Sunday, December 6, 2009
I've never considered myself a restaurant reviewer, but after the brunch I had today and with the amount of amazing restaurants there are in this fair city of Toronto I have decided to mix restaurant reviews in with my own recipes and culinary experiments, because I often get inspiration from the food I eat when I'm out.
For my inaugural restaurant review I feel compelled to tell you about the Hoof Cafe (923 Dundas West Toronto). The Hoof Cafe just opened this week and comes to us from Jen Agg and Grant van Gameran, the owners of Black Hoof (928 Dundas West Toronto) the well-known charcuterie. Now I'll be up front about the fact that I haven't yet been to Black Hoof, it's been on my ever growing list of spots to try but we haven't made it there yet. The plan was to hit up the One of a Kind this morning and then head back west to check out Black Hoof tonight. As the boy was making some final purchases I was tweeting away on my blackberry and saw that @Foodie411 was at the Hoof Cafe and raving about it. I quickly replied asking how busy he was and with his tweet of "come now there's lots of room" I insisted we head over there for some grub since we were already in the West End and were hungry.
We walked in to modern meets shabby chic room filled with a generous bar and gorgeous cabinets covered with lead-paned glass doors and retro aluminum chairs. The rest of the space is tiny with only about 8-10 tables black tables and modern wood chairs. We were graciously greeted by someone at the bar and the hostess and brought to one of the few still empty (thankfully!) tables. The menu on the table was for cocktails, beer and wine. All the wines were from Ontario and the cocktails were all custom designed by Jen Agg, the cocktail maven over at Black Hoof and included her commentary on each one. Drinks are divided by White & Brown, The Rosy Cheeks (white) and Kwanza in Havana (brown) both sounded amazing to me, but I'd happily try any drink on that menu.
The food menu was written on a chalkboard, that since the boy had his back against the wall the chalkboard was on I had the pleasure of reading it aloud, hopefully not to the annoyance of any of the diners around me. The menu is comprised of, among a few other things, Pig Skin Soup, Granola with Goat Yogurt, Hoof Hash (made with tongue), Suckling Pig Benny, Brioche French Toast with an optional slab of Foie Gras, Rabbit & Buckwheat Pancakes and Pig Tails & Grits. The boy went for the Suckling Pig Benny with a latte to drink and I went for it with the Brioche French Toast topped with the Foie Gras. I had some serious trouble making my pick even when the server was there taking the boy's order. When I finally ordered my French Toast, I hesitated for a second before adding the foie gras and when I did got an impressed nod and a "Nice!" from our server. At this point I wasn't sure if I just don't look like the type of girl to eat that, or it was his favorite dish and he was happy that I ordered it.
We sat and sipped our warm drinks on this blustery December day and ogled as other people's food was served. The couple next to us got the Hoof Hash, Pig Tails & Grits and Sabodet (a side of sausage and lentils). While both dishes looked great, I still eagerly anticipated our food. I watched as a few plain French Toasts went by and while it looked good I can't imagine seeing foie gras as an add on to a dish and not going for it. Luckily for me and my cholesterol it's not on all that many menus of places I visit regularly. Finally our wait was over (and I say finally as I really was looking forward to my meal, not because we waited a long time, because we didn't) and oh was it worth it. The presentation was perfect, just elegant enough with out being stuffy or overdone, went perfectly with the decor and service we had experienced thus far. The server carefully explained what each dish was comprised of and after a few quick pics, it was a must. We dug in. My first bite was a bit of perfectly seared foie gras, with a flake or two of sea salt, a bite of french toast and smear of ginger peach preserves. All I can say is that I was in heaven. The buttery foie gras, with the sea salt and then the just sweet enough french toast and preserves. It was the perfect sweet and savory bite. They brought over some maple syrup for me, but I can't imagine who in their right mind would ruin the perfection of this dish with maple syrup. Don't get me wrong I love maple syrup but this dish was so well thought out that it needed nothing else. I got the feeling the server agreed as the syrup was definitely placed down as an after thought, with a "just in case you want it." At this point I was confident that the server approved of my order because how could you not just die over food this good.
The boy's plate had two biscuit halves topped with confited suckling pig, a perfectly poached egg and pickled jalapeno hollandaise. It also came with a baby arugula salad topped with house made pork rinds. I was honestly just about done eating what I could on my plate before I finally asked him for a bite, just in time too as he only had two left! It was delicious with the kick of the pickled jalapeno hollandaise really making it special and adding just the right amount of kick. This could be the perfect hangover cure, I'll have to try it as that next time I'm nursing one. I still had about a third of my plate left, so we switched and the boy finished my french toast as I finished his greens. While everything was delicious it was all a bit rich and the baby arugula added some nice, light freshness. Make sure your stomach candle handle some rich food before braving these dishes. That's not a bad thing in my opinion, we should all indulge every once in awhile.
All in all I cannot wait to go back to the Hoof Cafe to try the rest of the menu, most especially the Tongue Grilled Cheese. I will also be getting over to the Black Hoof sooner rather than later.