330 King Street West
Described as the latest addition to Toronto's hottest new entertainment destination - the Tiff Bell Lightbox. Luma is an Oliver and Bonacini Restaurant and therefore, a guaranteed success in our humble opinions!
In her opinion:
We had originally booked Auberge Du Pommier as our second Winterlicious dinner, however; my fabulous friend Christian Martel couldn't make it, so we decided to go in a whole different direction. Boy, am I glad we did! Besides we had already been to Auberge many times and we needed to try something new...Luma was it.
The decor is warm and welcoming with great floor to ceiling window with views of King Street West. Oliver and Bonacini have combined wood, stone and leather to perfection.
Chef Jason Bangerter has also combined years of culinary experience to form a wonderful gastronomic paradise. On their Winterlicious menu page, Luma's menu is described as showcasing "global and Canadian artisanal cuisine featuring the finest local and regional ingredients". And I believe that their Winterlicious menu did this beautifully. I was actually quite excited about this menu having previewed some of the delicious offerings via Twitter pics.
For my appetizer, I picked "Chicken Liver and Foie Gras Pate". I had previously read about Chef Jason Bangerter's fabulous pates so I was really looking forward to this appetizer which was served with confit duck heart, duck skin crackling and braised lentils.
For my entree, I ordered the "Grilled Flatiron Steak" which was accompanied by butter whipped potatoes, oyster mushrooms and truffle creme fraiche. Or as I saw it, the perfect choice to have with a glass of Cave Spring Cellars "Biff's Juicy Red".
Finally, for dessert, I choose "Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding" with butterscotch and shaved white chocolate. Being very fond of anything labelled bread pudding, I was dreaming about this dessert from the moment I read it on the menu.
Chef's Bangerter's pudding did not disappoint. This was excellent. The butterscotch and white chocolate complemented the richness of the pudding to perfection. I loved how the pudding was soft on the inside but the top had a buttery golden crunch. I could have one of these each and everyday of my life! So incredibly good.
We had the privilege of meeting Chef Bangerter, who made a point of coming out to our table and introducing himself. He also sent out a last bite for us to have before we completely finished our night at Luma.
He personally served us his "Warm Cinnamon Rice Pudding, with Kumquat Preserves and Nutmeg Chantilly". All I have to say is heaven. So comforting and delectable. Chef Bangerter definitely made our experience at Luma even better. Will definitely return to this wonderful addition of the Oliver and Bonicini culinary empire!
In his opinion:
Very few restaurants have surpassed my expectations in my varied culinary adventures around the world. Not sure if it's because I cross my expectations with some good research or I have become a bit jaded; but nevertheless, I'm often impressed but rarely taken back by my first experiences.
By the time I walked in to a still very empty Luma Restaurant (this due to our early reservation) I had that feeling. The feeling of I'm either going love it or I'm going to be extremely disappointed.
It is a great space housed within the Tiff Bell Lightbox on King Street West and it takes some time going through the massive hallway, up the escalator and down the hall but in the end, it all added to the expectations. Finally, we are presented with wall to wall windows that surround this modern loft-like, grandiose space that is Luma.
The décor is mostly clean lines, modern and somewhat cold/chic. There is a Bar which seemed great for an after work meet or before dinner cocktail to the right of the entrance. Past the attentive ladies on the front desk, you find more of the same, a good combination of stone, wood and leather in what it feels like large well thought of space.
Even though it is the prix-fixe menu from Winterlicious, I'm expecting great things from Chef Jason Bangerter's understated style. I'm reminded of what he was able to accomplish throughout the years in my favourite restaurant in Canada (Auberge du Pommiers) and it seems inevitable that I would expect the same from his newly birthed creation.
Service starts out with the waiter getting us some O&B Sparkling Water, by the way a bargain at $2.50 each. The bread comes out simultaneously and my first reaction was, two buns only? Don't they know I'm Portuguese and
one small bun just won't do it? Later my fears were put to rest as the attentive waitress asked if she could refill our bread basket not once, but twice. The sourdough bread was still warm and was accompanied by butter with sea salt on top.
For Appetizer: I decided on the "Winter Root Salad". A hunk of iceberg lettuce, shaved roots, smoked bacon and a perfect mustard dressing. The crispy wheat berries provided the perfect offset of crunchiness to balance the whole dish. Not easy to make a big piece of Iceberg lettuce look good on a plate, let alone find such a balance of flavours in a salad. Kudos to that.
As the servers made their way around the room in a somewhat well choreographed manner, the empty plates were timely taken away, and the next course would make it's way to us within millisecond precision.
For Entree: I ordered the "Seared Albacore Tuna with Braised Sunchoke and Heirloom Bean Salad with Rosemary Vinaigrette". When I ordered this dish, I was thinking perhaps that these combinations of ingredients on my plate would have my sharpest sensors in high alert, and it didn't disappoint. The crunchy medley of beans provided the perfect contrast to the soft, seared to perfection tuna. The rosemary vinaigrette provided the vehicle for the different beans to come together, rounding out their flavour.
I must admit that this was the dish of the night for me and would go as far as saying that this is my favourite kind of tuna to have seared. Its whitish appearance and surprisingly softness are much more subtle and delicate than your regular Ahi or Yellow fin, which I prefer raw.
For Dessert: Panna Cotta...need I say more? Well, actually I should as it was "Apple and Buttermilk Panna Cotta" This perfectly made custard came with a side of soft apple compote which was contrasted by, of all things, maple granola which balanced the tartness of the apples very well.
Having continuously bad experiences with espresso's in some of Toronto's top restaurants, I opted for a cappuccino and turned out to be a great choice. It was done with the perfect mixture of the steam and foamed milk, as expected and tasted great.
Chef Jason Bangerter highlighted our night by dropping by and ensuring everything was going well and personally bringing us a last bite to complete our night. Pictured above (under her opinion) was our treat: "Warm Cinnamon Rice Pudding with Kumquat Preserves and Nutmeg Chantilly". It was served warm, soft and a perfect way to end the night. As we were leaving, Chef Bangerter took the time again to speak to us and it was a pleasure to discuss food with such an accomplished chef, especially one that I have learned to respect so much from his genius days at my favourite French restaurant, Auberge du Pommiers. For those that know me, you know it isn't hard to get me talking about food, usually much harder to make me stop but it's always a pleasure to do it with a great chef.
The Good: It surpassed my expectations surely. Like I said before that doesn't happen very often.
The Bad:$17 parking at the Boxlight for about 1 1/2 hours is steep even for the Entertainment District. The restaurant should validate dinner parking as it has done in many its other restaurants around town.
The Verdict: Oliver and Bonacini do it again. The creative genius of Chef Jason is quite present in an almost grass roots menu that is served with just enough twists to keep you engaged, but without ever losing the integrity of each dish. Unlike a certain TO critic, I witnessed knowledgeable, attentive staff, a great balanced menu with a fantastic take on artisanal cuisine and a touch of the unexpected in almost every dish!
I give it 4 1/2 olives out of 5 as rating