Thursday, 31 January 2013

Toronto Restaurant Review: Richmond Station

Back in the fall, I attended the Toronto Underground Market event where I met one of my food idols, Top Chef Canada Season 2 winner Carl Heinrich. At that time, he was just about to open his first (and highly anticipated!) restaurant, Richmond Station along with his friend (and now co-owner) Ryan Donovan. Now, just a few short months later, Richmond Station is now one of the hottest and most talked (and blogged) about restaurants in Toronto. 

Immediately after walking in and handing my giant parka over to the coat wall, I knew that it was going to be an enjoyable night. The decor is warm and inviting, comfortable and unpretentious, but with a clean and sophisticated flair. Furthermore, the nod to an actual subway station in design adds a heightened sense of whimsy and charm to the two-level open-concept restaurant.

Stn. Sparkler cocktail ($12)

Tessa and I were horribly late, but that didn't damper our server Jason's friendly demeanour. Eric and José had already been warming up the seats to one of the best tables in the house that had been reserved for us. Though the wine list is well curated, I thought, given the occasion, I'd opt for a nice cocktail (pictured above). It was the perfect thing to start the meal. We also ordered some crispy polenta fries from the "Share" menu, served with a spicy mayo, cilantro, and a fresh marinara sauce. In actuality, there were at least two other fries on this plate before I took the photo--some of us were very hungry!

Polenta fries ($7)

Now let's talk about the mains. Or...I can just show you:

Wild Boar Ragu ($23)
Coq au Vin ($24)
Grilled Sea Bream ($21)
Stn. Burger ($20)

Pictured above are four dishes that disappeared off the plate in very little time. The wild boar dish is a hand made orecchiette served with a tomato sauce, toscana cheese, celery and of course, wild boar. I personally didn't find the celery to be the best pairing for such a heavy protein, but the pasta was so good, I couldn't have cared less. The coq au vin was equally delicious, and would have warranted a hearty and enthusiastic thumbs up from Julia Child.

Being from BC myself (like Carl), I really wanted to try his take on fish, so I ordered the sea bream (even though I realize it's really an East Coast fish). Plus, I also got to try his take on the rosti potatoes, that he had also made on the show at some point. I thought it was quite lovely, and the swiss chard was a nice pairing. However, I did find the garnish a little sporadic looking. Finally, there was the signature Stn. Burger, stuffed with short rib (delicious) and served with aged cheddar, beet chutney, radish salad, and generous side of rosemary shoestring fries.

Charcuterie dish

Then Jason came by, asked how we were doing, and surprised us with a beautiful wooden board, said a bunch of delicious things, and ended with a smile and "compliments of the chef". To the right, was a charcuterie platter with a base of miso salami and featuring the most delightful little headcheese fritters. Yes, I used delightful and headcheese in the same sentence. The runny egg yolk and frisé lettuce was a great combination. I do think they may have a good chance at winning whatever charcuterie competition they were entering (I must plead ignorance that I am not very in the loop with international charcuterie competitions these days...).

And just in case some of us didn't eat meat (or headcheese), and also because it was such a star menu item, we also tried a bright and beautiful salad of roasted golden and red beets, arugula, goat cheese and hazelnuts, dressed in a maple vinaigrette  Will and Kate couldn't have made a better marriage (of flavours). Very thoughtful of him, really.

Roasted Beets ($11/17)

Even though we were full to the brink, we couldn't resist trying some of the desserts that pastry chef Farzam Fallah had conjured up. Our favourite dessert was by far the lemon posset, which had the light texture of a panna cotta, but without any gelatin, which made it even more delicate. The whole custard was set with just the pure acidity from the lemon juice. This was served with meringue chips (very cool), slightly macerated blueberries (delicious), poached pears (a bit al dente, but nice), and this out of this world half-frozen camomille foam (AMAZING). How anything could taste so heavenly is hard to imagine.

Lemon Posset

We also had the daily special called the "Eglinton Station", inspired by the pastry chef's frustration at always being late for work as a result of being stuck at the TTC station by the same name, and smelling the flavours of Cinnabon and other food places within. The star of this dish had to be the chèvre sorbet. What a gastronomic delight.

"Eglinton Station": Dessert of the Day

And just cause he's a wonderful man, Carl brought us out an additional complimentary dessert--a rich and comforting peanut butter bar with layers of chocolate, and dulce de leche mousse. This was cut with a star anise and cranberry sorbet, served on a bed of crushed peanuts.

Peanut butter bar with cranberry star anise sorbet

I was so impressed by everything: the service was top notch, the food was top notch, and the whole atmosphere was just pleasant. The bathroom was even whimsical, with a homemade mason jar soap dispenser, and vintage TTC posters.

Not to be neglected, it is also a true sign of confidence for such a young team of chefs to run an open kitchen, vulnerable to both praise and scrutiny. I had the chance to take a few photos in the kitchen and witness the creation of the beef tenderloin dish that was a chalkboard special that day (and many other days I am sure, given the amount of drool I had to fight back). By the deft demonstration of skill and friendly banter, it is clear that they have nothing to hide and are proud to be a part of the team.

The plating of the beef tenderloin dish ($29)
With Chef Carl Heinrich

On Top Chef Canada, there was a challenge where the chefs were all asked to make "dishes from the soul" and Carl was almost sent home for serving up a dish that lacked, well, soul. Respectfully, to the judges I beg to differ. Sure, everyone loves Emeril and Carla Hall for their Southern gumbo-grits-and-love kind of soul. But sometimes, you find the kind of soul that is soft-spoken, thoughtful, and humbling evolving and learning as he goes. That's the kind of soul that Carl is, and that is the kind of food that you'll find here.

Thank you very much for a wonderful experience, chef!

Rating: 5/5

Richmond Station on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Hanka Banka Bobanka said...

I feel like taking a swim in the dessert of the day... :P Awesome Chu-ster.

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