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Trip report, including CityZen vs. Komi

Just back from a long weekend in D.C., and here are some reflections on the sit-down chow consumed, in order of consumption:

Bread Line: All the good things you read on this board are true. Two sandwiches (BBQ pork, and salami with cheese on baguette) made for a terrific and quick lunch under the sun on the sidewalk patio.

CityZen: A mixed experience. The food was very fine and artfully presented. The wine list is excellent and the sommelier knows it thoroughly. Standout dishes from the tasting menu were the sturgeon with hedgehog mushroom wrapped in a thin cabbage packet, and the veal with caramelized sunchoke. However…the two other savoury courses and the dessert lacked inspiration. For example, the main element of the first course was a soft-boiled hen egg. Nothing wrong with it, but more is expected at this level. Also, the room lacks warmth and over-emphasizes the kitchen. The weakest link was our server, who came across as detached and too comfortable with her steady income of expense-account tips. Overall, I agree with an earlier poster on this board that CityZen is solid but not operating at an international level.

Jaleo: A flavourful and varied lunch at a convenient location near the Mall. Among the seven plates sampled, highlights were the omelet with potatoes and onions and the surprisingly tender lamb chops. The sangria was much better than expected, not falling into the usual trap of excess fruit/juice/ice filler. The only weak dish was an overly salty bacalao salad. We were also not impressed to have been charged $1.00 for two extra anchovy fillets on a spinach salad. Nevertheless, I’d highly recommend Jaleo.

Teaism: Fine for an afternoon snack. The salty oat cookie was very good, as expected. The curried lentil soup was hearty and fine, but insufficiently seasoned. The chai was too sweet and the service too slow.

Komi: If Johnny Monis ever launches a restaurant in Toronto, I’ll be there on opening night. This dinner was the highlight of our trip. An hour-long parade of mezzethakia was astonishing in its creativity and consistency. The macaronia (pappardelle with goat ragu, and gorgonzola raviolini) were thin and perfectly cooked, accented but not overwhelmed by their sauces and fillings. The bronzini was substantial and fresh, and sauced to let the fish do the talking. Greek doughnuts with chocolate-mascarpone mousse finished things off with just the right amount of sweetness. Compared to CityZen, the food at Komi was sometimes less delicate, but it was more consistent and more creative. And it was 35% less expensive. Also, the service at Komi was outstanding – personal and genuine – and the room was comfortable and welcoming. Room for improvement? The wine list, I suppose, but even so the value there was good and the sommelier did find an excellent and unusual match for the bronzini.

Tabard Inn: A brunch that stays with you all day. A basket of mini carrot-currant muffins and sliced focaccia was delicious and bottomless, just like the coffee. The signature doughnuts were very fresh and the perfect vehicle for the vanilla whipped cream served alongside. Poached eggs were impeccably cooked, but the quiche with shrimp suffered from excessive cheese and the side of sausages was merely average. Lots of character here and efficient service as well.

Thanks to everyone on this board for the many tips that went into our chosen chow.

Favorites at Komi and other suggestions?

Small world...I'll be visiting D.C. from Toronto this weekend and intend to have drinks at the Hotel Washington, dinner at Komi and brunch at the Tabard Inn as well.

Dinner choice: Central, Komi or Blue Duck Tavern?

Thanks for all of the input. Looks like Komi is the way to go. Can anyone give me an example or two of what kinds of mezzes might be offered?

Dinner choice: Central, Komi or Blue Duck Tavern?

Going to be in town for two dinners at the end of the month. CityZen is already booked for one of them. For the other, the short list is down to Central, Komi and the Blue Duck Tavern. Price differences between the three seem to be fairly minor, so that's not a factor. Which to choose?

Bake Sale - Bloor West

The pricing is quite steep, especially on the smaller items. For example: thimble-shaped peanut butter cookies the size of a large thumb were selling for over $1.00 each. That said, the chocolate-chip and banana muffin that I had (around $1.75) really was excellent.

