By Lori Bosworth
Torontonicity was invited to a media tasting of the new menu by Executive Chef Mario Paz at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel on April 23, 2014. The last time I was at the Gladstone Hotel was during one of their now-defunct Saturday night karaoke nights in the Melody Bar so I was eager to return to try their new menu. Paz’s menu, as it turns out, is a cornucopia of dishes from around the world to please many palates.
We began with appetizers of Mushroom Salad Rolls and House Chorizo. The chorizo was a hit with its spicy sausage blending perfectly with the more neutral, crispy polenta. The Mushroom Salad Rolls with grilled mushrooms, spring onion and radish wrapped in vermicelli noodles and served with truffled hoisin sauce lacked flavour or more to the point, were overpowered by the rice noodles.
The next dish was Blue Crab Salad with fennel-roasted tomatoes and coconut lime dressing on charred romaine heart. Although the idea was great and the dish looked wonderful, it didn’t quite meet expectations. I think the crab was the culprit since its flavour and grainy texture did not seem to complement the other wonderful ingredients.
Only at the third dish and I knew that the Saucy Rib ‘Nibblers ($9) was going to be my favourite dish of the night. And this is coming from someone who rarely orders lamb. The next time I’m at the Gladstone Hotel, I would definitely order this dish. The oh-so-tender meat fell effortlessly off the bone while the sweet hoisin BBQ sauce cut the usually strong flavour of lamb. In fact, a few of my dining partners did not realize this was lamb. Delicious. The celeriac slaw provided a nice balance to the sweet flavours.
The Jerk, a coco bread pocket filled with jerk chicken and homemade coleslaw, was spicy and satisfying without being too filling. I loved the crunchy rice and pea fritters dipped in the accompanying sweet mango chutney. The textures in this dish created a food symphony. By the way, don’t you love the Gladstone Hotel’s regal-looking dinner plates?
The yummy Texas Tempeh Burger ($16) was another of Chef Paz’s successes. The organic tempeh is marinated for 48 hours and is topped with wild mushrooms, aged cheddar and BBQ sauce. A winning combination of flavours accompanied by onion rings that were crisp and flavourful. Yes!
The vegan Pad See Ew ($13.50) is prepared with broad rice Thai noodles, mustard greens, savoy cabbage and a peanut-candied bird chili. While I enjoyed the Pad See Ew, I would have preferred the dish if it had been made with thinner noodles in order to savour the mustard greens and cabbage.
We enjoyed our media tasting in the Gladstone Hotel’s airy Cafe with exposed brick walls and high arched windows. I had a great time enjoying the tasting with my dining partners, Vicky of MomWhoRuns, Tammy Burns of EatDrinkTravel and Andrea of ImMadHungry.
Although pork is not what I usually order, I do appreciate a good pork tenderloin and Chef Paz’s Vindaloo Pork ($18) scored many points for taste and artistic presentation. The pork tasted fabulous with the curried vindaloo sauce and I loved the added touch of the brown butter confit grapes, carmelized and sweet. The dish is served with new potatoes to soak up the spicy sauce.
What a great way to end the tasting with a satisfying, yet not too sweet Mexican Chocolate Fudge Brownie ($10) made with Guajillo chili and served with salted caramel sauce. It’s even vegan so you don’t have to feel guilty.
Next time you’re on West Queen West, I hope you consider stopping in at the Gladstone Hotel for surprisingly artful and innovative cuisine.