By Lori Bosworth
Torontonicity was invited along with several other bloggers to taste some of the new items on Earls Kitchen + Bar Toronto’s fall menu on October 1, 2014. Earls Kitchen and Bar is a sprawling yet chicly casual restaurant at the northwest corner of King Street West and York Street, boasting a spacious patio. Many people were dining on the patio on this mild, fall evening.
The evening featured a menu designed by a group of award-winning chefs, who flew in to Toronto for the dinner. The chefs included Chef Hamid Salimian (Diva at the Met, Culinary Team Canada), Chef David Wong (Bocuse d’Or, Fairmont Pacific Rim), Chef Dawn Doucette (Zuni Café, Top Chef Canada) and from New York, Culinary Development Chef Jeff McInnis with Chef Janine Booth, Yardbird, Miami, now Root & Bone, New York.
I was seated with Caroline Becker of Caroline’s Culinary Delights, Rhonda of Olive and Ruby and May Delory of Geotravel. A few of my tablemates started the evening off with a Bees Knees cocktail, made with Hendricks gin, Cointreau, honey, fresh lemon and Angostura bitters, $9.25. They both loved the drink.
Our first dish was the Lobster and Prawn Roll. The filling of lobster and prawn salad, capers, parsley, and lemon aioli was stuffed into a delicious grilled brioche, made in house. While the filling didn’t wow me, the brioche did for its fresh and flavourful qualities.
Pork is one of the last things I would order on a menu so I wasn’t too excited to try the BBQ Pork Buns, $11.50, which came next. It’s a good thing I tried the pork buns though. Dressed in hoisin hot sauce, cilantro and roasted peanuts, these pulled pork buns were hugely satisfying. The sweet and spicy flavours perfectly complemented the bitterness of the pork. The buns themselves are triple proofed, a process involving kneading and rising of the dough, resulting in super light buns.
Although the Spatchcock Style Chicken, which was served next, is not currently on the menu, it will be included this fall. And that’s a very good thing. This oven-roasted chicken, braised in lemongrass glaze, is amazingly tender and tastes wonderful dipped in the accompanying spicy peanut sauce. I predict this will be a star on the menu.
I was so pleased that we got to sample the Crispy Thai Prawns, $13. Served with napa cabbage, Thai basil, cilantro and roasted peanuts, these delicious shrimp were coated in the lightest batter, making them my favourite dish of the evening. If you love shrimp, you’ll definitely want to order the Crispy Thai Prawns the next time you visit Earls Kitchen + Bar.
In the interests of sampling one of Earls Kitchen + Bar’s popular weekend brunch items, we were served the Chorizo and Mushroom Hash. Perhaps it was the positioning of a poached egg dish after several evening meal dishes that confused my taste buds, because I do enjoy poached eggs, hash browns and avocado, but the dish didn’t taste right. Perhaps it was the hollandaise sauce, which tasted rich and out of place compared to the lighter glazes on the previous dishes.
The organizers want to make sure that we tasted a vegan and gluten free option on Earls Kitchen and Bar’s menu so we were offered the Thai Vegetable Bowl, $17.25, to sample. The bowl comes with quinoa, tofu, crispy onions, peanuts, coconut and lemongrass broth. (You can add chicken for $2 or prawns for $3.) The quinoa was cooked perfectly and the tofu was not too firm, which was good. The coconut and lemongrass broth added pleasant flavours. Not a bad dish, if lacking in gustatory punch.
Although we were pretty full at this point, we all wanted to at least try the tempting desserts offered, which included Pumpkin Pie, Warm Chocolate Sticky Toffee Pudding and Chocolate Hazelnut Bar. While I found the sticky toffee pudding too dense for my liking, particularly after a huge meal, I was enraptured by the ethereal pumpkin pie, which had qualities of a mousse. The Chocolate Hazelnut Bar also delighted with its perfection of textures including satisfyingly oozing rich chocolate and crispy hazelnut wafer.
What a great introduction to Earls Kitchen and Bar Toronto’s fall menu. I would definitely return for the dishes that I highlighted. Consider Earls Kitchen and Bar Toronto for business lunches, afterwork drinks, dinner on the patio, holiday get-togethers or brunch, which is served Saturday, Sunday and Holiday Monday.