Review:Toronto:Financial District:Stock Restaurant

Any blog that has anything to do with Donald Trump means the possible insertion of jokes about getting fired, bad hair or something to do with  the apprentice.

A team function brought me to Stock, located on the 31st floor of Trump Tower. There’s a couple of things I would expect when dining at a restaurant affiliated with Donald Trump; waiters with bad hair (dammit!) and at least one staff member getting fired every night (D’oh!).  Seriously, I would hope to view a few self-entitled pretentious patrons and enjoy a dining experience with unparamount attention to detail.

For goal number one, it didn’t take long.  Upon arrival, I was handed a very good glass of what I recall was a Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc and shuffled out to the balcony for some hors d’oeuvres. It was a chilly night, so I wasn’t surprised to see a couple (ie. man and woman) enjoying a couple of  fine cigars and swirling some sort of amber potable while seated in the corner of the balcony as the waiters circulated with appetizers in hand .  Since it was a chilly eve, they were wearing matching fur shawls.  Whether supplied by the hotel or not, it’s pretty irrelevant. MATCHING FUR SHAWLS!  Awesome.  Mission accomplished (sorry no picture).

As for the hors d’oeuvres, I was offered prosciutto wrapped scallops, shucked oysters with fresh horse radish and fried portobello mushrooms with truffle aioli.  The proscitto was a delicate diversion from the usual bacon and provided enough salt to balance the buttery sweet scallop which was cooked perfectly.  The oyster was fresh and meaty.  I must digress on the mushroom as I have publicly called for the banishment of both truffle and aioli as a food trend.  Eating this simple finger food makes me want to take it all back. The mushroom was moist and the batter crispy….and yes, the aioli was good.

Scallop
Scallop
Mushroom with Truffle Aioli
Mushroom with Truffle Aioli

It was a set menu but I found the choices innovative and appealing.  My starter was the octopus. It was executed well….still tender and fired properly (ok..stopping). It was seasoned well and the tender potato added some delicate earthiness to complement this treasure from the sea.

Octopus
Octopus

For the entree, I ordered black cod with an edamame  puree and lightly fried greens. The well seasoned flesh was glistening but wasn’t raw.  The fork cut through it like butter and tasted the same.  The subtle crunch of the crispy vegetables was the perfect complement from both a taste and texture perspective. From the land side,  I  managed to secure a small portion of the filet which was served with a vibrant pink hue  indicative of a good medium rare..simple but satisfying.

Black Cod
Black Cod
8 oz filet
8 oz filet

Dessert was from the chocolate cart which circulated while peddling its house made wares to patrons like an ice cream truck in a subdivision.  A sinful array of truffles and other delicacies weaved  through the tables offering rich and artisan delicacies  which were another example of the delicious attention to detail which was evident throughout the evening.

Chocolate Cart
Chocolate Cart

The meal finished with some Niagara ice wines and a tasty Taylor Fladgate, 10 yr old tawny port which was simply delicious.

My Take 

I expected dinner at Stock to be a adventure in posh dining and a possible fulfillment of my champagne wishes and caviar dreams. Instead of white linens, candlelight and a waiter named Jeeves, the decor was casual and comfortable and the food was the  standard fare you would see at any other eatery in the area.  The concepts were simple and the execution was near flawless.

Ok….I did take a quick peak at the online dinner menu and the prices were quite acceptable and rival some of the higher end restaurants in Toronto.  The octopus is $17, the cod $34 and the filet is $42. The truffles are $3 a piece.

In the end, I got what I was looking for…my paparazzi experience, a good wine/port buzz and a well executed meal from start to finish.  Donald, thanks for making Toronto a better place to dine, one fur shawl at a time.

Stock Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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DDD:Philadelphia:Honey’s Sit ‘N Eat

Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back, a random walk solo from downtown Philadelphia to North Liberties without research was not a good idea.  Sometimes in my search for culinary excellence I pull a Scooby-Doo.   I ignore zombies, monsters and ogres to pursue a wafting scent in a effort to fulfill my internal hunger.

This is not to say that the neighbourhood of North Liberties is bad. It’s just the fact I didn’t do my homework. After all, it was Will Smith who warned me of the perils of West Philadelphia, so I felt that North Liberties was safe. I was quite relieved to reach my destination.  More so, I was happy to see that a couple was skipping the same conference I was to order to indulge in Philly’s local cuisine.

The 20-minute wait seemed palatable, especially when sitting among locals and tourists alike.  When I finally had my name called, I  maneuvered between kids, the elderly and the locals alike to get to my seat at the bar.  I was promptly served a great coffee, given a menu and had the specials explained to me in great detail by a friendly dude behind the counter.

In the end, I stared at the blackboard and opted for their version of  Toad in the Hole.  There was no yorkie and no sausage. It was grilled bread with a fried egg as a centrepiece and mildly seasoned with truffle oil.  Despite the deceit, it was prepared perfectly. It came with a potato latke and applesauce to create a bit of a carbohydrate overload. The latke was a bit chewy but the applesauce was terrific.  At the suggestion of a regular patron, I also ordered a side of blueberry jam which was delicious even from the perspective of a Northern Ontarian who grew up sucking on frozen blueberries instead of a  teething ring.

