I have fond memories of my grandparents and blame them for some of my suspicious musical preferences. Beside the rusty orange la-z-boy was an eight track player which sat atop a faux leather stand which housed a mix of country and adult contemporary music. I particular, I remember Neil Diamond. Even today, at the age of 74, Neil remains a stud in the music world. As a high school student, he would write poems for his male classmates so they could pass along to the ladies in an effort to seal the deal. He was a pre-med student at New York University and excelled at fencing. He has be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and some of his music remains among the most recognizable over the past 3 generations. I challenge you to go to any bar, wedding, Red Sox game etc. and not see a drunk crowd of anybody over the age of 25 not belt out the belt out the chorus of “Sweet Caroline” when cued. He also wrote “I’m a Believer” which any Shrek or Monkees fan would recognize instantly. In this context, I was reminded of Neil as a result of his epic song America in which he sings of an immigrant’s triumphant arrival to the U.S. with such lyrics as “Everywhere around the world, they’re coming to America,ev’ry time that flag’s unfurled, they’re coming to America”.
America recently replaced Stock at the Trump hotel and is a surprising partnership between two of Toronto’s biggest hospitality groups: Charles Khabouth’s Ink entertainment and restaurant juggernauts Oliver and Bonacini. As a result, one would expect lavish surroundings and trendy menu choices. I went for lunch as part of a meeting recently and ordered off the menu. There is a mix of items including soups, salads and pastas as well as daily specials ranging from lobster rolls to seared tuna. I fought the temptation to grab a mid meeting nap on the velvet banquette complete with comfy decorative pillows and ordered the wild and tame mushroom soup ($14) and america’s caesar salad ($16). I was appalled. The soup, described on the menu as “enough said” should have said “four mushroom pieces floating in a flimsy broth with no substance” or “mild and lame”. At least the Caesar salad had a more accurate description which simply stated “creamy roasted garlic dressing”. There was A LOT of dressing and the only other component other than the red romaine was a few “croutons” which were nothing more than a dried version of the same jalapeno corn bread that was in the basket on the table. In addition, I spoke to a few colleagues after and they were equally unimpressed. The tuna special was sleepy and the shrimp and squid tagliolini had the too long under the heat lamp look to it. One of my table mates asked for some Parmesan (I didn’t blame him) which seemed a bit insulting to the waitstaff. Other than that, although the service was pretty good, it was rather slow and inconsistent which was a far cry from the service I received in other areas of the Trump throughout the week.
Although it was in a different context, I enjoyed Stock when it was open. I was expecting that if anything, America would elevate at 31st floor of the Trump hotel to a new level. Instead, it seems to quality of the food has been comprised. Perhaps the dinner experience is better but I would have expected more from a $30 lunch. It was surprisingly more stagnant than it was stuffy and I left with a bad taste in my mouth…literally. In the end, Neil Diamond’s America is much better than Trump’s…and I like his hair better too.