Table 21 Kitchen & Wine Bar

Guess who’s back?! Ash and I are back with a vengeance (okay well, maybe not with a vengeance because who’s angry? Not us! And to be honest, did we really leave!?! No, no we did not). We are excited to be starting the next installment of our food journey continued from where we left off in 2011 (okay, maybe we are “back”)!!

Ash was kind enough to do much of the leg work on this one, sending me a few options to pick from. And pick I did! I decided our first stop this season should be to Table 21 Kitchen & Wine Bar. The website was streamlined and offered brunch and dinner menus which I am rather generally fond of. Truth be told I really only looked at a couple and decided on this one based on the aesthetics of the website. Note to restauranteurs out there – websites are IMPORTANT!

Located in the west end of the city, at Bloor and Royal York, this posh eatery is smack in the middle of some of the city’s oldest multi-million dollar homes. This quiet and quaint neighborhood, which is very reminiscent of its easterly neighbor (Bloor West Village), is perfect for enjoying afternoon window shopping and weekend strolls.

Upon entering the restaurant I realized that my concerted efforts at reserving a table online were not necessary. (My general paranoia stems from a time we waited over an hour and a half for a table. Needless to say, I vowed “never again” with a strong fist.) Based on the lack of patrons, my expectations immediately started deflating until I looked around and noticed a sleek and modern space. The alley-like layout of the restaurant was flanked with a large, full-length bar with a beautiful, rustic white brick wall backdrop. All this was punctuated by a tasteful and charming dark gray stucco ceiling which created an intimate space all around. However, as modern as one half of this space was, the wall across the bar was strangely out of place and the decor, outdated (think Subway sandwich posters). In the end I felt the space was somewhat lost and short on character.

IMG-20170501-WA0004 The food: I ordered smoked salmon eggs benedict (surprise, surprise).  What was actually a surprise was that there were no substitutions from me (which is VERY rare). I have to say, first off, if ever there were a restaurant that matched my rigid, picky-dining soul then Table 21 would be mine. Let me explain why. I have a problem; I have a problem with food and my OCD-ness does not allow me to enjoy food the regular human way. I am unable to function properly as a member of society if, say, a seed/pit were part of my garnish on my plate. Table 21 for whatever reason pleasantly surprised me with their attention to detail (and let’s admit, something as minute as removing a lemon seed is my definition of attention to detail). And whether this was on purpose or good things really do happen to good people, but the food was all served in separate small dishes (never touching one another and in a non-cluttered, clumsy way) and I appreciated it- I appreciated it very much.

I absolutely wanted to give this restaurant a full score but the decor wasn’t there for me and as much as food is the star of any restaurant, the space has to fall in line as well. Was this the best restaurant stop to date though? Yes, yes indeed- I’d bet everything on the table.

4-star

 

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It’s All Relative in the 50s

It’s the 1950s- Yahtzee was just introduced, colour television was the most technological forward gimic anyone could get and air conditioning? What’s that?

No, okay fine it’s 2011- it’s hot and muggy and sitting outside you risk being fried alive and air conditioning definitely exists now but not in this joint- Aunties and Uncles that is.

It’s the type of place that could keep you occupied, if you’re a serious starer like me, for hours on end. From the old wallpaper to the knick-knacks that bring you back to a time when even you did not exist but have only heard about- it’s certainly an era thing.

While the location is set right downtown in between the Dees, liquid bars and Chinatown, you could hardly notice the hustle and bustle of it unless you walked to the corner end and peered out. It’s a supreme location- central yet quiet.

The inside was set up as if you were at your aunt and uncles. However, I doubt that this design was more on purpose but due to lack of space and funds. They, however, do a great job of disguising this fact though (again with the memorabilias and artifacts of that decade).

The staff and food were better than you would expect a small kitchen of this size to create. The menu itself was short, limited but the items were unusual and generally made-up for its lack of choice (such as: challah bread, aioli, chutney, curry, dried mango ingredients). Aunties and Uncles, definitely not a place where salt & pepper shakers are refilled but my chicken BLT was juicy, tender and not dry and stiff at all- a rarity!

The 50s were an era of flavorful music, new discoveries and on the cusp of new conveniences and Aunties and Uncles is a great place to grab a bite, heck I may even try the patio next time but deep down, I’m a 90s chick!

***1/2 out of 5

 

Old Senator

You know that adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? Well The Senator is definitely a lab that could use a few new tricks up its sleeve. Other than its convenient location, its name and super-friendly service, there’s really not much else going for it. I can certainly see it being an old favourite and perhaps that’s just why it’s still up, running and alive but the restaurant and food itself is not much to write home about. It certainly isn’t what I’d want a tourist to experience and think that it’s all that this great city of ours has to offer in the culture of restaurant dining.

