Nelson @CarmensSteak: We were invited to a @ZomatoCA meetup by @pamm02 to this historic steakhouse. Historic in the sense that the building the restaurant is located in a beautiful heritage building with wood paneling, legit stained glass and Tiffany lamps. The olden style inside contrasts with the modern food offering on the inside prepared by Chef Liu. The young chef and his wife only took over the restaurant two months ago and are looking to put the restaurant back on the Toronto food scene. This place used to be a private supper club where the elite dined in private. Now it's open to the public and serving modern cuisine, while keeping on as a steakhouse.
FULL DISCLOSURE: This meal was provided for free to promote Carmen's Steakhouse's new opening and menu.
The nine course meal starts with a Foie Gras pate brioche sandwich with apple jelly and lemon jelly. Pate is usually heavily meaty tasting, but this one surprised me as it tasted fresh (must be the lemon) with a bit of sourness (probably also from the lemon jelly). The typical foie gras flavour didn't come through quite as much as I expected, but this was still delicious. A good start.
|The second starter is fresh Ontario peach and goat cheese salad with ginger kombucha, frisee and candied pecans and tuille. The goat cheese didn't have a strong goat flavour, but instead tasted light and yogurt like instead. Maybe you can tell from the picture, but the cheese component was light and airy. You can't tell that it tasted really good. The kombucha is made from fermented mushroom and has a surprisingly clean taste. The other components include perfectly ripe peach, pomegranate and this overly sweet candied pecan. Generally the elements went well together in this dish with each component announcing their presence pleasantly.|
|This is Kitty's shrimp appetizer. I didn't try it, so I can't really comment on this one.|
|Spicy steak tartare with chili oil, pickles, capers and tortilla chips. The tartare is saltier than I expected (maybe because of the caper?) and very little sourness, which I was used to from the ones I tried in France last week. Although I didn't taste any spiciness, I still liked it.|
|Seared scallop with jasmine sea salt emulsion, quinoa and sweet peas. This scallop was cooked perfectly, which can be difficult for lesser restaurants to get right. The jasmine sea salt immersion on top is really good with a light flavour that goes perfectly with the scallop. Good attention to detail in this beautiful looking dish.|
My favourite dish of the night was the miso black cod with spinach risotto and katsuoboshi flakes. The chef explained that the cod was marinated for 2 weeks. The taste was spectacular. The flavour had mostly a nice saltiness but had an underlying sweetness as well. Definitely the seasoning helps, but it was also cooked perfectly. The cod itself is firm and fatty at the same time.
The risotto was cooked well and was creamy while also tasting of spinach. Also delicious.
|This is chicken torchon with garlic scape, amaranth and porcini jus. When this dish came out the smell was absolutely intoxicating. By far the best part of this dish was the jus and it was incredibly flavourful. I have no idea how a jus could be so flavourful, but this was amazing. The thigh meat is moist and more flavourful than the typical breast meat and despite the strange cylindrical shape also had some crisped skin on the outside. Another element that surprised me was the garlic scape that had the texture of a vegetable but the taste of garlic. I'm surprised I haven't come across this before, but I think I'll try to cook with this at home as I love garlic. I also really enjoyed the mushrooms in this artful dish.|
|The chef was from Shanghai and one of the most famous dishes there is the braise pork belly. Although Asian in origin this was served with truffle parsnip puree and cherry jus. Obviously the pork belly is quite flavourful and you can see the layers of fat. Apparently with the way this is cooked, the fat is heated out and all that is left is the collagen. When I tasted it, it didn't ooze of fat, so maybe they are onto something here. The cherry jus lent some sourness to the dish which was a nice contrast. But my favourite element to this dish is the truffle puree which tasted so strongly of truffle. Yum!|
|This is a 3oz Canadian ribeye steak with mashed potatoes. This steak like other classic steakhouse restaurants had a nice blackened crust on the outside, yet juicy tender meat on the inside. The picture shows the steak is cooked on the surface, but I assure you it was nicely medium rare on the inside once you cut into it. The steak itself was not chewy or tendony at all with excellent marbling. On top is some oxtail jus. By itself it is good, but I thought it didn't go well with the steak as I find oxtail has a very distinct flavour which clashed a bit with the steak which can stand alone just fine. Some may like this and it does make it this steak more distinctive. As the chef's philosophy is simplicity to let the ingredients shine through, this simple mashed potato was all there was to complement the meat. I really think this is a good idea as the steak should speak for itself.|
|Dessert is a coconut creme brulee with egg cookie, almonds and frozen blueberry which is to be eaten last. I liked how the nuts on top lend this typically soft dessert some texture. The subtle coconut flavour was welcome in this dessert along with the thick crust of sugar on top of the not too sweet custard underneath. Kitty wanted two!|
|The chef gave us some going away macarons! A nice bonus. These were very soft compared to the many I just tried in France, but still good.|
|Lastly, here is an example picture of a dining area with the fireplace and steins. Very old styling. The classic steakhouse setting contrasts with the modern preparation of food which may be a little offputting to some. The problem with such good variety of food at this steakhouse is that some may not venture far from the steaks. They would be missing out. Fortunately they have put together a tasting menu that allows you to sample the variety. For the value oriented customers, they also have a Dinner for Two promotion that looks to be a really good deal. For success, they really have to get the word out about their restaurant and food which can be difficult for a restaurant just starting out without any hype. I wish them the best of luck as their food is top notch and I would definitely recommend them for not only steak but their other dishes as well.|
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