Honey's Toad in the Hole
Honey’s Toad in the Hole

Highlighted by great food, this place just works. Just shy of pretentious but with enough muscle flexing, you can order  everything from Jewish-inspired dishes to reasonably priced kid’s meals.  You feel cool (ie. Will Smith as opposed Carlton) and like you belong, even when you are in line.  There are few places that give you that feeling so easily and for that reason…

The Verdict: 5 Guyz

Honey's Sit 'n Eat on Urbanspoon

Review:Toronto:King West: Edulis

En route’s designation of best new Canadian restaurant and an impressive debut as number 11 on Joanne Kates’ top 100 of 2012 certainly raised my curiosity about Edulis, the small bistro which opened in 2012 along Niagara Street.  The philosophy of Edulis can be summarized as a juxtaposition of the elements of fine dining and the  hipster joints plastered up the road along Queen street . Upon entry, you are greeted with a hello, a coat check and waitstaff donning traditional black uniforms. You are seated at a table within the small dining space within an atmosphere which possesses a subtle yet enjoyable aura of chaos.  The decor is highlighted by  a variety of paintings and pictures, marble tables and dim candlelight while at the same time possessing  a flare both rustic and  rundown.  A daily menu is printed featuring core offerings with additional fare  based on ingredient availability with truffles as the specialty. A carte blanche menu is also available with 5 courses for $50 or 7 for $70.  Although I didn’t order myself, some of  the choices included veal three ways- tongue, belly and sweetbread and a pork belly and shoulder offering.   There is a decent wine offering  (8 glasses plus 50 or so bottles) as well as homemade non-alcoholic sodas with odd flavours which include burdock, hibiscus and ginger with szechwan pepper. The latter was divine.

Must

The cele”rissoto”  was a spin on traditional risotto, opting for the winter favorite celery root instead of the traditional arborio rice. The centrepiece was a square of toast topped with fois gras. It managed to create a mouth feel similar to the traditional dish while maintaining  the subtle earthiness of the celeriac. I’m not sure if the draw for me was the unique nature of the dish itself or the surreal nature of taking bite after bite and trying to figure out how they did it. Either way, it was addictive.  In fact, the fois gras became second nature.

Cele"risotto"
Cele”risotto”

In a world filled with different shaped pasta served in different sized bowls  soaking in truffle oil, the thought of homemade potato ribbons swimming in a rich sauce and topped with fresh white truffles was a refreshing thought, even with a price tag of $36. Once again, the execution was flawless; the potatoes were perfectly cooked and a refreshing change from the ubiquity of standard gnocchi.  From the first bite, I was filled with a comfort reminiscent of grandma’s perfect scalloped potatoes yet mixed with the exquisite nature of the precious white fungus…sort of like moving from the comfort of a cozy terrycloth robe to one made of  fine silk.

Potato Pasta with White Truffle
Potato Pasta with White Truffle

I’m quite nostalgic when it comes to the preservation of elements of fine dining.   The disappearance of the amuse bouche and fresh bread has plagued the dining scene so it is quite refreshing when a restaurant adheres to old school philosophies.  An anchovy-stuffed manzanilla olive  was proudly offered along side some of the best homemade bread I’ve had in a while.  It was a rustic, dense loaf  served in a nifty cotton bag; a refreshing change from the normal offering of semi-stale crusty loaf inside a frayed wicker basket.  Normally, the bread is meant  to hold one over until the real food arrives, but I found myself devouring slices well after the first course arrived.

Maybe

Shrimp ceviche and ajo blanco (a cold, white garlic based soup) are quite different in everything except temperature so I was interested to experience  the marriage of the two.  The ajo blanco was fresh and although  a little on the acidic side, it was generally  well-balanced and contained a decent amount of roasted almonds.  However, the ceviche concept was a bit lost in the dish.  There was no distinct citrus flavor or heat and although the shaved onion worked, the cilantro clashed with the ajo blanco base.  The saving grace of the dish was both the flawless execution of the shrimp and the brilliant balance of the soup.  I’m just not sure they go well together.

Ceviche in Ajo Blanco
Ceviche in Ajo Blanco

Another childhood favorite of mine is tapioca pudding so I was pleased to see it offered as a dessert, especially when coupled with the vibrant flavour of meyer lemons.  It was served with the texture of a thick soup more than pudding and the lemon flavour was quite predominant.  The preserved apricot did little to enhance the dessert other than adding a bit of chewiness and not enough sweet.  I will admit I ordered a lot of creamy dishes throughout the night so perhaps a dessert with the same colour and texture profiles was a bit  much.

Tapioca Pudding with Meyer Lemon
Tapioca Pudding with Meyer Lemon

My Take

Edulis is a unique addition to Toronto’s fine dining scene.   Perfect execution highlights the menu which merges old school fine dining with hip and trendy cuisine. Candlelight meets chaos. Suit wearing lawyers sit among thick-rimmed twenty somethings. Marble tables erected beside porcelain bathroom tiles.  The choice of a $100 bottle of wine or a $3 glass of grape soda.  You can gamble on a carte blanche menu or indulge on rich truffles. Even co-owner Tobey Nemeth  personifies the juxtaposition, wearing a trendy tiger print dress while the remaining staff don the traditional black uniforms. You can even pick your price to a degree but temptation could lead to a  bill well over a hundred bucks. Regardless of which side of the spectrum you fall on, in the end you’ll be treated to both great food and great service.  There’s no dichotomy there.

 

Edulis on Urbanspoon