Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I have never been to Canoe before last Friday. This seems to be surprising for many since I'm supposedly such a "foodie". I don't know, Canoe has never been on my "to-eat" list of restaurants. A lot of people go to Canoe during 'Licious, but for those who are in-the-know, Canoe is one of the most, if not the most, difficult restaurant to get a reservation during 'Licious. It also doesn't help that 1) I do not own an American Express credit card, and 2) Given #1, I am not the kind of person to redial day-in and day-out just so I can get a reservation (or in hopes of one - getting through may not guarantee a table). Doesn't help either that Canoe is pricey; if you've been following my blog, you would know I've never been too keen on super expensive and pretentious restaurants. Last, but not least, I do hear from some people say that Canoe is over-rated - not sure what they mean but I never bothered to find out more either. Whatever the case may be, due to some of the above reasons or all of the above reasons, I've never been to Canoe.

Well, obviously, I went last Friday. Not with my significant other or friends, but with colleagues. Work was crazy hectic for the last two weeks, and since last Thursday was the deadline (we all worked 24-hour straight in the office), the bosses thought it was time to treat ourselves to a nice lunch. It was also a colleague's birthday, so my bosses a.k.a. the-ones-who-would-pick-up-the-tab, decided to go "all-out" and Canoe was chosen.

It was the Friday before Halloween and Canoe had this giant pumpkin out front, nothing else. I thought it was kinda awkward - either they go all out with the Halloween decor, or have none at all. 

To more important things.

We got a table by the window so we had a superb view. My boss ordered a bottle of white wine right away and the bread came immediately afterwards. I gotta say the service was meticulous, attentive, and friendly - not snobby at all. 

Without further ado, here are the appetizers (note: we did not share appetizers; we each got our own).

Cumbrae Farms Steak Tartare: Cookstown Chips & Forbes' Wild Flavours - I ordered this appetizer thinking "how big could it be?". Well I was wrong - it was really the size of a burger patty, or bigger. I did not expect this portion for an appetizer from Canoe - I expected, maybe half? The steak tartare (or what I like to call "beef sashimi" hehe) was very delicious. The different ingredients mixed in with the steak tartare along with the chips gave the whole appetizer various textures to the palette (if it was just the steak tartare itself it would've been really boring - just stickiness/mushiness). The saltiness of the egg and the seasoning of the veggies also gave the whole dish a lot of different flavors. I was genuinely full after this.

My colleagues got the following appetizers: 

Oyster Boy's Finest Half Dozen - 54 Smoker & Shallot Vinegar - They wanted seconds.

Cauliflower Cream Soup - This was Canoe's "soup of the day" so I don't have the description of what's in it, but nevertheless, my colleague loved it and wants to learn how to replicate this soup at home.

Main Courses:

Simmered Organic Spring Creek Beef Brisket: Horseradish Bubble & Squeak, Yukon Potato Gnocchi - This was my main course. Absolutely love the presentation; even more breathtaking in real life. Everything was wonderful here: from the gnocchi on the side (soft yet a bit chewy), the sauce (LOVE the sauce, I made sure every piece of brisket that I put in my mouth had some sauce on it), the veggies (thinly shredded but thick enough to give texture), to the brisket itself (mainly lean meat but surprised me with some fattiness on the sides). I think I would've enjoyed it more if I wasn't so full from the steak tartare. It was really meat over-load for me since I usually eat very light at lunch.

My colleagues got the following mains: 

Linguini in Pesto with Pork Hock - This was their pasta special, so again, sorry for the lack of description since it's not on Canoe's regular menu.

Roasted Alberta Lamb Sirloin - Wheat Berries, Wilted Greens, Merguez & Roasted Garlic

Grilled Provimi Calf's Liver - Roasted Onion, Smoked Bacon & Creamy Alliston Spuds

After filling our stomaches, it was dessert time. My colleagues ordered port and cognac. I did not since I was already close to passing out from meat overdose.

Ingersoll Fromage Blanc - Concord Grape Jelly, Salted Shortbread & Aged Balsamic - The birthday dessert which everyone shared. The cheesecake was super light and I thought the grape jelly and the aged balsamic gave a nice refreshing balance to the cheesecake, even though the cheesecake wasn't heavy to begin with. The shortbread was nothing special - looked like thick, frozen fries to me =P

Corn Nut & Hazelnut Milk Chocolate Cake - Caramelized Banana, Crispy Phyllo Coffee Ice Cream - This was my dessert. Nobody else ordered their own dessert except me, but it's honestly OK because they don't expect any less from me (or at least I think that to make myself feel better). The chocolate cake on the left was alright, I did not like the nuts on top at all. 

My favorite part of the dessert was this: the phyllo coffee ice cream. The chocolate phyllo was so thin and crispy, the coffee ice cream was so smooth and creamy, and the chocolate crumbs at the bottom reminded me of oreo cookies. YUMMY. By the way I did not eat that nut at the front.

We had a 2.5 hour lunch and there was absolutely no way we were going to go back to the office so we all took off and went home. So, what can I conclude? 

1) Canoe exceeded my expectation in terms of the quality of their dishes, presentation, and service. Everyone was very happy with their lunch; 
2) I probably will not go back anytime soon because I do not find their menu to be very unique. Don't get me wrong, the food was good, but to me it just wasn't anything special;
3) If I do come back, I will probably come back for lunch again rather than dinner since the dinner menu is a lot more expensive than their lunch menu and I don't think I would be missing much; and
4) It sure feels great to experience Canoe for free =D

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