So the challenge continues…
Where to eat, where to eat? I know it seems simple enough, but when you have from over 150 restaurants to choose from and a limited budget, it can seem overwhelming. Oh I know, boo hoo! Yet, I found myself spending my evenings and weekends reading reviews and looking at pictures of food. Interestingly enough, or annoyingly enough, almost every restaurant I was interested in had limited pictures of their food online. I found this odd considering how many people take pictures of their food these days (annoying isn’t it? The flash in your face when you are trying to enjoy a meal). I am sorry.
I knew that I had to try different cuisines and price points for my “study.” In other words, from the chill pub style to the higher end. From the affordable, to the “I rather buy a pair of shoes than pay that much for a salad.” After careful consideration and extensive research, I chose the restaurants for my “experiment.”
Restaurants that made the cut:
1) The Blake House for the chill atmosphere and the pub food
2) Auberge du Pommier for the fancy atmosphere and French cuisine
3) The Host for the butter chicken (won awards) and…standard atmosphere? Well, it fell somewhere in the middle between chill & posh
4) 5th Elementt for the Indian food and the homey atmosphere
5) Ouzeri for Greek food and busy/crowded atmosphere
6) Canyon Creek Chophouse because I love this restaurant and I could not believe it was participating in Winterlicious. $25 for a steak, salad and dessert?! Holy Sh%&T! Woohooo! *Happy dance*
7) Pan on the Danforth for Greek food and because it competes with Ouzeri
I am sure you have all read my review of The Blake House. Lucky for you I am not standing in front of you ready to test you with my menacing look. So let’s get on to restaurant #2.
Auberge du Pommier
Auberge du Pommier is settled in the middle of nowhere as far as I am concerned, but when you find it, it is pretty. Ok, it is not in the middle of nowhere. In fact, it basically faces a main road. I just hated the walk from the subway station to the restaurant. It was uphill. And I was hungry. And it was raining! And I was hungry. Just trying to get my point across.
Once I made it to the restaurant. Finally. I expected Regina to be there already inside the restaurant waiting for me since I was 5 minutes late. But no, I had to wait for HER!
Note the ducks. I figure they were planted there to guide you towards the door/entrance. Hmm, there is only one door. Anyway, the entrance was cute. Very shabby chic.
When Regina FINALLY arrived we were seated immediately. The waiter led us to the back of the restaurant which I liked because there was more light and there were fewer people dining there.
We were starving, so the minute the bread basket was placed on the table, we lunged for it, but and then we paused. What was up with the “butter?” This was interesting. I dipped my knife in the “butter” and had a taste. Ick. Do I like this? So I had some more to determine how I felt about this impostor. All I could tell was that it was a spread that tasted of a vegetable with an acidic or maybe it was vinegar, aftertaste. When the server returned to take our order, I asked him for the ingredients of the spread. He said that it was an artichoke spread made with artichokes, olive oil and salt and pepper. I did not believe him. There was another ingredient in there and I just could not figure out what! I will go with red wine vinegar. Well whatever it was, I was not a fan of the spread. Give me some plain ol’ butter!
For my appetizer I chose the Leek & Cabbage Soup made with braised leek and green cabbage, slow poached egg, Gruyère cheese and sourdough croûton. The minute the soup was placed in front of me I tensed up. There was so much black pepper! I really dislike black pepper.
You could taste the leek and cabbage in the soup and that was good. What I was not okay with was how salty it tasted. It seemed that they went as wild with the salt as they did with the pepper. On a good note, the egg was perfectly poached.
For her appetizer Regina ordered the Smoked Salmon Rillettes with cornichons, capers, dijon crème fraîche and rye bread crostini. Regina really likes smoked salmon, but in this case she noted that you could not appreciate or taste much of the smoked salmon because like my dish, her dish was also very salty. Too bad, the dishes so far had been beautifully presented, but the flavors were off.
For my main I ordered the Roast Chicken with roasted mushrooms, grandmother’s vegetables, pommes puréea and smoked bacon jus. The purée was silky smooth and perfectly seasoned, the chicken was moist, juicy and tender with crispy skin and the mushrooms were nice and firm. The jus had just the right amount of salt and smokiness but did not overpower the delicate purée and chicken. Everything else I could have done without. In fact, a bucket of the mashed potatoes would have sufficed. It was delicious!
For her main, Regina ordered the Meatball and it was made of braised beef, currants, golden raisins, slivered almonds, rapini, soft polenta, sweet and sour jus. Regina had no complaints. It was not amazing but it was not bad either. As it can happen when you make such a large meatball, the middle of it lacked seasoning or maybe it seemed that way because the exterior was coated in the jus which gave it that extra kick.
For dessert I ordered the Sticky Date Pudding with toffee sauce. The toffee looked nice and shiny, but I was a bit worried about the tiny squares of what seemed to be dried fruit around the plate. I am not a fan of dried fruits. However, if I remember correctly, these were sugar cubes that tasted of ginger and they were delicious and they married well with the pudding. What I did not eat was the dried date in the middle of the cake. Again, because I do not like dried fruit.
For her dessert Regina ordered the Chèvre Parfait with sweet and sour fruit and toasted nut bread. When it was presented to her I thought the quenelle was ice cream. I was wrong, it was in fact goat cheese. She regretted choosing this dish, not because it did not taste good, but because it made more sense if she had ordered it as an appetizer instead of a dessert. There simply was nothing sweet about it, and as most of us would agree, we want to end our meal on a sweet note.
At the end of our meal we received our bill with a $25 gift certificate to commemorate the restaurant’s 25th anniversary. That was a nice. It gave us a reason to return.
Auberge du Pommier is a beautiful restaurant that serves beautiful looking food. The precision of their plating is incredible. The technical skills used in their cooking is obvious and some of it did taste delicious.
In terms of service, the staff was very professional and attentive. We received the same service as the diners who were not there for Winterlicious.
I visit restaurants for the food and ambiance, and I am more than willing to spend the money on great food. If the food blows my mind, I will return. You can count on that. In this case however, some elements of the dishes were spot on, and some failed for me. Not a good enough reason for me to return.
**Note: I would return if I could just order a big plate of their mashed potatoes and chicken alone. Oh that would be so good!