By Lori Bosworth
Torontonicity was invited to attend a media tasting on Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at The Beverley Hotel, tucked discreetly along Queen Street West’s hot retail stores and bars between Spadina and McCaul. The narrow building features a bar, which leads to a sleek dining room, as well as 18 hotel rooms where you can rest your head after a night of partying at Cube.
We were invited to enjoy cocktails at the bar while Executive Chef Eric Wood prepared some of his clientele’s favourite dishes for us to sample. One of my dining partners, Beverly Wooding of Swallow, ordered a Pedal Pusher cocktail ($13), made of Dillon’s Unfiltered Gin, Amaro Montenegro, Rose Syrup and Lemon. Beverly loved the drink, which the bartender told us was one of the most popular cocktails at The Bev.
We were seated in the dining room and served our first appetizer: Foie gras Torchon ($18). Always start off with a bang they say. Usually the idea of duck liver does not appeal to me, but these little morsels were so delicate, served with sea salt crackle on a bed of Waldorf salad with cider vinegar syrup, that I couldn’t help devouring mine. The sweetness and acidity of the salad offset the richness of the livers.
These Wok-charred Edamame Beans ($8) are sauteed with red chilis, maple, walnut, Cape Breton salt and herbs and make for a very addictive snack. Chef Wood told us it was one of the hottest items on the hotel’s rooftop menu and I understand why. The salty-sweet dressing elevated these immature soybeans to celebrity status.
The next appetizer we were served was Octopus Ceviche with plantains. Chef Wood told us about the policy he learned in Peru where it is not desirable to eat ceviche beyond the afternoon hours since it is caught first thing in the morning and thus the raw seafood should be eaten soon after. This ceviche, however, tasted fresh served with a light marinade and the texture of the octopus was not too chewy…a satisfying appetizer!
The Into the Woods Salad ($10) featured grilled beets, green apple, pickled radish, Roquefort cheese with brown butter aioli. Grilling beets, the nemeses of my youth, transforms these chenopods into a gourmet delicacy. The chewy sweetness of the beets blended synergistically with the tartness of the apple and tanginess of the Roquefort cheese.
An inspired take on the Caprese salad, the next dish combined Buffalo Ricotta, cherry tomatoes and honeycomb for a sweet sensation. As Chef Wood informed us, each ingredient brings out the distinctive sweetness of the others. Placed upon thin pumpernickel bread, this combination was a real winner.
Digby scallops on avocado and tomato: now we’re talking. Chef Wood has these dry-packed scallops flown in every two days from Nova Scotia so you know you’re getting the freshest scallops you can eat in Toronto. Succulent, juicy and tender, they worked wonderfully with avocado and tomato. A must order on The Bev’s menu for seafood lovers.
The next dish on the menu was Tuna on slaw with apple and aji (yellow chili paste). Served like a ceviche, the tuna lacked individuality and the accompanying ingredients did not do much to enhance the flavour of the tuna.
Quail as a rule is not one of my favourite dishes, but in the interest of open-mindedness, I decided to try the Grilled Quail with pomegranate. Although I didn’t love the dish, I was surprised to find that the quail was not half bad, not at all gamey and the idea to pair it with sweet pomegranate was inspirational.
Chef Wood explained the premise of this dish, Seared Chinook Salmon with Maritime beans, carrots, onions and potatoes simmered in a milk broth. It’s all about featuring the fresh vegetables from the garden. This dish is typical of a Sunday supper down east and its simplicity was its strong suit. Very little garnishment other than a few herbs allowed the sweet flavour of the wild salmon and perfectly-al-dente vegetables to shine.
Talk about saving the best for last, the steak knives were majestically presented by servers, but in the end, were not needed. The Bison served with spinach and pasta was so tender that a slight incision in the meat rendered it defenceless as it fell quickly onto the plate. The taste of this exquisite buffalo meat was unbelievably good. As a testament to the robust flavour of the meat, Chef Wood advised us that he had seasoned the bison only with salt and pepper. Tenderly-cooked spinach and melt-your-mouth pasta rounded out this dish. This one is a five star.
This was a delightful evening sampling innovative dishes from the creative forces of Executive Chef Eric Wood. I definitely recommend dropping by The Beverley Hotel to taste something out of the ordinary. If you prefer dining al fresco, the hotel’s rooftop is also open (weather permitting).
The Beverley Hotel, 335 Queen Street West, 416-493-2786
Out of the ordinary indeed! Bison, octopus ceviche, quail, foie gras… I applaud your open-mindedness; I think part of the enjoyment of food involves trying things beyond what you’re used to.
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