The moment you arrive inside the doors of George restaurant at Queen Street East in Toronto, you know you are in for something special. The building is an old chocolate factory that has been wonderfully renovated – keeping antique and brick touches, with warm and a touch of pink here and there (which I absolutely loved!).
The service was wonderful from the time we arrived. Our waitress was friendly and knowledgable, and our dishes were expertly served and explained by an army of porters who were always lined up by the expediting station, and constantly watching and taking care of the finest details. I was amazed to find my napkin perfectly re-folded and awaiting my return from the ladies’ room mid-meal. It was also interesting to see the work going on in the open kitchen and the expert slicing and preparing of salads viewable under a large mirror positioned to the dining room.
Now to the food – it was exceptional. Truly one of the most brilliant meals of our lives for sure. We had checked out the menu online before our arrival, and were excited by the five course tasting option provided for $99. We were even more delighted to learn the tasting menu is a surprise (not taken from the regular menu and revealed only as it arrives at the table) and that we would each receive different dishes. Since we are food nerds and have no shame in sharing bites with each other across the table, $99 to taste Dave’s plates as well as mine (10 between the two of us) sounded like a steal. As soon as we tasted our first bites, we knew that was true.
To start, we each ordered a drink from their seasonal “old fashioned cocktails” drinks menu. I loved the pink Stratosphere cocktail – Crème Yvette Violet Liqueur topped with Cremant Sparkling Wine. Dave was over the moon with his Don Draper Old Fashioned – muddled Marasca cherry, lemon and orange slice and a raw sugar cube soaked in angostura aromatic bitters, topped with Crown Royal and soda. Dave loved the cherries so much, the waitress brought the bottle of Luxardo cherries over for us. Seriously fresh and full of flavour!
An amuse bouche of lobster slaw, pickled mushrooms and chutney and a basket of dense olive bread and papadam quickly arrived – salty and crunchy to perfection! We knew we were in for a very special meal.
Our first course was beautiful and fresh seafood. Dave enjoyed the lobster, avocado and quinoa dish, and I was surprised by the buttery perfection of my swordfish and beet tartar with a mandarin, onion and celery salad.
For each of our second courses, foie gras was highlighted on each plate. I had never had it before, and decided if I wasn’t going to go for it on a tasting menu, I never would! My plate featured foie gras over duck breast, sweet potato puree, mushrooms and mandarin oranges. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. Dave’s protein was chicken under the foie gras, with a ratatouille curry and squash bread. Overall, we were discovering by now that my meal was touched with citrus, and Dave’s was more about curry spices. This is about when we began to “fight” about whose meal was better. You know it’s going well when each person is convinced they are having the best experience!
Our third course was the main entree protein course. Dave’s plate was venison over a lentil curry and potato pecora, and mine was a beef tenderloin with pesto vegetables and potato perogies. Both of our meats were cooked to perfection, and we completely cleaned our plates.
The next course was the cheese course. Both of our plates had fresh apple, chutney and a salted pecan accompanying blue cheese from Quebec for me (coincidentally my favourite), and old cheddar from Ottawa for Dave. I am totally in love with cheese, and completely love a good cheese course! It was at about this point that we realized the pacing of the meal and the portion sizes were perfection. We could have easily finished the meal with the cheese course and been completely satisfied. Our wonderful waitress asked us if we would like a bit more time before dessert, and we took advantage of it, enjoying our drinks and the ambience to the fullest.
Our fifth and final course arrived at about the two-hour mark of our dining experience, with an apple and caramel sponge cake with cinnamon and chestnut mousse for Dave, and an espresso mousse with raspberry ganache, pineapple shavings and mini sugar doughnuts for me. Both desserts were absolutely delicious, but this is the point where Dave’s meal inched ahead to win the “best meal of the night” award. If I were more of a coffee lover, I am sure the espresso mousse would have thrilled me. Dave’s cake was so incredibly fresh and light, it was the perfect ending to a perfect meal.
George restaurant is truly a five star experience, without the stuffy and snobby feeling that can accompany brilliant food and service like that. It’s a meal we won’t soon forget, and a restaurant worthy of returning to time and again.