First of all, the food was nothing I couldn’t make in my own kitchen. Other than considering the convenience factor, if I can easily make what’s being served then really the essence of dining is quite frankly lost. Warm milk and the usual mass-market greens pretty much sum up the balance of my meal. Where I can’t voice a negative thought is the location and convenience (across from Eatons; downtown hub) and the service (friendly- like you could totally go out for platonic drinks with the wait staff). However, if you are as visual and phobic of all forms of unknown, random-shaped things/dirt as I am then this place is not for you. The dust bunny in the corner and where it came from and what it’s doing there will distract you all hour long (you may even feel the need to cover it up using the menu). Yes, I did this.

And God blessed/cursed me with the gift/disability (depending on who you talk to) of “senseless” living (I’m talking about smell, not purpose) but I can imagine this must’ve been the place where every customer was a smoker and after years of smoke abuse it’s taken its toll on the walls, floors and furniture. Unfortunately for The Senator and thank goodness for all mankind, the age of smoking while dining is over but this place has failed to eradicate the remnants of its former self.

The old wood accents and mirrored walls maybe fifteen years ago would have sung trendy-traditional and masculine tunes but in this current decade this aged joint speaks drab, worn and retired. All the wrong lighting is in all the wrong places and it is just begging to be made over. It’s a place I can imagine Gordon Ramsey taking (after reprimanding the arse out of the owners of course) and turning it NOT into something it’s not but everything it was meant to be in every era, decade and time- a place for everyone to call home. But for me- home, this is not.

** out of 5

 

O.M.G. for DT B.

DT is a quaint and intimate bistro yet there’s an aura of grandness with its light and bright features that opens up the small space. Once inside DT Bistro, you can easily forget that you’re not in the midst of a Parisian journey. The best space and food so far on our venture- DT Bistro never tries to be something it’s not.

The unique decor is simple yet effortlessly stunning with natural exterior elements brought in or accentuated with its reflective varnish finishes. The large open windows and doors make the room airy and bigger than it really is. The impressive and yet unobstructed chandelier adds a touch of elegance to the place while fresh flowers are the perfect feminine touch to contrast the small intricate art sculptures displayed. It is very obvious that attention-to-detail is not lacking here.

The food– only divine. I am a picky eater (I do know worse but picky I am nonetheless) and the food and atmosphere is what will keep me coming back again because I just want to try each and every item on the menu. The menu itself is not extensive by any means but the selection is great for every muncher: those who like/hate nuts/seeds, those who enjoy meat and those who can live without much or any at all. The prices listed, in my opinion, are quite fair- you are paying for quality, quantity and presentation minus the uptight feel of a stuffy French restaurant, however, plastic forks and untamed foods are still prohibited.

Lastly, don’t leave without trying their desserts. Their delectable and palatable sweets corner (fresh out-of-the-oven cakes, decadent chocolate delights, gelatos and baked yummy goodness) is strategically placed at the front of the shop and anyone who bypasses it without succumbing to the temptation is either blind, hates all good/worthwhile things in life or has iron-man willpower. Surprisingly and proudly, Ash and I were the latter but all the more reason to revisit DT again (and very soon).

**** out of 5

 

Sunday Church

I think it’s safe to say that Church St. Diner, located in the super hip area of Church and Bloor, is a lovely secret hideaway (if you blink, you may miss it) that very few have yet to discover. I say this because Ashley and I went for Sunday brunch and the small yet cozy diner was adequately packed (meaning there was a reasonable five minute wait but it was not horrendous). With food as good as theirs and the location, it was a bit surprising to not see a line outside but that may also be a sign of fast service.

I think with any diner, one has expectations of what a “quintessential diner” should look and feel like. It should make you feel nostalgic and bring up good old memories. This place, flagged with thought-provoking and sassy art work, an open-concept kitchen at the back and an intimate diner-esque set-up, was far from traditional but more like uber urban. It certainly met all aesthetic expectations of a modern and noticeably clean (as in linear, simple and non-dirty) diner. I do enjoy the odd dive from time to time but I would much prefer great food AND at a CLEAN place any day.

The menu, as much as I can recall, is limited but I’ve always believed that success is not about doing a bunch of things on a mediocre level but doing a few things supremely well. Although I have my bias, where egg Florentines are concerned, this one came close. The best part was the delicious, sweet balsamic dressing because for some reason, just like my signature amaretto sours, no two are ever the same or done properly in my opinion and Church did it right and it was finger-licking, hail Mary superb!

Church St. Diner gives Sunday church a whole new meaning!

***1/2 out of 5