Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Sunday with Starbucks, Indigo and Chef of India

Almost every Sunday Jen and I go to the nearest Starbucks and enjoy a morning mocha, macchiato or frappuccino, depending on the weather. Today was a mocha day. It was also a day where we took Charlie the Chihuahua with us, against our better judgment, so instead of enjoying our coffee lounging in the comfy Starbucks armchairs, we had to get back in the car and drive home. The mocha and pumpkin scone were to be enjoyed walking our beloved pest around the block.

As I had today off, we decided we would go downtown and spend some quality time browsing and buying books at Indigo, walking around town, people watching and finally being adventurous by dining out in some restaurant we never heard of.

We ended up at Yonge and Eglinton. It was not our planned location but we decided to stay and explore an area we once knew. I used to live downtown but it was almost a decade ago and, as you all know, places change rapidly these days. Our Indigo shopping proved to be quite fruitful, if spending an obscene amount of money on books can be called fruitful. I am most excited by the two books which now complete my Ruhlman "trilogy": "The Making of a Chef" and "The Reach of a Chef." I had purchased "The Soul of a Chef" earlier in the year and enjoyed it tremedously so I knew it would be a matter of time before I rushed out and got the other two.

As for our eating out adventure, since we were at Yonge and Eglinton and on foot (which is something I am no longer used to), our restaurant choices were not many. There was "Spring Rolls" and "The Mandarin" and there was also some Mexican fast food looking place. On the North East corner there was a Brazilian Grill (the name escapes me), and Chef of India. We opted for the latter. The Karahi Lamb was tasty, and so was the Vegetable Korma, however on the Korma, the menu advertised cashew nuts but I saw not a nut in sight. Maybe they ran out and figured we wouldn't remember what the menu said anyway... (The too common resto habit of sending less than perfect food out, nobody will notice).

I obviously am no restaurant critic and I think I am a pretty easy-going diner -- I might notice certain things amiss but I would never make a big deal about them --but even I have to say that using frozen veggies is not cool if you fancy yourself a fine-dining restaurant. Maybe it depends on what your definition of fine dining is. Mine is "Canoe" or "Terra" or "Auberge du Pommier." Anyway, to get back to the frozen veggies, I am absolutely positive that what I found in my vegetable korma was a handful of the frozen California Vegetables. You know, the crinkle-cut carrot slice, the lima bean, and the flat green bean cut on a bias. What tipped me off they might be frozen? They were too mushy. Once I started poking around them, it was obvious what I was eating. The taste was good though, that cream sauce loaded with indian spices. The basmati rice was cooked well and the naan was hot and presumably out of a tandoori oven. Not sure what goes on back there but it was tasty so I'll give it to them. My concern is this: if you can't even have fresh vegetables, how much confidence can I have now in that lamb? I mean, I know it's not fresh-fresh, it's not like they farm their own sheep or anything, but I want to know it's not been sitting around in that reach-in or line freezer (or worse, fridge) for days.

There were three choices of white wine by the glass, and three reds. The variety was greater if you were going for bottles, which we did not do this time. The wine was not properly chilled. It was cold, but it didn't seem to be the right temperature for me. Not a connaisseur by far, I just eat out enough times and drink a lot of wine with my meals to know what temperature I like my white wine to be.

Oh and one final thing, my plate had a chipped corner and there was white paper on top of our table cloth (for easy cleanup, obviously, but not a good touch for fine-dining)

How would I rate the experience? Their service was definitely good and the food was flavourful. Get some fresh veggies, sauce them a little less and if a sommelier is out of the question, at least keep your wines in a cold cellar. Fine-dining, it was not, but it was far from a disaster, which one should be prepared for when walking into just any dining establishment.

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