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Tuesday, October 18, 2011


The Niagara Street Café – Toronto, Ontario
Dining with Matt (chef), Laurie and James (Teacher and Server, Two of the best diners I have ever met)

To preface the dining experience, I feel that I should explain how I met James and Laurie.  One night I was working at a restaurant when this couple came in (without a reservation of course) and they sat at the bar.  It was later in the night and I liked the way James sauntered in with this fine woman on his arm so I decided to take them as my table.  The condensed long story goes something like this: They ordered cocktails, beers, great wine and every single item on our menu with few exceptions (a total of sixteen items).  They were hilarious, they loved food, and most importantly, they bought everyone working a drink at the end of the night.  It was love at first serve.  They were an impressive pair who ended up returning frequently and almost always eating and drinking as much as they did the first time.  Time passes…James and Laurie invite Matt and me to their place for dinner.  After some time together we are now DINK friends; and lose the dirty mind, it means dual income, no kids.
This brings us to Niagara street café on a Sunday night in late summer.
Before dinner we met at their place and played a round of asshole (the card game) and had some drinks.  I had the privilege of drinking a corked Brunello.  When we arrived in Toronto, we were all a little buzzed.  When we sat, we handed them the two wines we brought with us; I believe corkage was $25.  We ordered cocktails as Matt and the chef had a chat (of course they knew each other) and without missing a beat the chef sent us out a water buffalo pastrami, amuse bouche.  After very little deliberation the four of us decided to have one of everything on the menu with two exceptions: the fish and the soup.

Our order (the chef decided the order in which we received it):
1st Course
Lobster Mushroom Voule au Vente $13
Crispy Ontario Smelts with Green Curry Mayo $12
Spicy Black Bean Escargot $13
2nd Course
Roasted Nagano Pork Loin with Brown Butter Spaetzle, Pickled Ontario Pecans, Wild Mushrooms, Pea Tenders, Smoked Apple Jus $24
3rd Course
Slow Roasted Kings View Lamb Shoulder with Lamb Bacon, Potato Sour Dough, Tomato Pistou, Matchbox Arugula, Natural Jus $25
4th Course
Crispy Confit of Olliffe’s Ox Tongue with Smoked Pommes Purée, Chorizo Piperade, Panko Egg Yolk, Arugula, Wanda’s Truffle Oil, Natural Jus $23
5th Course
Grilled Smoked Cornish Hen with Panzanella, Cherry Tomatoes, Monforte Mozzarella, Matchbox Arugula, Wild Leek Pesto $24
6th Course
Olliffe’s 60 Day Dry Aged Rib Eye (for 2 or more)
Arugula, Shaved Mushrooms, Monforte Toscano, Lemon Vinaigrette $37/per person
7th Course

            So, because the menu itself took up more than half a page I am going to go through each course quickly.  We began with the Innisfree Cabernet Sauvignon, USA, 2008 (LCBO vintages $37.95) and they decanted the Zenato Amarone, Italy, 2006 (LCBO vintages $49.95) we brought.  The appetizers were amazing, each one with amazing and interesting flavour, they were served all three at once.  The Pork course followed and they split it four ways for us but they forgot about one of my allergies on this course which was immediately corrected.  It was good but I preferred the starters because I felt they had much more flavour.
            The Lamb course was split four ways as well and was fabulous.  The ox tongue was the next to come and I would like to pause here and express how much my tongue enjoyed this tongue; wow, rich delicious mmmness.  Cornish hen came next but on one plate to be split so, of course, Matthew carved her up for us.  Again, Hen was good but I was still drooling over the tongue.  This is about the point in the evening where everyone was getting pretty full except, of course, for me because Matt had eaten half of my portion from every previous course as I was wise enough to pace myself.
            Next to grace our table was ‘la piece de resistance’, the house specialty, one of the most impressive versions of steak I have encountered: The Ribeye.  This was by far all of our favourite course and there is a reason that this item does not come off of their menu.  It is served sliced and sprawled across a long wooden serving platter.  Gorgeous presentation and amazing beefy goodness, cooked to perfection.  We all wished that it came first but despite the state of their stomachs they ate on (I happily ate more than my portion this course).
            Finally, because we were playing the roles of gluttons on this evening, came our cheese course.  Only James and I enjoyed the cheese and port course though the other two may have ordered something sweet, I just wasn’t paying attention.  Overall, we stumbled out of their more food drunk than alcohol drunk.  Amazing food, great intimate atmosphere, service impeccable and friendly chef (which is as rare as the ribeye was) (that was a good one).

Final Bill: $556
Tip: 30%
Overall Grade: 95%
Likeliness of Return: 100%