I wrote a blog post about Sidecar Bar and Grill in May 2010, about a month after I started this blog. You can check it out here if you want. In a nutshell, it's about my friend Cindy and I trying Sidecar's prix fixe menu for the very first time and me falling in love with their steak frites (FYI till this day Cindy and I still go on a lot of dining escapes together!). Ughhh, looking back at old blog posts always make me cringe - I hate the way I wrote back then. Sometimes, I have an urge to delete certain old posts, but a friend once said I shouldn't because "it shows growth"...yea, seven year's worth! *Sigh*. Reading that post actually made me laugh though because of how I described my cocktail:
"This was so yummy and refreshing. I love fruity drinks!"
Kill me now! Oh, how I've grown. I despise fruity drinks nowadays. The boozier, the better. Actually, this is an excellent example of how a person's taste can change over time, which is why I always encourage people to try foods they previously didn't like because you may end up enjoying it the second time around (especially if years have passed). I used to despise sea urchin but now I can never get enough. Can you imagine? Hating uni? I don't even know myself anymore.
Sorry to veer off topic. Anyway, since that blog post, I've probably been to Sidecar a handful more times over the years. Admittedly, I frequent their second floor cocktail bar - Toronto Temperance Society - way more often. TTS is like my second home; it makes some of the best cocktails in the city and the atmosphere there is second to none. Seeing that I haven't been to Sidecar in a while, I was very intrigued when I heard that a new chef took over downstairs.
Before I start talking about the food, there are two things worth noting: 1) A minor change, but nonetheless important, is the restaurant's slight name change. Back in the day, the restaurant was called "Sidecar Bar & Grill", now it's Sidecar Restaurant (Instagram: @sidecar_restaurant), and 2) Since 2017, the restaurant eliminated tipping completely to become Toronto's first gratuity-free restaurant.
Helming the kitchen at Sidecar now is chef H ("Hyun Jung") Kim (@hhyunjkim). Graduated from George Brown in 2010, Kim started his career at Globe Bistro under chefs Kevin McKenna and Daniel Sanders, followed by a brief stint at C5 with chef Ted Corrado. He then worked at George Restaurant for chef Lorenzo Loseto as chef de partie and eventually moved up the ranks to junior sous chef. After two and a half years at George, he traveled around Europe for six months. When he came back to Toronto, he staged at a couple places and briefly worked at The Chase before heading back to George as sous chef. In December 2016, Kim took over the kitchen at Sidecar, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Move over fruity drinks! Nobody gets between me and my old fashioneds anymore.
OLD FASHIONED ($14)
Bourbon, sugar, bitters
I have a soft spot for restaurants that offer complimentary bread. There's not many of them out there anymore.
Here's a look at the tasting menu that chef H prepared for me that evening:
POACHED BLACK TIGER SHRIMP
Ponzu, Sesame Mayonnaise, Togarashi, Ponzu, Radish
Poached Shrimps, Cauliflower Puree, Roasted Cauliflower florets, Israeli Couscous, Brown Butter, Capers, Lemon, Parsley, Brussels leaves, Pickled Pearl Onions, Radishes, Watercress, Chive oil.
Parsnip Puree, Roasted Mushrooms and Onion Salad, Pickled Shimiji mushrooms, Black Garlic Mayonnaise, Parsnip Chips, Sprouts.
Miso Broth, Mussels, Kale, Israeli couscous, Cipollini Onions, Shiitake Mushrooms.
Butternut Squash, Cipollini Onions, Kale, Lentils du Puy.
POTATO GNOCCHI WITH BRAISED SHORT RIBS
Roasted Mushrooms, Cipollini, Kale, Chili.
Espresso Anglaise, Chantilly, Fresh Fruits.
Kalouha Ganache, Chocolate Pastry Cream, Vanilla Streusel.
Chef Kim's tenure in tasting menu focused restaurants really shines through. His plates are elegant, not at all overwhelming (i.e. overly complicated with too many ingredients), and flavours are well balanced with just the right amount of acid and base. Each ingredient was there for a purpose - to enhance flavour and textures, not for show - and every course was well executed and thought through. The standouts for me were the Poached Black Tiger Shrimps, Seared Scallops (I really enjoyed the touch of acidity from the capers, lemon and pickled pearl onions), Duck Breast (cooked sous vide at 57°C for an hour) and the Tiramisu Cheesecake (I don't normally even like Tiramisu).
Bare in mind again that what I had here was Kim's tasting menu. It changes often, sometimes integrating plates from the a la carte menu (or a variation of it) with adjusted portion size. Given Kim's previous experience, I highly recommend you opt for his tasting menu at Sidecar, as tasting menus is where his interest lies. When we chatted after the dinner, Kim emphasized that he hopes to showcase what they are capable of through his tasting menus, and is excited to have this opportunity to experience with different ingredients and flavours.
Sidecar's 5-course chefs tasting menu ($60) is only available by request, so please call the restaurant at least a day ahead or simply email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. If tasting menus are not your thing, Sidecar is currently running their $29 prix fixe menu every Sunday to Wednesday, and trust me, after seven years, their Steak Frites is still hella good.
*This meal was complimentary. The opinions and views expressed on this post are my own*