TIFF is annoying. It’s the time of year when A-listers pretend that they are artists and not actors who hold out for big salaries and insist on the right camera angles to minimize acne breakouts or skin blemishes. Actors like Adrian Brody forget the Gillette commercials they did with Andre 3000 and the other guy nobody’s ever heard of and become humble thespians touting the need to preserve the art of flim. So, I didn’t go to Hudson Kitchen because Brad Pitt had a private meal there (although it would be dreamy to put my ass in the same spot he did). I was more impressed at the fact that the chef had a history at Ursa and Woodlot, two restaurants which pride themselves on quality seasonal food and innovative plating techniques.
Hudson kitchen is a good sized restaurant, an expansion of the old Palmerston cafe which sits on the corner of Dundas West. Like Woodlot and Ursa, the decor was a blend of chic and worn. A small bar tended by a large man with quite the dapper mustache greets you as you enter who, based on the pre-opening hype, foreshadows the possibility of a pristine cocktail. The tables are scattered among hardwood floors. In the front, one wall is plain white and the other displays a plethora of picture frames containing quirky pics like the fork running away with the spoon.
I can just imagine what the A-list celebrity turned humble artist would say:
“Hudson kitchen is like Fight Club meets Interview with the Vampire. It’s a worn yet classic venue’s struggle in a predominantly Italian neighborhood. I was drawn by the evolution from the old Palmerston attitude and grasped the metamorphosis into a modern yet classic eatery for middle aged foodies.”
In fact, I was a little surprised by the crowd, True, it was early in the evening but a number of older couples were filling the place. Whitish hair, sport coats with jeans and the occasional sweater draped over the shoulders of a crisp dress shirt.
The cocktail list is short and sweet (well ironically..it’s not that sweet as most of the drinks gravitate more to the savory side of things).
Back to the artist…
“The Earth to Grapefruit seemed simple enough: beefeater, campari, lemon and cointreau. What’s amazing is the fact that it tasted like grapefruit without any grapefruit… a true demonstration of phenomenal cinematography similar to eating a Jelly Belly which tastes like popcorn and wondering how they achieved such trickery. It had a predominant bitterness (much like myself) that encompassed the struggle between the earth and the fruit it produces.”
“The Innocence Lost was exactly that…the innocence of a fat free cocktail is replaced with a cream based, multi-ingredient concoction reminiscent of a latte. It’s a realistic look at the struggle for identity in a crowded metropolitan cocktail market. The use of albumin is an advancement over the peasantry of mere egg white. There was a good balance and despite the fruit infusions and simple sugar, it lacked an overbearing sweetness.”
“The Covert Slim was the best of the choices. It was a modern day Romeo and Juliet…the brilliance was the conflict between the pre-dinner aperol and the post-dinner amaro to co-exist in something that can be enjoyed during the meal. Once again, the albumin played a key role in unifying these protagonists among a cast of bitter characters including lemon and grapefruit juice.”
“The expectation for people to pay for bread is a painful reminder of the evolution of societal norms. Yet at the same time we can demand that it’s brilliant. The schmaltz was supposed to be the star but was replaced by EVOO from Spain at the eleventh hour. This allowed the spectacular performance of the charred eggplant to shine. It was an absolutely delicious performance and elevated the decent bread to a higher level.”
“Hudson’s mushroom broth could be the new Pulp Fiction $5 milkshake. If you charge $16 bucks for mushroom broth it better be f’ing good. Unfortunately, the performance was similar to that of Jennifer Aniston…..not worth the money. It was a good broth but it wasn’t great. A few pieces of rye bread, some watercress and an extra pouring broth table side doesn’t make up for it.”
“Once again, the highlight of the late summer harvest salad was the supporting actor. The walnut brittle was the star. Although the concept of the harvest was lost (other than a few dollops of earthy paste hidden among the forest of greens), it was a nicely dressed salad rustically served atop a cross-section of a tree trunk.”
“The tagliatelle was the only vegetarian dish available. It was an exploration into the unpredictable sourness of society as demonstrated by the preserved lemon within the confines of the traditions of Parmesan cheese and zucchini. The pasta was a solid al dente performance but a slightly salty interpretation but tasty in the end.”
” The chicken adobo was a disappointing attempt at recreating the underbelly of Filipino cooking. Despite a sinful showing of breasts and thighs, there was a dryness to the performance which hardly created an eroticism among the brussel sprouts, quinoa and eggplant. Her skin was beautiful, however, tanned to a mouth watering crispy perfection. The sultry broth added a bit of sex appeal, it couldn’t cover the prosaic poultry.”
“The pear, gingerbread and caramel dessert was a celebration of all things autumn and symbolic of the growth of a pear…from flower to succulent fruit. The gingerbread and ice cream caressed the fruit, reminding it of the earth from which its tree once grew. Spongy Nougat reminded us that sweetness can come in all shapes and sizes. A truly tasty performance.”
If this truly were a movie cast, the walnut brittle, charred eggplant and chicken skin would be nominated for best supporting actor roles. Perhaps the art direction warrants an Oscar nod since the chicken and dessert plates were beautiful. The cocktails were a mixed bag and had names which sound like summer movie releases (I can’t wait to see Brad Pitt in Covert Slim next year). Otherwise, the main characters fell short in their attempt to elevate Hudson Kitchen to A-list status. Priced like a concession stand at a Cineplex, the salad ($14), adobo ($26), pasta ($22) and especially the broth ($16) just weren’t worth it. Plus, you have to pay for bread and water (if you want still or sparking) which adds to an already inflated bill of fare. The waitstaff seemed to lack confidence which is somewhat forgivable given the fact the place is in its infancy.
If Ursa and Woodlot are Godfather I and II, Hudson Kitchen is Godfather III. Since it was a little disappointing, I can’t give it two thumbs up and since it cost me an arm and a leg to eat there, I couldn’t use both thumbs anyway.
6 thoughts on “Review:Toronto:Little Italy:Hudson Kitchen”
I dined and loved it and completely disagree. Anyways, what food critic/blogger/whatever actually criticizes a restaurant within their first week of opening? You’re one NOT to follow.
Ain’t democracy grand?
It cost you an arm and a leg to eat there because you ordered a lot of booze and food. Were you dining alone?! Tell me what restaurant/bar you can get fancy cocktails for less than $10. And food at Ursa AND Woodlot cost pretty much the same. If you ordered the same amount at either places, it would also cost you an arm and a leg.
Thanks for the reply. No, I wasn’t alone. That would be a lot of food. I have no problem paying for good food but I expect value for the dollar. If you are going to charge me $14 for a barren salad and $16 for a bowl of mushroom broth, it better rock my world. Unfortunately, Hudson’s offerings didn’t. Ursa and Woodlot’s did. I didn’t complain about the price of the cocktails although now that you mention it, the price of a drink anywhere has become rather ridiculous lately.
“Once again, the highlight of the late summer harvest salad was the supporting actor. The walnut brittle was the star. Although the concept of the harvest was lost (other than a few dollops of earthy paste hidden among the forest of greens), it was a nicely dressed salad rustically served atop a cross-section of a tree trunk.” = barren salad?
Yes. The harvest concept was not there despite the walnut brittle. ” Although the concept of the harvest was lost (other than a few dollops of earthy paste hidden among the forest of greens)” sounds pretty barren to me.