My job allows me to attend a number of group dinners. I’m often reluctant to write reviews of these experiences since they are a bit artificial and may not apply to somebody looking to grab dinner for two on a Saturday night. That said, I imagine smooth execution of a delicious dinner for 100 people would speak highly of the quality of the food and the service. This was the case during a recent visit to Bymark. I wasn’t involved in planning this dinner so I can’t comment on the price per head as part of this review.
I’m used to standard set menus which offer soup or salad as a starter, fish, chicken or steak as he entree and some dessert which usually includes a cheesecake and something chocolaty. Bymark’s options blew my mind. There were five starters that included butter braised lobster poutine, fois gras, yellow fin tuna with yuzu, buffalo mozzerella and mixed greens. I sat staring blankly at the menu as I had to reprogram my brain think outside the soup/salad binary code I’m so used to. I’ve been in a fish mood lately and I’m quite sure “yuzu” is Japanese for “tasty little bastard”, so I went for the tuna. It was seared and served beautifully . I would have liked a bit more of both heat and acid to tear into the richness of the tuna but it was fresh and clean and the pop from the odd ginger crisp was memorable.
My colleague opted for the lobster poutine. It was a modest portion served on a circular lobster shell and topped with bernaise sauce. I think I saw him cry a little bit. I managed to score a few frites and thought it was greasy sweetness…literally and figuratively. I cried a little too.
Another colleague of mine from Quebec stuck to her roots and ordered the fois gras. As a disclaimer, I am not wacky over fois gras. I enjoy a think slice of torchon as opposed to a hunk of liver on a plate. This appetizer was the latter. Maybe it was the garnish which was a bile-looking sage puree coupled with a bloody looking compote and swimming in a pool chocolate jus. It might have been the fact that the fois gras itself was not served cooked throughout. Either way, it looked like aftermath of the red wedding scene from Game of Thrones. Since I am not a savage medieval warrior or Hannibal Lecter, it wasn’t my thing and wouldn’t have been any better even if there were a few fava beans thrown on the plate.
The selection of entrees were equally as impressive. There was the choice of steak, lamb, black cod, chicken and vegetable risotto Black cod is one of my favorite fish and I was particularly intrigued with the octopus and crab cakes, so my choice was a no brainer. To me, the key to good black cod is to achieve the same silky mouthfeel as if you were eating a pound of butter but without the probable ill-filled aftermath. Mission accomplished. The citrus butter balanced the sweetness of the cod and with the help of the coriander crust and subtle broth enhanced it at the same time. The crab cakes were delightful morsels and the eggplant and zucchini strands brought some earthiness to the dish.
For the most part, dessert adhered to the group dinner blueprint in offering chocolate something and cheesecake. They did, however, offer a delightful selection of cheese (including a killer blue) served with honey, grapes and bread. It was a nice way to finish the evening.
There is something to be said for a restaurant’s ability to execute a large group dinner. Although it cannot always be compared to the service required for a smaller, more intimate dinner, there is a standard which includes ensuring 100 wine glasses are never empty and that everybody gets their meals within a short window of time. The service was flawless other than a few hiccups regarding coffee service at the end of the meal. That said, maybe we scared them off given the fact that our table looked like a bunch of adolescence watching Porky’s for the first time. One of my single colleagues decided to open her tinder app and demonstrate the concept to a bunch of us. Essentially, you scroll through pictures of people within a defined radius of where you are sitting, squatting, drinking etc. You either like or dislike them based on a few pictures and whatever witty (or ridiculous) banter they include in their profile. A yes means if that person also approves of your posted resume, an “It’s a match!” flashes on your screen and the happy couple can be begin a chat which may or may not lead to other things including a walk in the park or a deep discussion about existentialism. A no means great big red letters are stamped over the unsuspecting dude’s picture and the girl can smirk with the satisfaction that she temporarily ended somebody’s hopes and dreams. During the lesson and in the presence of the opposite sex, there were a couple of quick observations I made about this phenomenon called tinder:
1. Guys should not put pictures of cats on their photo roll. Cat guys seem to be a turn off to women (although I can think of a few guys that really like pus…never mind).
2. Guys should not post pictures of themselves hanging with their buddies, especially if it’s every picture. There were a few cases where we actually wagered who the actual guy was. Plus, it may lead one to believe that you either need your buddies in a picture look better or you are into threesomes, foursomes or frat parties.
3. Girls and guys differ on the definition of witty and/or funny. For example, one guy’s status was “My mom says she likes me”. The girls at the table thought that he was clever; the guys thought he was a putz.
4. Girls want to see the whole package. Close-ups of a bicep or upper abs along with a shot from distance demonstrating a dude’s love of barbecuing veggie skewers in bad lighting doesn’t work. It’s a hook-up app, not a 100 piece puzzle.
5. I suspect that pseudonyms are acceptable if not encouraged. Let’s face it…if your name is Marvin or Randy you don’t have a chance. The brown guys have no problem changing their names to Richard or Jacob (I had an Indian guy beside at dinner who confirmed that Richard was actually his cousin Ashok). That said, some white guys have figured it out. Take Roberge for example. This french prince (whose name is likely Bob) was sleek and suave and would likely want to any girl to roll the “R’ and extend his name to a 3 second ROOOOOBBBEEERRRRRRRRRRGGGGGEEEE!
As mentioned, I am reluctant to suggest that a good group dinner means that a table for two will have the same experience. What I can say is that the execution of dinner at Bymark was close to flawless. Although the fois gras was a bloody mess, the other starters, including the lobster poutine and the seared tuna were delicious. The entrees were served hot and I heard no complaints (whether it was the steak, fish, lamb or risotto) across our table. For the most part, the service was prompt and professional. In the end, I think both the guys and girls agreed that the pieces of meat served on the plate were much better than those offered on tinder. Sorry Bob.