461 King Street West
In her opinion:
I can honestly say that this is a long time coming. We have booked and cancelled this restaurant twice before and nothing was stopping us this time around. This was our third and last Winterlicious dinner for the 2012 run. So on Tuesday, February 7, 2012 we headed to Brassaii located in trendy King Street West. It is described on their Winterlicious menu page as chic and upscale and I would agree.
Executive Chef Chris Kalisperas serves his take on Mediterranean fare in this space which is be described as an expedition in urban archaeology and design. The space is industrial and warm. Stark and cozy. Okay, enough with the contrasting discriptive words. Going to dinner at Brassaii is like going to dinner at someone's large loft. It's big but not overwhelming.
For my appetizer, I picked the "Potato and Leek Soup" served with truffle oil, creme fraiche and chives. I love this type of soup and have often made it myself (I've enclosed a recipe from Martha herself).
This soup did not disappoint. It was a huge portion of creamy leek and potato deliciousness. So good and filling. The truffle oil added a touch of earthiness and the creme fraiche provided a little bit of tanginess. Very good.
For my entree, I chose the "Artic Char" with saffron yogurt, fried cauliflower, roasted tomato salad and coriander".
Not my favourite entree of this Winterlicious season. I found the fish a little bland. The accompaniments were fine but in my honest opinion I think this dish would have benefited from a rice or potato side.
For dessert, I picked the "Banana Sticky Toffee Pudding" with spiced milk chocolate mousse.
If I had to pick my all time favourite dessert, it is sticky toffee pudding! I love the moistness of the date cake with the sweetness of the toffee. Brassaii's version was excellent and definitely did not disappoint. It is traditionally served with vanilla ice cream but this version with the chocolate mousse was a nice change. Loved loved this dessert.
I enjoyed our dinner overall. I wouldn't place it on my list of favourite restaurants! There are so many other restaurants we want to try before heading back here.
In his opinion:
We finally made our way to Brassaii after some consecutive cancellations and we were very excited to finally be there. The long walkway past the "summer patio tables" in hibernation makes for a grand entrance into the black canopy covered stairs to the restaurant upstairs.
Once upstairs, the coat check/front desk is a prelude to the unfinished, warehouse look that the restaurant has. The 5 ball chandelier above us are a reflection of the mix of modern and rustic look that we will encounter inside. High ceilings, exposed brick and large windows give it that "former industrial plant" look, but some subtle accents and the right spacing of the tables make it inviting.
We get seated at a table directly facing the kitchen where we can witness Chef Chris Kalisperas work his craft. Alongside him, a sous chef and a crew of what seemed to be apprentices, worked frantically to keep up with the demands of a full room of after work and special date night crowd.
The décor is rather minimalistic, with silver tubes hanging from ceiling as light sources and chairs that resemble outdoor patio furniture, yet comfortable. The support cement posts are marked with a large B and then a number, maybe for orientation purposes. A very large bar with lots of mirror and bright lighted displays seem to be the real source of light for the room.
For Entrée: "Braised Lamb Shank" with beluga lentils and gremolata. Gremolata, the chopped herb condiment that is usually found in Milanese braised veal shank, finds its way to this dish and works terrifically with the lentils, a smart and great addition to this dish. The lamb was fall of the bone cooked, yet each bite still firm and very flavourful.
For Dessert: "Cheesecake" with lemon, honey and donut. My wife had claimed the "wanted by everyone" sticky toffee pudding so I took one for the team and ordered something different. The cheesecake just had enough lemon flavour not to overpower the dish and was very delicious actually, given that it was the "predictable" dessert of the menu. The little donut resembled the Portuguese Malasada pastry in flavour, especially with it's sugar coating. Coffee was a bit bland and week but drinkable.
The Good: Overall a good dinning experience, food was very good and staff attentive. The sticky toffee pudding lived to its expectations.
The Bad: The "Artic Char" Fish was rather bland and flavourless, surprisingly given that there was adequate flavour in everything else. The large bar sort of overpowers the room.
The Verdict: Given the amount of bad reviews for both the food and service I had read, I was pleasantly surprised, for the good. Food was well prepared, arrived on time and presented/tasted very well (except for the Artic Char). The space does feels a lot like a club that happens to serve sit down meals in the evening. I would return again maybe to try their brunch sometime.