Tavern by Trevor is another example of the cross-pollination that is occurring in Toronto. Partly a way to jump on the small plate phenomenon that has taken the city by storm and partly a means of dealing with the inertia of local foodies to try surrounding neighborhoods, the tavern recently opened at the corner of Spadina and Richmond. I was impressed by the small yet inventive and reasonably priced menu. Chef Trevor Wilkinson teams up with restaurateur Mike Yaworski in an odd couple type collaboration. Chef Trevor is the owner of Trevor Bar and Kitchen which has sustained the volatile Toronto dining scene while watching others come and go along the Wellington Street stretch. He also recently appeared as a contestant on Chopped Canada this past year.
I arrived and decided to sit at the makeshift patio (a few tables plus a number of stools beneath a counter made of 2x4s which looked like an inventive RONA project) which took over part of the wide sidewalk along Spadina Avenue. The waitress was quick to arrive with the food and drink menus. Boozewise, there are three tap beer from the local Amsterdam brewery plus an array of bottles, big bottles and cans. The wine list has around 10 bottles of both red and white wine with most in the $40-60 range. There is also a half a dozen or so bourbons plus a small list of cocktails priced at $11/each. I started with an old-fashioned served with bourbon, sugar cube, angostura bitters and a lemon twist. It was a decent drink but was served with too much ice making it difficult to disperse the sugar which had settled at the bottom of the glass.
For the most part, the food menu is structured by price points. All “Bar food” is $11, salads are $10, “from the stove” is $15 and entrees are $21. There are also a few sandwiches ($12-14) and sides are $5. There is also the ability to add a number of proteins to the salad. I ordered the green pea & lettuce with feta & mint salad and added ginger and garlic fried chicken. For the entree, I went with the bbq octopus, prawns & chorizo with fennel & radish in wild leek vinaigrette. That’s when things got bad. The salad arrived in a large white bowl and presentation was far from remarkable. The only lettuce was romaine and it was cut ribbon style with a knife (one of my pet peeves). I don’t know if the lettuce was warmed first or just not fresh because I found myself pulling out brown and wilted pieces. From what I could salvage, it was a good flavour combination but I certainly wasn’t enjoying the pea and feta hunting through a jungle of limp romaine. Turning my attention to the chicken, I was equally disappointed. It was boneless and served with an aioli. The pieces varied in size and thickness. I cut into the first thick piece and it was pink. A second thick piece was also pink. I cut into a third thinner piece and found it cooked properly and found the coating to be very tasty. When bringing this to the attention of the waitress, I was told that she just ordered it and it looked like that so it’s fine. She left only to return a few minutes later to tell me that she checked with the kitchen and in fact the chicken was cooked and it looked like that because it was dark meat. Then she proceeded to tell me that they were out of the octopus and asked if I would like anything else instead. I politely and thankfully said no.
This is one of the worst dining experiences I have had in Toronto in a long time. First, serve a cocktail that can be consumed properly. Second, either use fresh romaine or don’t prepare it so it wilts. I thought the reason you used romaine was for the vibrant crunch. Third, if the chicken is pink it is undercooked and the fact that I didn’t eat it should be a hint that despite the reassurances from the waitress and the kitchen (who actually didn’t look at the chicken), I was not happy with the dish. As a footnote, I have asked 5 people since if the chicken looked undercooked based on the picture and all agreed unanimously. Fourth, it you are only going to offer three entrees on a menu, you shouldn’t run out of one. Furthermore, you shouldn’t wait until the customer orders it before you realize it’s not available. Fifth, if a customer is clearly unhappy with the experience, perhaps something should be done. Even an apology would have been sufficient. Instead, I left paying my bill having eaten only a few bites of salad and a couple of small, thin pieces of chicken. All I can say is this meal is a far cry from the Coq au Vin I had at Trevor Bar and Kitchen a few years ago.
For serving wilted lettuce, raw chicken and not having octopus….Chef Wilkinson..you’ve been chopped.
(I’m aware that in fact Chef Wilkinson did not in fact cook the food I attempted to eat but it is his name on the place!).