Friday, February 11, 2011

Earls Restaurant and Bar Finally Arrives in Toronto

On Saturday February 12, 2011 Earls Restaurant and Bar will finally grace Toronto with its’ presence. The doors open at 150 King Street at York and although most 416ers have never heard of the award winning resto giant, they have been serving their ‘West Coast Casual’ fare for the past thirty years.

Leroy ‘Bus’ Earl Fuller and his son Stanley Earl Fuller gave birth to Earls as a laid back burger and beer joint out west but the company now boasts over fifty restaurants across Canada and the U.S. They believe Toronto is the place to be right now and you know we love the compliment.

Like everything I share, I give it to you straight up, no bull and I promised myself that this would be no different. Here’s the deal, I have created three rules for myself when writing about restaurants: I will not review a restaurant during Winter or Summerlicious, I cannot write about a place that I currently work and I will not review corporate restaurants.

Earls is a corporate restaurant.

I hate to eat my words (although I really hope that you will) but I have to bend the rules a little for the sake of guiding you towards a good meal.

The bottom line is that I am impressed with Earls the way I am impressed with the independent little guys.

The dining room is dim and cozy, romantic and sexy, fun and inviting. It is the perfect juxtaposition of masculine and feminine. Rock and dark hardwood mingle with pretty white lights and supple leather seating. The bar area is large. There are TVs for sports and lots of seating for conversation.

The food is surprisingly “uncorporate” (yes I just made up a word). Their commitment to fresh and seasonal ingredients mimics the sentiment of some of Toronto’s best kitchens. Earls is baking their own bread, their sauces, soups and dressings are made in house from scratch and they change the menu regularly to reflect not just what is in season but what is hot as well.

It wouldn’t be BC without a clam chowder and Earls’ version is a recipe that has not changed since its’ inception. The clams are meaty and have the right amount of rubber. The broth is not heavy. It is slightly smoked by bacon. Bits of red pepper add colour. You could eat six bowls, no problem.

A rocket, beet and pear salad shows how goat cheese can be made into a coulis. The cheese is the creamiest and most velvety I have seen it to be and the sweet crunchy beets along with the softness of sugary pear all play together amicably. Villa Maria, a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand with its’ gooseberry and passion fruit notes makes the salad’s flavours and textures pop.

Earls provides their diners with wine pairing suggestions for all menu items making ordering a total no brainer.

The Bronx Burger is super fun. It has a crispy, skinny beer battered onion ring, aioli, greens, aged cheddar and a tangy pepper relish. The fries resemble those of one of the huge fast food chains of which I can’t mention here but you will know who I’m talking about the minute the fry hits your tongue. This is a good thing.

Earls surprises with a Jeera chicken curry that authentically spicy and a seafood linguine that is perfectly el dente and lightly tossed with a San Marzano tomato sauce.

The filet mignon is crusted with porcini mushrooms and dressed up with truffle butter. It’s tender and earthy. The butter adds the flavour that the tenderloin lacks. Earls does steaks well without being a “steakhouse” but I would like to see a ribeye in the mix. No ones’ favourite cut is a top sirloin.

A chocolate sticky toffee pudding with vanilla bean gelato and a glass of bubbles is the perfect finale. The ice cream comes in a toffee frico cup and I love it so much I eat it with my hands. The pudding is rich and decadent.

They believe in mixology and right now are showcasing margaritas made with Herradura’s El Jimador 100% agave tequila. The juices are made in house: blueberry, passion fruit and lime.

The wine list is extremely affordable with a lot of wines hovering at $7 - $9 a glass (7 oz) and a lot of great choices in the $30-$40 range. Some wines are made exclusively for Earls while others have been handpicked by their team of connoisseurs. One wine guy, Anthony Gismondi of Gismondi Wine and Wine Access Canada says that, “This is where Toronto will be drinking for the next few weeks.”

Sound like a corporate restaurant?

Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

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