It’s been a while since Mrs. Sheldon and I have had a weekend away, so when one of our favourite bands from our days at university announced a surprise show in Toronto, we hustled mini-me off to the grandparents and headed to the big smoke early on a Friday afternoon. Since we had no obligations to visit family or friends, and no real schedule to keep (save for the show Saturday night), we decided to make the most of our trip by trying out some culinary hot spots we hadn’t experienced before.
The first stop on our whirlwind tour was The Bohemian Gastropub on Queen St. East. Those of you who’ve read some of my previous StuffedOttawa posts know that the Wellington Gastropub is our favourite restaurant here in town, so we were excited about trying another gastropub experience. We certainly weren’t disappointed.
The Bohemian is a small, relaxed restaurant that opened mid-summer and is already gaining quite a following in the Toronto scene. True to the pub concept, the service is friendly, unhurried, and most of all, unpretentious. The menu is creative, fresh and focused. Based on Bavarian cuisine, Chef Christopher Scott combines non-traditional ingredients to create inventive selections, including spaetzle poutine, and curried bratwurst.
I couldn’t resist the opportunity to try the poutine, featuring diced bratwurst, bratwurst gravy and local cheese curds. In a word – delicious. The diced sausage added a bit of texture to the dense, chewy noodles, while the gravy was flavourful and salty. Mrs. S opted for the fried zucchini dumplings. These were an interested take on the more traditional fritter, filled with aged cheddar and served with a concorde grape chutney. The sweetness of the grapes offset the sharpness of the cheddar, giving the dish a definite depth of flavour.
For our mains, I opted for the bratwurst. The sausage came served in a gigantically thick slice of multi-grain bread, top slit almost in two. The curry in the sausage was a little overpowering, although the mango chutney did manage to cut some of the spiciness. Mrs. S was served what had to be the largest portion of veal schnitzel I’ve ever seen. It was literally hanging over both sides of a full dinner plate. Served with a warm potato salad, this entrée could have easily fed two people.
Despite its enormous size, the breading was nicely crisp, the meat inside tender and moist. Our server mentioned that the secret was the buttermilk marinade that’s used on the pounded veal for 24 hours before cooking.
The beer selection was relatively small, with a strong focus on local Ontario brewers. Beaus Lug Tread, Hop City and several others were available. Our only real disappointment of the night was that the dessert menu was not available. Apparently the kitchen staff had a late start to prep that day, and had no time to prepare the house made offerings. Hopefully we’ll get back to sample again.
The next day we started our food tour at St. Lawrence Market, an amazing collection of vendors selling almost everything you can image. Butchers, bakers, fresh veg, fresh pasta. It’s truly an amazing spot if you’re a foodie. (Aside: While I enjoy trips to the Ottawa Farmer’s Market, The Byward Market and the Parkdale Market; none of these compares to what I saw here. It’s a shame that the concept wasn’t incorporated into the Landsdowne Park redesign. But that’s another whole post).
Lunch was a couple of shared appetizers on the patio at OB Cafe Grill. The chicken and leek pot stickers were perfectly cooked, while the jalapeno ponzu sauce was an interesting mix of sour and spicy. The vegetable spring rolls were crispy on the outside, while the veg remained fresh and crunchy on the inside.
After lunch it was back to the hotel for a brief nap (hey – we’re parents. Sleep while you can) before prepping for our big night out. Dinner was a short walk from the hotel to Beer Bistro. This place is a beer lover’s dream. Every menu item incorporates beer into the ingredients. There are (count ‘em, I did) 20 different offerings on tap. Want something from a bottle? Choose from over 100 different selections that are on the menu, or ask your server about some tasty specialty offerings that are stored in their custom beer cellar. Can’t decide? Try the draft sampler – three small tasters to help whet your whistle and maybe try something a little different. Our greatest discovery of the evening was Muskoka Brewery’s Mad Tom IPA. This Ontario craft brew is a hoppy, crisp food friendly ale. In the word’s of our server, it’s Dangerously Drinkable.
The design of the restaurant gives the feel of a modern bistro, complete with Chef’s table, open kitchen and a jazz trio playing in the bar area. Mrs. Sheldon and I opted to enjoy one of the few remaining warm evenings in the fall and chose a seat out on the patio.
Dinner started with shared Kobe beef tacos. Mrs. Sheldon went for the Hog Wild pizza (pulled pork, smoked sausage on a crispy flatbread crust), while I went for the tartare. Tacos were amazing, filled with a Vienna lager chilli. The pizza was equally good, with a light airy crust, and a smoky undertone from the Berkshire port. While the tartare was enjoyable, it was slightly bland. I have had better on a few occasions. The star of the show, however, were the fries. Served with a house-made, smoked tomato ketchup and house- made mayonnaise. Blanched in a combination of duck and beef fat, these crispy little taters were the BEST fries I’ve ever had. That’s a bold statement from me, consider I love to make duck fat fries at home.
Despite the copious amounts of food, we couldn’t resist sampling dessert (especially since we got shafted the night before.) The ice cream sandwiches feature a house- made coffee porter Rocky Road ice cream scoop pressed between two walnut stout cookies. Did I mention they make the marshmallows for the ice cream too? Mrs. Sheldon was in heaven when she saw the chocolate, peanut butter and banana spring roll. Elvis himself couldn’t have devised a better dessert.
After dinner, we rolled ourselves down to the legendary Horseshoe Tavern for the show. A great end to a great foodie tour. Next stop, the LCBO for some more Mad Tom!~SS