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Reviewed February 1, 2004   »   32avenue.com   |   justin-cheung.com     

agora

Art Gallery of Ontario - Dundas & Beverley, Toronto, Canada
Butternut Squash Winter Soup | a pure, very well-textured and well-flavoured soup with a hint of sweetness and served with a decent portion. Particularly enjoying, that was probably the best part of the meal.

Roasted Chicken Supreme | with roasted butternut squash and apples pomegranate molasses and baby red swiss chard, this entree was quite ordinary if not for the presentation. The chicken was a little dry, but the gravy on the side made up for it somewhat. The squash was not bad, which helped a bit, but the overall portion was relatively puny. Overall, a little disappointing. Hannah, however, thought the chicken was alright, with an okay portion considering it is for lunch.

Grilled Rainbow Trout | the trout was nicely nestled on top of a salad of watercress, served with shaved fennel, red onion and blood orange segments with lemon-orange aioli. The trout itself, however, was very average in taste and tiny in portion, and only saved by the aioli. Presentation was above average, with the trout's small portion made up by the large portion of salad. It's something to get only if you're a fan of fennel.

Lemon Ice | with cassis coulis and shortbread cookies, this dessert was the most head-scratching elements of a meal ever - one that makes me wonder, "What the heck was she thinking?" For a winterlicious dinner, stressing the WINTER, executive chef Anne Yarymowich decided to go with a cold, sour dessert. Why on earth would I want a cold dessert in the middle of winter, let alone a sour one? The fact that the coulis was accentuated by raspberries certainly didn't help matters. The only part of the dessert that I finished happily were the soft shortbread cookies, which were among the best I have ever had. If only they chucked out the Lemon Ice and just gave me a plate of those cookies - I would've left a much happier man. Anne, if it wasn't for the presentation, you really disappointed me here.

Poached eggs on toasted pain au lait with smoked salmon, dijon-dill sauce and roasted cherry tomato | $16. Fantastic lightly poached eggs, with a "candy-centre" that only slightly drizzled on to a well stocked lox open faced buttery toasted square of milk-bread. The Dijon-sauce was a nice accompaniment - however I found that the nouveau version of the Eggs Benedict really didn't need the heavier sauce to confound the fresh flavours already bursting on the dish. The slightly roasted sweet cherry tomatoes were nicely presented on the plate, still on the vine, and gave a nice contrast to the richer entree. What a nice touch!

Blackcurrant scones with vanilla seed-orange marmalade butter and house-made current preserves | $6. Medallions of icing sugar dusted scones that were peppered with black currents and finely grated orange zest were dense, rich and crumbly-flaky at the same time. I love scones and could only imagine how these delights would be if they were fresh from the oven or slightly heated. Still fragrant however, the scones were perfectly matched with the vanilla seed butter, beautifully piped in ripples on a "twin boat" sauce/mustard dish. The house-made current preserves were a thick jam, a little on the sweet, but still wonderful with the scone. If only they were warm!

Conclusion: Ambience was an interesting concept, since half of the restaurant was out in a glass atrium, and the other half was dimly lit in an enclave. As much as I liked the atrium where I sat (I thought the other half was too dim, especially since it's a lunch-only restaurant), the downside was it was just too bright with the blinding sun shining right into my eyes. Service was sub-standard, as our waitress forgot to give us our entrees completely - there was a good solid 40 minutes between our soup and our main course. She was not too well trained. She didn't even give me a proper knife to cut my chicken with. She did, however, make sure my coffee cup was always full, and the coat check/maitre d' service was at par with other finer restaurants, albeit they made a glaring mistake by giving Bea someone else's coat check receipt, particularly disturbing since she didn't even check in her coat. The food is pretty much all about presentation, not surprising considering you're eating at the AGO. Under normal dining prices, they aren't unreasonable, but I wouldn't go back unless I'm bringing a tourist friend. Parking is also a pain since you have to find street parking. (Justin)

The host was pleasant and attentive, however the server seemed to be an older lady who acted a little condescending to Hannah and I. Perhaps she was having a bad day, but forgetting cutlery or being very tardy with orders were not an attractive feature in our visit. In addition, a fire-alarm bell sounded throughout the first half of our meal, which made conversations and the enjoyment of the crisp and comforting atmosphere difficult. The atrium made the dining area very bright and spacious, however the blinding light of the sun was a plaguing nuisance for the nearly 2 hours it took for our brunch to be served. Overall, the brunch experience was fantastic, on the food alone. As I passed up the Winterlicious menu for brunch, I can't comment much on any other mass-produced dishes. (Renee)

2.4

Justin's out of 5.0

3.4

Renee's out of 5.0

noteworthy
n/a


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