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Reviewed January 30, 2004   »   32avenue.com   |   justin-cheung.com     

Focaccia

17 Hayden St. - Yonge & Bloor, Toronto, Canada
Homemade Focaccia | Complimentary. Not oily, lightly seasoned and dense. Homemade spiced cornbread very nice. Dense, almost like a pound cake, toasted outer crust, lightly flavoured with mini-spikes of chili in the cake-like middle. Highly enjoyable. LOL, when asked regarding refills, I took this one up in a second. (Renee)

Pablano florentine (ricotta and sauteed spinach), tomato fennel sauce | $8. Nice surprise as the server had indicated. Mix of dense filling with mildly spicy poblano in a light tomato sauce. A nice start. Original dish. (Renee)

Onion galette | $8. Essentially a tart shell filled with caramelized onions - but it was pretty good for an appetizer. It's something worth trying once, but under normal dining prices not worth getting if you've had it before. (Justin)

Marinated Veal Tenderloin, red bean, fried cassava | $22. Excellent dish. I would suggest getting it done no more than medium - the veal was incredibly tender and bursting of flavor, and completed with a pineapple salsa garnish. The red bean mix seemed to be just thrown in on the side, but I personally don't like red bean. The fried cassava, on the other hand, was like a giant french fry - only the outside shell was tenderly crisp and the inside potato was soft and fluffy - not bad, but a tad on the bland side. (Justin)

Coconut Crusted Salmon Filet, blue potato, papaya salsa | $20. Maybe was a little overcooked; the coconut crusting made for an interesting taste, but unfortunately left the inside part not as tender as preferred for a salmon filet. Compared to the veal, the portion was very disappointing. (Justin)
Fresh coconut and coriander on a seared salmon filet on top of nicely creamed mashed blue potato. The papaya salsa was nice and with a slight kick, spiked with cilantro; overall pleasant. The salmon was a little fully cooked on the outside; the center was medium. Decent, but since the filet is not evenly shaped, the piece was non-uniformly textured. I liked the blue potato and salsa most. The fresh coconut was a nice touch. (Renee)

Creme Brulee | $6. Pretty standard creme brulee, above average on the taste, though for some reason, Renee's brulee was much darker than everyone else's - hers was brown, while everyone else's was yellow. Made us wonder if there was either something wrong with ours or with theirs! (Justin)
Mocha creme brulee? It was like a coffee (I swear it seemed like chocolate) pudding under a caramelized crust. Topped with a fresh out of season strawberry. Oh well. The cornbread was like the dessert that satisfied my craving most. (Renee)

Chocolate Tart with mint foam | $6. Nothing too spectacular, albeit still decent. the mint foam was a nice little touch, adding variety to an otherwise normal chocolate tart. (Justin)

Amuse bouche | Banana and mango puree shot like a smoothy. Refreshing. (Renee)

Conclusion: Cozy and quaint, and normal dining prices aren't completely out of the student budget. Great value for the prices. It is by no means an upper-class restaurant in terms of decor and the size of the restaurant is much smaller than expected, but that was well compensated by the friendly top-tier service (among the best I've had) which complemented the nice relaxed ambience. Solid set of choices for a winterlicious menu. It was more Cal-Ital fusion food, which is always nice. Portions were a little small, but the cornbread served was much nicer than the normal plain bread served anywhere else. The $7 martinis weren't as good as hoped initially, very strong alcohol and very little taste, but they were willing to make changes to it until they got the taste right, and they did. Good date restaurant, though a little loud. (Justin)

Service with a smile. Larry was wonderful, attentive to every need. Friendly beyond belief. After talking with another friend about the restaurant, she too inquired about Larry. Looks like he's a restaurant keeper and the real gem of the evening. As we were the only seating scheduled for the evening, the atmosphere was very cosy as we weren't rushed to be moved out. This restaurant is a great place for friends to gather as it was very relaxing, casual, with a bit of a intimate setting, but not pretentious or overbearing in the romance department. As with other similar settings that are houses converted to a two story restaurant (i.e. Corner House, Matignon), the bi-level homey feel is more cozy and a nice break from the everyday, full blown flashy chrome on white mass produced commodities that we are overwhelmed with these days. Not one of the best restaurants I've been to on food alone, but definitely a decent one for all the above-mentioned reasons, making it a restaurant I'd return to. (Renee)

3.8

Justin's out of 5.0

3.3

Renee's out of 5.0

noteworthy
service


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