English premier league, is an example of the ongoing theme of polarity. Don’t expect fluffy pancakes and delicate crepes here; most of the dishes are evil, savory and beast heavy. The combination of the menu variety and the decent food makes this a place I would come back to again for brunch or dinner…but I would need to be feeling much more Bourdain than I would Ripert.