Bymark Misses the Mark

We had been looking forward to eating at this posh restaurant in Toronto’s Financial District as soon as the reservation was confirmed on Monday. I prefer to have dinner a little later but 7pm was the only opening they had so we took it.

One friend was very enthusiastic about the food, the ambiance, her experience as a whole at Bymark but another friend was indifferent. Hmmm…Both are foodies but which opinion would reign supreme?

The bottom line is whether you come again and would you put your reputation on the line and recommend it to someone else.

Well, if you haven’t guessed already, the answer is no. Not NO, just no (with a shrug).

It is not the worst place I have ever been to (Matahari on Baldwin will forever be my worst non-dining experience) but there are too many restaurants to check out in this city to revisit one which was less than stellar.

This is the kind of place where you bring business clients to wine and dine on the company dime. Participating Winterlicious restaurants, with their prix fixe lunch and dinner menus, put it within reach (with Bymark being one of those on the higher end)- though the final price still hurts a little when you figure in tax and tip. A corporate high roller I am not (not yet, anyway) so my expectations were on the high side.

I have been involved with the food industry most of my life. My family owned a restaurant for decades, I’ve cooked in various cafes, worked as a personal chef for years and catered many events (small and large). I’m a food snob that sees a place for all kinds of food, both high and low brow. But what is significant is value for money and there are many other dining experiences that are worth the money- whatever the desired experience.

It is a beautiful restaurant, tastefully decorated in warm soothing tones of grey, luxurious, elegant. Soft lighting, enough touches of black to ground the light woods and translucent elements. Except, that is, for our table and two others in my sightline.

Did they really think that people wouldn’t notice…I hope my observations did not cast a cloud on my friend’s dining experience. (My apologies LC, if it did.)

I understand that this event may be a losing proposition for many participating restaurants. The price was set at $45 so I expected to receive smaller portions, perhaps slightly more surly wait staff who have to deal with the kind of riff raff that would never be able to get a reservation (even if they could afford it) any other time.

What I did not expect? That the restaurant table arrangement be shifted to squeeze in three extra tables. It wouldn’t have been as obvious if they hadn’t dropped in black ones from storage (when all the other tables were made of a blond wood). The least they could have done was put on a fresh coat of paint to cover up the scratch marks. Ours were also the only (from what I could see) chairs that looked to be left over from a previous renovation (or a sister restaurant?). Clad in a plumy brown velvet, this was only obvious because all the other chairs were upholstered in subtly striped grey suiting fabric. Quite nice actually.

The table was also about eight inches too narrow for the arrangement. To my untrained eye, the table set for two to the right of us was at least eight inches wider than our table. (I wonder what they would have done if I pulled out a measuring tape?) This was painfully obvious when they brought out our appetizers on too-large dinnerware. The food looked great on the plate- there just wasn’t enough room for my side plate or cutlery. 

But, what about the food?

If the food was outstanding, all would have been forgiven.

Well, I would have been a more impressed if the risotto from the first course wasn’t EXACTLY the same as the risotto for one of the mains save for a smattering of a butternut squash.

In spite of the lack of creativity (or laziness), the risotto and the tuna sashimi was good. The short ribs (main) were excellent but the flavours indicated on the menu didn’t come through. The salmon was a little overdone but the smashed fingerling potatoes were excellent. (Almost a rustic not-quite-mashed potato that I will endeavor to copy.) The dessert was good (especially the goat cheese panna cotta) but the carrot cake portion was very mean. I’m not a big dessert person but my friend was incredibly disappointed. (We ended up at another restaurant so she could get a more substantial sweet fix.)

Is it petty to be annoyed that we did not get any bread until after our mains had arrived. Our primary waiter was quite nice but did not ask if we would like a coffee until our dessert was finished.

We felt like we had been stuck at the kids’ table at a family gathering. That passing waiters only kicked my chair twice was a pleasant surprise- considering we were sitting in the middle of a walkway. 

I can’t wait to share this with the friend who thought Bymark was wonderful. I really wonder how a “typical” dinner compares with the Winterlicious experience? So far, my Winter/Summerlicious excursions have underwhelmed.

I am embarrassed to admit that I made an effort to look presentable today. I changed out of my classic Chuck Taylor All Stars to something that was more “appropriate.”

Next time (if there ever is a next time), I am keeping the cons.


~ by angryegg on February 7, 2009.

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