Saturday, 9 February 2013

Toronto Restaurant Review: Crème Brasserie (Winterlicious)

For my lunchtime Winterlicious pick,  I chose a nice swanky restaurant in the heart of Yorkville called Crème Brasserie with a $20 menu. I apologize for not posting this during Winterlicious season, but at least it will give you an idea of what to expect for Summerlicious or Winterlicious 2014!

Overall, this was a very pleasant experience. Our servers Fran and Matthieu were both very graceful and charming--they literally didn't miss a beat when someone's knife needed changing, sauce was a-missing or napkin was a-falling.

Baguette and hummus

In addition to the bread served above (with a very nice homemade hummus), their Winterlicious appetizers included:

Stone Soup

The Stone Soup. This was a broth made with chorizo sausage, savoy cabbage, pork belly and root vegetables. Although I didn't try it personally, José attested that it tasted exactly how it looked--not particularly refined, and not particularly exciting. It was literally a bunch of random ingredients thrown into a pot. I guess the whole allusion to the "Stone Soup story" gives it more of a rustic appeal, but even in the story, the villagers were begging for more...

Smoked Duck Breast and Roast Plum

The Smoked Duck breast and Roast Plum was served on top of grilled fennel and pecans, and topped with mixed greens and a hint of balsamic vinaigrette. This was a nice dish and very representative of the restaurant. The only thing that made me laugh was the description given by Fran before we ordered: "Oh, it's really nice, it almost tastes like ham!" Well, for someone who never gets excited about ham, I decided to let Eric, Tessa and Brandon order it instead.

Cured Wolfe Head Salmon

I opted for the most obvious choice (for me), which was the Cured Wolfe Head Salmon with diced shallot, caper jelly, hard-boiled egg (chopped and sprinkled), micro greens, and artisan crostini. This was a perfect little appetizer. It kept my fidgety creative hands busy putting little canapés together for myself. The egg though? I could have probably done with an alternative.

The vegetarian option was a Mission Fig with goat's milk yogurt and peppercress salad.

Now...the mains were a little disappointing. Between the five of us, we only ordered two different things: the Tian of Baked Cod and the Skillet Ribeye Burrito.

Tian of Baked Cod

The cod was piled with boiled eggs, caramelized onions, kalamata olives, Yukon gold potatoes and a brocoli purée. Brandon's cod, while well-presented, was not up to par in my books. The cod tasted dry and flaky, and not flaky in a delicate way. If you're going to bake cod, you have to be mindful of the moisture.  And to be frank, I don't know who still makes brocoli purée anymore because it just doesn't make sense. And if you're going to insist on brocoli purée, it should actually be purée-like. In the present case, it felt and looked more like loosely mashed-up brocoli chunks. (Sorry Brandon!)

Ribeye Burrito

For the rest of us, the Ribeye burrito certainly sounded more appetizing than it actually was. The flavours were fine, but the textures were a bit off. The ribeye steak was served with oven-cured roast tomatoes, watercress, a fresh herb vinaigrette, and fries on the side. The first problem we had was that the tomato was all juice and no flavour, and made for a very soggy eating experience after a few minutes. This is not good, especially when you are eating with your hands at a nice restaurant. Secondly, the presentation was a bit pathetic, with just the wrap on one side and fries tossed haphazardly into a bowl on the other side. Given the presentation of our appetizers and desserts, this just didn't measure up. What saved this dish though, was the mix of ketchup, mayonnaise and a special sauce that they lined up on our table. That was nice. 

The other main options were and eggplant tart (vegetarian option) or a North African Spigola (w9th European Seabass). 

Thank goodness, the desserts were much better!

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Four of us ordered the very rich but well-balanced pumpkin cheesecake, with a delightful gooseberry, and some berries on the side. 

Tiramisu

And Eric, surprisingly (as the biggest pumpkin consumer of the group) went for the tiramisu! But lo and behold, it was one of the best tiramisus we have ever tasted.

Postivies:
  • They have a coat rack (and everyone knows how much I love coat racks!) upon which they will gladly hang your coats for you
  • Excellent, excellent service
  • Very classic and sophisticated French place settings and ambiance (I forgot to mention the coffee and tea were also very nicely presented in a very European manner)
  • They are willing to split your bill for you and don't make it awkward at all
  • A very appropriate place to have a business lunch
  • Delightful washrooms
  • Other than Winterlicious, they have a $39 prix-fixe dinner menu

Negatives:
  • The mains today were a bit sub-par (but the appetizers and dessert made up for it, I think)
  • It can be a bit pricey (but I mean, it's in the swanky part of Yorkville so what else would you expect?)
  • Their Winterlicious menu for lunch looks almost identical to the dinner menu, and the dinner menu costs $15 more. How lame. (But great for us, since we went for lunch. :) ) 
Final Note:
So friends, while it's up to you to try for yourself, as you can see by my very biased pro-con list, I liked the place, despite the mediocre mains. It's clean, friendly, and sophisticated, and while you can't always count on the cod, you can count on their service!

Rating: 3/5

Crème Brasserie on Urbanspoon

2 comments:

Jose Antonio said...

Great review. The burrito was indeed nothing special. To be honest, Burrito Boyz does better ones at a much lower price.

Overall, the restaurant was enjoyable. There's a deal on Onespout. A prefix menu. Check it out!

Annie Chu said...

Burrito Boyz know how it's done!

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