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"Not For The Faint of Stomach"


MarcO
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Here's the Toronto Star restaurant review column from last weekend. Good god I found this funny!

Not for the faint of stomach

Apr. 1, 2006. 01:00 AM

AMY PATAKI

Regular restaurant critic Amy Pataki is away this April Fool's Day.

Filling in is feared British critic E.E. Shrill, of the influential Monday Times newspaper, who recently spent a week eating in Toronto.

Shrill is famous for his particular style of writing (cruel to some, entertaining to others) and for being thrown out of London's best restaurants when the chefs detect his presence. Recently, one restaurant printed his face on toilet paper.

He weighs in, in his imitable style, on those restaurants he sampled here. All incidents are true; the names and other identifying characteristics have been changed to protect the guilty.

I came, I ate, I regretted.

Not Toronto, a lovely place if you think poured concrete is just the thing the world should have more of. But its food.

Particularly all the perfectly simple ingredients tarted up like a cheap strumpet by self-congratulatory chefs.

I don't know what's worse: this sort of misconceived razzle-dazzle or the horrors inflicted upon innocent fish lovers. Service is no better. I've seen penned veal better cared for than the hapless diners of this city.

The grim reality of the Toronto scene is first hammered home after I am steered to Bait, a seafood restaurant that seems promising. There, in quick succession, I am informed that every item I want from the menu is out of stock, including two of the six wines by the glass.

How they manage, I cannot imagine. Does the chef look into the empty cooler every night and decide the show must go on, regardless? I suppose we must applaud such dogged determination.

What I get is the dog's breakfast. Let's qualify this: Any self-respecting mutt would sooner lift a leg at than eat the $45 whole grilled fish that smells ranker than the Thames estuary after a flood. All that's missing are garnishes of plastic bag and cigarette butt. Oh wait, here they are, in the form of fish juice-soaked greens underneath, the colour and flavour of wet garbage.

At least the staff knows upon which side their stale bread is buttered. The maitre d', while helping me with my coat, is distracted by a question from a table of regulars. He becomes so preoccupied fawning over them (his manner would make even Basil Fawlty cringe) that he drops my coat and chatters on without noticing. It is lip service, not real service.

Here's a fact: Toronto is far from an ocean. It goes to follow that fish around here is shipped in from a great distance. Apparently, patrons of Toronto's copious sushi bars aren't put off by these simple truths. Me, I'm put off by fishy sushi in general and Yukki Sushi in particular.

Ordinarily, I don't eat sushi unless in plain sight of the sea, but having heard more than one person rave about this city's most creative rolls, I toddle over to Yukki. These people are liars, or perhaps struck by short-term amnesia, because Yukki surely has not known fresh fish delivery this millennium.

The sushi is criminally past its prime. Tuna is a bruise staining the rice. Rotting arctic char falls apart like a widow at her husband's funeral. The nori is as chewy as three-day-old gum, and so what if the soy sauce is brewed in house, it reeks of a boarding school foot locker.

Cooked offerings are hardly better. Rice is steamed until crunchy, a nasty bit of kitchen alchemy. Shrimp is sent out piping hot with the shells on, perhaps to send unwary diners to hospital — unless the decaying lobster maki does them in first.

It's my own fault that I end up at Prelude. Wandering by the bistro, I am tempted by the posted menu. It has all my favourite words: double-smoked bacon, borlotti beans, cardamom.

Damn my eyes. And damn the kitchen that ruins such ingredients by soiling them with a dozen flagrantly useless accompaniments. Just sear the ruddy scallops and be on with it. Forget the foie gras butter, the prawn mousse stuffing, the tempura coating, the sweet pea purée and the citrus emulsion. That isn't cooking, it's stockpiling.

(Toronto seems to be the city of the threesome. Not the good kind, mind you, but the sort in which a chef cooks one ingredient three different ways on the plate. This is fine for the thrifty bigamist who shares one entrée with his wives; it's not such a treat for the solo diner. Just pick your best of the three and give me more of it.)

It goes from bad to worse at Foxy's, a trendy sort of place that boasts "globally inspired" pizza.

This is the kind of tomfoolery in which thai beef curry or kung pao chicken is dumped atop a rope-like crust and called "inspired."

It's no more inspired than what any properly drunk or high youth would devise while raiding the fridge at 3 a.m. It's just the sort of kitchen sink meal that pregnant women desperate for a snack might concoct, which must explain why so many Foxy diners are expecting.

