Ben Stiller, Tattoos and an Afternoon at the Museum

Ben Stiller annoys a lot of people.  That said, he has a decent track record when it comes to box office grosses, primarily driven by three successful trilogies; the Fockers, Madagascar and the Museum movies. In addition, one cannot forget his washroom scene in the very successful “There’s Something About Mary”. Ironically, despite being cited as the leader of the brat pack, movies in which he has starred alongside his partners (Jack Black, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughan, Owen and Luke Wilson and Steve Carell) have been less successful than other Stiller franchises although not total disasters.

The Night at the Museum film series had worldwide appeal. Based on a children’s book, the cast led by Stiller was multi-generational, ranging from the likes of Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney to the late Robin Williams as Theodore Roosevelt right down to Rami Malek (now of the critically acclaimed Mr. Robot) and that creepy kid from the Vacation remake. The three movies over eight years produced diminishing returns despite bigger budgets although all three could still be considered good return on investments if you looks at the global ticket returns.

Speaking of museums, as anybody hailing from the Toronto knows, it is a city that will not be outdone. Instead of hoping for living reincarnations of a tattooed Atilla the Hun, local hipsters may be intrigued to drop in to the tattoo exhibit which is now showing at the Royal Ontario Museum.  I’m more into bourbon than body art, so after I finished up a conference along Bloor Street and had a couple of hours to kill before dinner so instead of the ROM, I visited another museum, in this case the tavern across the road to indulge in their advertised happy hour. In addition to buck a shuck oysters, one can indulge in a barrel aged cocktail for $11 vs the normal $15 charge ( although when I got the bill I was charged $15).

Choosing between a manhattan, old-fashioned, negroni and sazarac is like choosing which child I love the best.  Alright, maybe not quite but it’s a difficult task nonetheless.  In this case I opted for the first two.  A couple of ounces of both were smartly presented in a funky highball  which housed a thick base of ice instead of a floating ice cube.  The booze itself was smooth, sleek and balanced.

The oysters were fresh and served with a tasty mignonette which I downed them with the aforementioned  barrel aged  old fashioned.

museum oysters
Buck a Shuck Oysters

The Musuem tavern does represent a historical era in the fact that is has that speakeasy feel.  From the decor to the glassware, it screams the 1920s.  The menu is more modern pub fare with what appears to influenced  by a bit of everything.

Since I was grabbing dinner later, I stuck with starters and opted for the fried chicken ($14) and creole crab cakes ($16).  If my intent was to span the spectrum of available snacks I think I succeeded. The four pieces was a hearty serving of chicken which was crispier than greasy , well-seasoned and far from dry.  The crab cakes, on the other hand, can better be described at crab balls.  The dainty, bite sized morsels didn’t lack in flavour what they lacked in size.  Although they were moist, heavy on the crab and served with a decent remoulade., it hardly justified eight bucks a bite…even with pickled onions.

My Take

Viewing history is no longer the exclusive role of a museum.  Many restaurants are now setting up shop with the promise of rewinding the clocks back to the days of prohibition.  The aptly named Museum tavern is no exception and comes complete with swanky decor and a old-school barrel aged cocktail list.  In the end, it had its stars and a decent plot….or at least the trailer (aka. happy hour) suggested so.  The question will be whether the theme resonates past Toronto’s prohibition phase or whether a day at this museum turns out like Ben’s Night at the Museum and overstays its welcome.

Museum Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Review:Toronto:Yorkville:C5

Note: Some of my pictures mysteriously disappeared from my media card.

About a year ago, the Royal Ontario museum announced Corbin Tomaszeski, best known for appearances on the Food Network’s Dinner Party Wars, as the new executive chef of C5, a lunch spot right in the museum which over looks the Toronto skyline. The space is almost uncomfortably vast and a bit industrial despite attempts to offer an upscale dining experience. The open kitchen is awkwardly placed and  seems more institutional than it does inviting.  I arrived for my 130 reservation (hours are 11-3) and had to wait 15 minutes to be seated due to what I was told was a busy lunch rush.  You cannot see the restaurant from the entrance, so I was surprised (and slightly annoyed) to see the restaurant less than half full when I was finally seated.

Must

Nothing beats a hearty, well-seasoned soup and C5 didn’t disappoint.  The chicken soup was served hot, full of vegetables and with a perfectly salted  broth fragrant with thyme. It was served with a  cheddar biscuit, the first of many examples of the  delicious baked goods to come.

The dessert sampler  for 2 was a great finish to the meal.  It offered  four different tastes on one plate: something baked, something chocolate, something fruity and something  creamy. In this case it was pumpkin pie with whipped cream, a chocolate fudge square , a fruit cobbler and a  custard flan.  Each of the desserts were prepared nicely and demonstrated yet another example of  a commitment to preserve the  fading art of  baking from scratch.

Dessert Sampler for 2

Maybe

The resounding theme of baked goods was evident again with  the chicken pot pie.  A flaky puff pastry surrounded a hearty bowl  of rich chicken stew.  The pastry was wonderfully browned and tasty but the filling was underseasoned.  I would have liked more thyme or even salt but all I tasted was a bland cream sauce.

The highlight of salmon tart  was also the crust.  It had a buttery taste but was very light and not t oo overbearing. There were abundant chunks of potato and salmon but, like the pot pie, just seemed to be missing a little something. It was a large portion but  just a lot of the same,  although I did enjoy the salad.

There was a feature menu featuring food from around the world.  I opted for an appetizer dish featuring hummus and a roasted eggplant spread served with  not enough pitas.  The hummus was unimpressive but the eggplant was nicely spiced and was not mushy like some other eggplant spreads.

Mundane

I made the mistake of talking myself into ordering the classic frites after seeing them delivered to a few other tables.  They were overcooked, served with a  less than impressive aioli and hardly worth the 6 bucks.

As mentioned, the service was not impressive.  Perhaps it’s set up to appeal to a slow-moving, pretentious subset of  the museum-dwelling artisans next door  but it  won’t appeal to the masses who are looking for efficient service with a smile.

My Take

C5 is a decent lunch choice despite the difficulty parking and  getting into the restaurant itself (the signage is bad and you need to venture through the museum  itself to find the right elevator). The service was a little stuffy and the decor too cold and cavernous which is a bit ironic for an art museum. Some may like the roominess but I felt a bit lost.  I wish the open kitchen was more of  a highlight but it is relatively inaccessible and unimportant in the scheme of things.

This menu was changed shortly after I went for  lunch and the new menu offers a appealing fall/winter menu with dishes including classic dishes such as Sheppard’s pie, poutine, coq au vin and an expanded side collection including a variety of fall vegetables.  It looks good enough for another try.  There also appears to be an expansion of vegetarian options including corn cakes, flatbreads and dinner salads. I’m just leery that decor and service  won’t match the warm appeal of the menu. If this was dinner party wars, it would be decent food and  great baking served in a garage by your mother-in-law, but with a really nice view.

C5 Restaurant on Urbanspoon