Dec 19, 2006
Kurtz in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Best Wine List/Sommelier?

A second vote for Via Allegro. The list is astonishing (as are the prices, unfortunately) and the sommeliers are the real deal.

Dec 19, 2006
Kurtz in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Paella

The paella at Toro on Bloor just west of Jane is the best I've found. I've had it half a dozen times over the past two years or so and it never fails. Lots of seafood, excellent sausage, perfectly cooked rice. Very reasonable wine list too.

Oct 04, 2006
Kurtz in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Top-drawer Vancouver or Victoria area [moved from Canada board]

I'm looking for a best-of-the-best dinner experience in Vancouver or the Victoria area. Leading contenders so far are West in Vancouver and Sooke Harbour House. Do I need to look any further? If so, where?

Oct 04, 2006
Kurtz in Western Canada Archives

Manhattan Trip Report

My wife and I spent last weekend chowing through Manhattan - at least, through the places we could get to in a mere 48 hours. Here are some reflections, touching on places in the order that we visited them:

Katz's - Lived up to its reputation. In my experience, their pastrami is the only sandwich of its kind that rivals the smoked meat of Schwartz's in Montreal. Great character in the physical space and the counter staff too.

Laboratori del Gelato - Very good, especially the dark chocolate eaten on the same spoon as a little of the cinnamon. Not discernably better than top gelati in other cities though.

Russ & Daughters - The Scottish smoked salmon had great balance and texture, but the bagels could use some firming up. Terrific selection of schmeers...if only we'd had more time to investigate them.

Kee's - First rate. The tiny, authentic storefront is almost as comforting as the way the chocolates melt onto the palate.

Lupa - Fine, but a little disappointing. The aged prosciuttio and the beets with pistachio were technically correct, but overall too simple. I understand that fancy food is not the goal of the place, but I still felt that I could replicate the dishes at home without much difficulty. The orecchiette pasta special was very nice, though not as large as postings in this forum had led me to expect. Service was efficient but not genuine.

Chez Laurence - Recommended. The "egg-spresso" was light and fluffy, and the blueberry pancakes were more than serviceable. Excellent bacon too.

The Modern (at the bar) - A highlight of the trip. Excellent setting and service, a strong wine list and tasty food. The tarte flambee and seared tuna in a panko crust were well done, but the true gems for us were the scallops on beet and almond salad with cumin, and the peppered lamb on noodle cake. Quality martinis too.

La Maison du Chocolat - Technically correct, but lacking the artisinal element (soul?) of Kee's. Nicely delicate chocolates with very well defined flavours. Expensive but probably worth it.

Le Bernardin - Not surprisingly, another highlight of the trip. Beautiful and perfectly-executed food, with standouts being the peekytoe crab (my best crab experience to date, anywhere) and the feathery salted cod salad. The room was elegant and, we thought, quite warm. As expected, the service was formal but could use a little more charm. Was it worth it? Perhaps not, as we could've had two (or three) standout meals elsewhere for the same price. But this is one of the top restaurants in one of the top dining cities of the world, and you can only experience it, first-hand, by leading with an open wallet.

Pain Quotidien - Breads that are both grainy enough to be virtuous and chewy enough to be enjoyable. After my tenth tablespoon of strawberry jam, I managed to forgive the place for offering eggs only in soft-boiled format. A wonderful side plate of Paris ham helped as well.

That's all we could manage in the time available. Many thanks to everyone on this board for the tips and suggestions that helped our trip to come together.

Oct 04, 2006
Kurtz in Manhattan

Cafe Boulud or Upstairs at Bouley or...?

I've got two dinners in Manhattan coming up. One night is almost spare-no-expense and I've chosen Le Bernardin. I'd like the other night also to be special but a little less formal. I'm leaning toward Cafe Boulud, Upstairs at Bouley, Babbo or Telepan. Any views on which has the best food and which is the best value?

Jul 17, 2006
Kurtz in Manhattan