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Reviewed February 12, 2004   »   32avenue.com   |   justin-cheung.com     

Avalon

270 Adelaide St. W. - John & Adelaide, Toronto, Canada
This was a Winterlicious Dinner review, prix fixe at $30.

Grilled Sardines with a Preserved Lemon, Green Olive & Fennel Salad | a nice paring of two plump char-grilled sardines, decorated with fleu de sel and lying on a generous bed of thin shaved fennel. The salad was decorated with chopped green olives and crumble of rustic crouton shards(?!?) and lightly dressed in a slightly tart dressing. Pairing two of my LEAST favorite items (olives and fennel) against a standard NON-favorite item of most (sardines), ironically, was very good. This dish surprised me (especially good since I went out on a limb to try it) (Renee)

Foie Gras d'epice Terrine with Jonagold Apple Compote | $10 upgrade. I have to admit, I'm not quite a fan of terrine style foie gras. I prefer my foie gras warm, as part of an hor d'ouerve, but this was still very good nonetheless, with a nice, decent portion. It was reasonably soft throughout and rich in flavour without an overpowering scent, layered between french gingerbread crisps, which added a nice touch of sweetness. The jonagold apple compote complemented the foie gras well; however, I wish there was more of compote. In the end, I realized it probably wasn't worth the upgrade, and should've stuck to the normal prix fixe appetizers. It was good, but not great. (Justin)
I decided to upgrade my appetizer to foie gras with french gingerbread. What an excellent decision. The foie gras reminded me of the Hillebrand winery restaurant which is unparalleled. The texture was extremely soft and moist and not at all gamey in flavour. The French gingerbread added a subtle sweetness that complemented the duck beautifully, and the appearance was so appetizing I forgot to take a picture. (Elaine)

Crispy-Braised Pork Belly with French Lentils and Mustard Sauce | The pork belly had pretty good portions; my first impression was shock at the slab of meat that was put in front of me, since winterlicious meat tends to be small. The meat was very tender with a nice salty flavour, but the superb mustard sauce really brought out the flavour out. I'm not a fan of lentils, but yet I enjoyed this side to the entree. Two thumbs up, an above average entree. (Justin)

Horseradish-Crusted Salmon Filet with Root Vegetable Puree | I see a recurrent theme with the bread-crumb usage in my two fish dishes. The horseradish crush seemed more like a very thick crust of seasoned breadcrumbs, that was crispy, yet still stayed intact with each cut. Although the salmon was fully cooked, it was still very moist and tender. The fingerling slice sat on top of a pat of pureed sweet potato, bathing in a shallow pool of herb and vegetable beurre blanc. The sauce was both flavourful and colourful (had little bits of chives and tomatoes sprinkled throughout) and was well matched with the slightly muted taste of the fish. (Renee)

Veal on pasta | It didn't look like anything I couldn't have made myself at home but once I dove in, I knew it wasn't anything I could've done on my own. The veal was very tender and the pasta noodles were obviously freshly made, smothered in a light cream sauce. Yum! (Elaine)

Creme Caramel | Presentation was crap. I mean, seriously, it was cracked, and looked like a glob thrown onto the plate. So the best thing to do, is to pretend you're blind when you eat it, because the taste is simply incredible. The texture was amazing, very smooth and light, almost seemed fluffy. The caramel had a nice sweetness level without being overbearing, a great way to top off a great dinner. Quite possibly the best creme caramel I've ever had. (Justin)
I never knew this was the same as the Chinese steamed egg dessert until now. Lovely appearance, nicely decorated and oh so sweet. (Elaine)

Selection of Handmade Sorbets | Pear, blackcurrant and mango sorbets with a large flat tulle. The sorbets were respectively: very light, fragrant and refreshing (probably best for an amuse bouche), a very tart but clean palate cleanser, and something that tasted like the Gelato Fresco mango sorbet brand (sweet, bursting in flavour and rich). These sorbets were a very nice way to finish off the evening, especially when paired with a nice cup of Earl Grey. In terms of handmade ice creams/sorbets, I found those at Boba exceptional, while the Avalon fare was decent but had more store bought appeal. (Renee)

Raspberry Ricky | Raspberry Twist Smirnoff's Vodka, Chambord, and a splash of 7-Up on rocks, $12.50. Great drink, the alcohol content was just perfect, not too strong, yet not weak either. The chambord reminded me of amaretto. Perfect drink to just chill with, and a nice complement to my dinner, though it's more a summery drink. (Justin)

Conclusion: Good Mediterranean-French fusion. The ambience is more like upscale casual dining, which really surprised me since Toronto Life had rated it as one of the most romantic restaurants in Toronto. I have to say it didn't feel romantic at all, with the chatter and bright lights, but still very much a nice date place since it's fine dining in a somewhat relaxed yet nice atmosphere; however, looking out the big picture window to see a giant Hooters sign really took away from the ambience. Service was well-trained and relatively polite, pretty detailed with jackets, topping off drinks and bread crumbs. However, it was rushed and very hurried which really took away from the night I thought, so overall nothing special, though not as bad or snobby as some have put it to be. It's a very small, quaint restaurant, so the waiters kept bumping into my chair, which annoyed me a little bit. Portions were overall quite decent, and taste was relatively good. The homemade country-style sourdough bread was quite fresh. Parking is expensive with the private lots. Although I'm sure I'd come back for winterlicious/summerlicious dining (this was the one place with a large variety of choices in its prix fixe menu, which was really nice), its normal dining prices and quality given are enough to scare me off for a return visit. (Justin)

Don't have many comments regarding the service in a restaurant of this caliber, except that it was industry standard; our tables were set accordingly, we were asked about our wine, water, tea/coffee, crumbs were brushed away, etc. (unlike what I had heard from another friend's nightmarish experience). Same goes for the menu presented to us. Not to sound pretentious as this is still fare that is beyond the ordinary, however there was nothing that seems overly creative on the menu when I sit back and think about things. The appetizer that I had (the pairing of all non-tasty items) stunned me as it was quite pleasant. For this, Avalon's chef does get my applause. Presentations of these three items were simple and not overdone, but at the same time neat with purpose. I am curious about the chef's tasting menu that Avalon is known for, and if one day can find myself keen on splurging, may head here...however I'll try Susur, Perigree, and Sushi Kaji before coming back Avalon. (Renee)

3.4

Justin's out of 5.0

3.6

Renee's out of 5.0

noteworthy
creativity


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