Expect the pizzas to taste like they were cooked in the loo, but it's the service that is truly offensive at Foxy's. No one cares to ask me why the putrid shrimp appetizer is barely touched. (Where to start if they did?) At the end of the meal, I ask for the dessert menu. It's a mistake, given the crap the kitchen is slinging, but a job is a job.

The menu is brought. I confer with my partner. Then we wait. And wait. It becomes a perverse contest of wills, me versus the waiter. Who will break the silence? After 45 minutes, I concede defeat and wave him over.

He explains his inattentiveness thusly: "You were busy talking. I didn't want to disturb you."

You heard him, Toronto. If you want proper service, you must be seen and not heard.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

entertainer@thestar.ca

E. E. Shrill

Dining Out

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I think this is the first and only food critic I might agree with. The Toronto scene sux balls. And thats from someone who has had to cook the food(shit) these people come up with. I am a little biased myself right having just come home from one of the shittiest restaurant experiences Ive ever had.

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I'd love to but I'm trying to put this behind me. Every time I go out for dinner with the wife this happens and I get really mad. So today I'm turning a new leaf. No more critisizing other peoples restaurants and food and service. Seems I ruin dinner everytime. Dems the breaks I guess. From now on I'm going to stay home and critique her dinners cuz I'm not cooking anymore either!

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ok, i have a 2 friends that are a couple. one of them has worked as a waitress for bunches of years. going out to eat with them for some is highly entertaining and others it's an embarassmend. (like my spelling while i'm hawked up on cough medicine)

i'm one who demands good service and as a result of working and giving good service so is she. when you know what good is, nothing else will really count i find. so don't sit back and hold it in. save us all from a shitty experience. i've had a bunch of horrible service experiences and would be MORE than happy to share :D

but funny enough, the place where i've had, consistantly the WORST service (sometimes it IS good) is still one of my favourite places to go....you just gotta know how to work AROUND the silly bad service givers

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Everytime I end up in Toronto with Sharon, we end up finding a great, delicious and unique meal. Sometimes they are very inspirational. There was a Thai place on Yonge at Elm that we learned of the Mango Salad which is now a regular at home.

Here's a quick shit service story? Me, Ollie and CoP went to a pub for a quick bite in Ottawa near Maverick's before the Sisters show. I ordered East Coast fish and Chips....Ollie and CoP ordered quesadillas.

The quesadillas came as rolled up deep-fried batons and of course the menu didn't mention that. The fish was at best guess Capt'n Highliner frozen flat patties. Hardly East Coast F+C.

When the waitress delivered our plates, she said "Do you guys need forks or....?"

Since when are you asked if you need a fork, unless you're a white guy in China town?

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Today I had the best dining experience!

I went to The Derby for breakfast. it's located on queenston, east of where main turns into queenston on the north side of the street. it's a country bar that has a motel in it and a dining room up front. uber cheese. it has a big sign on the front of it that says THE D E R B Y (derby is vertical) in light bulbs!

my dad used to take me there when i was a kid for bfast sometimes before school. when i was old enough i went on my own on my spares in high school and when i still lived in hamilton.

I'd been back a few times but the old waitress wasn't there and they'd shut down the dining room for some reason, forcing you to eat in the bar which added a dash too much creep factor for me. old men, listening to country music drinking beer from old 75 cent draught sized glasses at noon don't really appeal to me.

so i thought i'd try it again today. i go in, and the dining room is open! yey!!! and guess who's there? Elaine! the old waitress is back! with the same hair style, and same shade of lipstick. sadly, 5 or 6 years and 30 added pounds haven't been kind to elaine who must be between 50 and 60 by now. but you can tell she still likes or at least at one point knew how to party....country style.

so, with country music playing, i looked at the old menu. still the same. i got wicked fast service (although, it was 30 minutes to close, and i was the only one there). no refill on the coffee...which is usually a tick, but i didn't really need it. (surprisingly)

this is what i got for $4.89 including taxes

3 eggs

2 gi-gantor sausages

homefries with that red seasoning salt on them

coffee

whole wheat toast

pleasant, friendly service from elaine

i was in and out in 25 minutes. that my friends is what breakfast should be. So, the dining room is open on saturday and sundays only from 7-2 i believe (i'm not sure on the times, but definitely till 2) check this place out!

i decided to take my trip down memory lane a bit further and went exploring my old childhood stomping grounds in the lower part of red hill valley. if you do go for breakfast there, take parkdale to king st and go check out the development of the red hill creek expressway. it's like a giant cement tounge that's been unfurled through the valley. it's sooooo sad. but with some creative driving i managed to make sure that a bunch of my favourite things about the valley like the falls were still intact and had a nice hike with darius too!

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