Ever since I went to Harbord room, I’ve been interested in trying THR & Co, their sister restaurant. Eating out can be like a blind date. Sometimes, all you had to go on is a picture of the menu and an online testimony or two. I showed up early given I was on another dinner mission in an attempt to avoid outgoing Toronto traffic. As a result of this, I was offered a seat on the comfy side of the bar (there are four or 5 padded stools instead of the regular ones which graced the remaining perimeter. One of the first surprises was the limited bar menu. My tainted recollection of Harbord Room (which involved a few drinks with the Food Network’s Kevin Brauch) was an innovative and expansive cocktail menu so I was a little surprised to see a limited selection here. In fact, another gentleman came in and ordered an amaretto and after a 5 minute search concluded they didn’t have any. Of the four, yes four cocktails, I ordered The Pisco Sour (pisco, pear, egg white, ginger and sage syrup and fresh lemon). She was certainly playful but was anything but sour. In the end, I was impartial. She was neither naughty or nice.
For the appetizer, I went with the compressed carrot salad for $13. She was one of the prettier salads I’ve been served. The had carrots which were roasted, pickled and cut into attractive ribbons. The apple vinaigrette was subtle but appropriate. The sunflower granola was less appealing and a little abundant. All in all, she looked better than she tasted (hmm…that sounds wrong) but was a very acceptable starter.
For the main I ordered the Oxtail Bucatini for $21. Wow, she had really small…..pasta. I recently complained about the price of the pasta at SPQR in San Francisco but that was a value compared to this portion. Although the pasta itself was delicious and nicely cooked the oxtail was scarce and there was no unity in the sauce. Instead of a marriage of flavours, it was more like a breakup.
For a side, I ordered marinated mushrooms which was served with pickled onions, fresh bay and salsa verde. I enjoyed this dish. Although a little greasy, the unlikely combination of ingredients really worked. I was surprised by the potpourri of mushrooms which filled the bowl. She would have been a perfect match with the rib eye steak on the menu.
None of the desserts appealed to me so I juts decided to end the date and get the hell home.
Harbord room is like a hot date. It has one the best burgers in Toronto and an extravagant bar menu. On the other hand, THR & Co is luke warm. I was a little disappointed by the small (although firm) pasta and rather dismal cocktail list. The carrot salad was stunning and almost as delicious. The pasta was saved somewhat by a nice side of marinated mushrooms. If Harbord Room and THR & Co are in fact sisters, the latter is the one that probably doesn’t get a date. She has a really nice salad though.