Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My Love for Ruby Watchco

When I found out about Ruby Watchco, I knew I had to go. Why? Because of many reasons, one being that the owner / head chef is Lynn Crawford! The Lynn Crawford who I saw in the episode of Iron Chef America where she competed against Iron Chef Bobby Flay (Chef Lynn is the third Canadian chef to appear on the show). The Lynn Crawford who appeared in the Food Network's show Restaurant Makeover. The Lynn Crawford who has her own new show now called Pitchin' In (also on the Food Network) in which she goes and takes on the challenge of getting the freshest local ingredients. The Lynn Crawford who was formally the executive chef at the Four Seasons in Toronto AND New York, the most prestigious job in North American hotel cooking. And precisely the Lynn Crawford who has resigned from that job last fall after 24 years, and has now opened a restaurant at Queen street east where she would be preparing and cooking all the dishes herself.  

I know many people out there are skeptical when it comes to "celebrity chefs" and their ability to produce consistent high quality food and to run a restaurant. But hey, I personally think it is cool to have previously seen Chef Lynn on T.V and now have the opportunity to have meal prepared by her.  In all honestly I knew I would go to Ruby Watchco. Nothing, and no one, could've stopped was just a matter of when.

But thanks to Ray, my wonderful best friend, who surprised me one day during work by bbm'ing me, saying that he got both of us a reservation at Ruby Watchco for my birthday (which was earlier this month). I was sooooo deliriously happy!!!

We arrived at 6pm (the restaurant only has two seatings available for dinner, one at 6pm and the other at 8pm). Once I walked in, I fell in love with the decor. I was really digging the dark brown / mahogany tables and chairs, the simple lines, and the lighting.

The designer couple who designed Ruby Watchco, Cherie Stinson and Joey Skeir, are also owners of the restaurant. Cherie Stinson appeared on Restaurant Makeover as well.

In case I needed a reminder of where I was, I sat across from this commercial sign lol. 

I love the ambiance of the restaurant too. It was lively, casual, unpretentious and has a really cool vibe. I felt totally at ease and relaxed when I was there.

Ruby Watchco serves a different menu everyday, a $49 prix fixe menu, and you wouldn't know what it would be until the day of when they post it up on their website (or if you subscribe to their mailing list, which I did from Day 1, you would get an email of their menu everyday). I remember I was so anxious the day of the dinner, hoping that I would like the main course. Actually, I was hoping for anything BUT chicken (I'm not a big fan of eating chicken when I'm out). So you can imagine how excited I was when I saw the menu that day. The main course was lamb leg! SCOREEEEE! I ♥♥♥ LAMB!

An update. Since a week or so ago, Ruby Watchco started posting their menu for the entire week on their website (instead of revealing their menu the day of). I think this is a better idea - at least people now can see which day they want to go based on the day's menu items and what appeals to them. I know a friend of mine who canceled her reservation when she found out that they day's main course was chicken (like me, she is not a chicken fan). I probably would've done the same since I wouldn't want to pay $49 for a meal I know I won't like. Who knows? Maybe Ruby Watchco was also having a problem with too many reservations being cancelled last minute due to this issue.

A few snapshots while waiting for the food. Our bottle of wine.

Love the glass.

This is the big wooden preparation table in front of the open kitchen. I saw Chef Lynn, as well as Chef Lora Kirk, throughout the night coming in and out of the kitchen and plating dishes on this very table.

Our first course was the Crispy Chicken Club Salad - Baby Red Oak Lettuce, Mimosa Eggs, Black Bow Farms Bacon Lardons, Torn Parmesan Croutons, Brown Derby Vinaigrette. 

Ray and I both agreed that this is not like any salad we've had before - I was able to taste every ingredient in this salad. Each ingredient stood out by itself, each crouton was flavourful, each piece of lettuce was crisp and crunchy. Every ingredient in the salad was just so fresh (unlike some restaurants where salads are sometimes haphazardly put together, where the not-so-fresh ingredients are masked behind whatever fresh ingredients they happen to have at the time).

The salad also came with buttermilk chive biscuits (they reminded me of scones) - they were soft, warm, delicious and served with homemade butter.

Our main was the Slow Roasted Ras El Hanout Lamb Leg - St. David's Eggplant Ratatouille, Preserved Meyer Lemon Couscous, Grilled Ontario Asparagus with Garlic Butter.

The lamb was cooked to perfection. However, I would've liked a bit more flavour on the meat itself. The sauce compensated for this. Huge portions here.

I really liked the lemon couscous. It was not mushy at all with just the right amount of tangy lemon flavour.

Loved this ratatouille. The eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, bell peppers and carrots were brought together nicely by a mix of herbs and spices.

Not much to say about the asparagus since it was just grilled with garlic butter. It is what it is.

Not sure if everyone can tell by my pictures but Ruby Watchco serves their dishes family style ("souped-up home cooking") in casserole dishes, which means everything is shared and portions are cooked depending on the number of people under each reservation. So here's my first helping of all the things I just mentioned.

After the main course, our friendly waiter asked if we were ready for our next course or if we wanted to wait a bit. Ray and I opted for some time to digest our lamb as we chatted and leisurely sipped on our wine. After 15-20 minutes or so, our third course came.

Blue Bendictine - Norfolk Crispin Apple, Celery & Pecan Salad, Grilled Country Bread.

This was so good. Like really, really, really good. Maybe because I'm a HUGE blue cheese fan, I don't know. But if you love blue cheese, you will love this. Look at the generous amount of blue cheese on that plate. 

Spread the cheese on a piece of fresh crunchy bread, topped with the fruit salad, pecans AND honey............................................................................

...................................................................all I can say is, it was so good that my stomach literally just growled as I was describing that.

I just love that third course (the third course at Ruby Watchco is always a cheese plate). The blue cheese was fabulous. It was wonderful. Just wonderful. Especially when I knew that after that cheesy goodness, there's still another course coming...there is STILL DESSERT =D 

Vanilla Panna Cotta - Ontario Strawberry Sauce

A perfect finish, a perfect ending to this amazing meal. The panna cotta, after the cheese, was so refreshing to the palette. The fresh strawberries and the strawberry sauce provided natural sweetness, and the panna cotta texture was nice and not jello-y at all

I also got a chance to chat with Chef Lynn for a few minutes. Chef Lynn is full of energy, unpretentious, funny, and so very personable - throughout the night you will see  her coming out of the kitchen sometimes to chat with her customers. In fact, we even took a picture together. I believe she is where she is today with Ruby Watchco because she truly loves cooking and is passionate about being hands-on again and cooking for her customers. And it was not just Chef Lynn that was personable, all the servers had smiles on their faces. Our server was super friendly and attentive. How so? When he saw me with a camera, he asked whether I would like to have a picture with Chef Lynn later on when shes not busy. Now THAT is what I call impeccable service and making every customer feel special.

I was truly in love with Ruby Watchco that night, and I am still in love. I haven't taken myself off their mailing list, and I still get their menu sent to my email everyday. I would read it and reminisce about my dinner that night. So let me ask you, if that's not true love, what is?

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