Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Teo Paul took a little sojourn in France, returned to Toronto and blogged for one year about the trials and tribulations of opening his restaurant, Union, 72 Ossington Avenue.
Thanks to torontolife.com (they published the blog) the guy had a following before he even opened Union’s doors.
There was anticipation, excitement and well wishing.
There have also been line ups, price increases, phone calls not returned and only late reservation times available.
Basically, you have not been able to shake a stick at this place.
We got in this past Friday at 9:30 pm and (insert sad face emoticon) in the words of Public Enemy, “don’t believe the hype”.
Paul is serving French cuisine but beyond a predominantly French wine list, an antique sink in the woman’s washroom and the term ‘Plat du Jour’, you have to really dig deep to feel France. I suppose we can grant merit for subtlety.
Baguettes? Nope. Jewish challah that is more like Wonder Bread than anything else is served with a rabbit terrine with clotted cream ($11). Oh, and it was seared – seared to the point of being burnt. Rabbit? It could have been tuna for all I know because it only tasted like eggs. It had the texture of a curdled quiche. Not even a fancy quiche. The kind of quiche you get in that box of fifty hors d’oeuvres at Costco.
It gets better; the apps are served on china. The kind your English Granny has stacked in the server. Oh and one of the plates had a big chip out of it. Classy.
The same Wonder Bread challah is served with the only winner of the night: the steak tartar ($14). I always get excited when eating something raw. It makes me feel naughty. A lump of uncooked ground meat can get gross without the aid of accoutrements and Paul makes the right choice. A crunchy petite gherkin gives a break from the soft flesh while a spicy sauce added some zing to the beef’s mellow flavour. Even the ubiquitous bread adds a nice dimension.
Perhaps Paul went to Belgium while in France because the second runner up: crispy frites smothered in garlic mayo would go better with a Stella Artois than a Cote Du Rhone.
The fries are served family style along with potatoes with yogurt and chives. You get your own veg but you share the family style frites and potatoes. I’m all for sharing but personalized sides would fare much better. Ribs and fries? Sure but what if I had have had the snapper? Unless it’s battered, fries would not have been appropriate.
The execution is dulled by an assumption of unimaginativeness.
Mains were literally hard to swallow. A tougher than tough elk prime rib ($33) had me fearful of choking as I chewed what was still in my mouth while the rest was half way down my throat. A seared scallop sits on top but seems misplaced; like they had one left over so they threw it in.
Sticky ribs ($21) that were not sticky at all. The sauce was as thin as water. They were leathery as well and let’s face it; if ribs do not fall off the bone then they are not good. The smoked pork belly that sat shyly in the corner of the dish was good. The fat rendered enough so as to erase any feelings of guilt and infused with enough smoke to make it seem like a real treat.
A weird looking veg lasagna ($16) with its’ green and red sauce and white chevre make you think of Italy. Hell I’ll even say you think of Christmas before you think of Paris.
It’s true, I rarely order dessert but in the case of Union, we were never offered.
When you start dinner at 9:30, I guess there is no time for sweets.