VERTICAL: Banker bar…with chops?

416 214 2252  |   $19-25 Pasta/Risotto, $25-50  Mains

 

Eating in the financial district during weekdays is usually an exercise in banker avoidance. When the business model is built around alcohol sales on the patio, it’s hard to find somewhere that puts great emphasis on food. I was skeptical about Vertical for this very reason, but I think it’s safe to say you can eat well here even surrounded by our suited friends.


Photo Credit: blogTO

Food

A read through the menu shows you this is more than a bar. It reads very modern Italian with everything you’d expect to find in the apps and pastas, along with some mains that veer away from the traditional. 

The four of us decided to start with three apps that we all agreed were the highlights of the meal.

The lamb meatballs in tomato sauce (above) were delicious - juicy and full of lamb flavour you’re looking for when you order lamb. I also enjoyed the focaccia with it to sop up all the leftovers. 

Next up were the five balls of arancini (above) filled with saffron risotto and fontina cheese. I will always order arancini when I see them on a menu because, when perfected, nothing is more addictive. That, and they’re usually tasty even when botched.

That said, I thought these were pretty darn good. If you don’t like saffron, avoid these, because the risotto is rife with it. I enjoyed the bold flavour, along with thin exterior and accompanying sauce. Just a touch more fontina would have won it for me. I’m very picky.

This was a dish that tasted as good as it read on the menu. Seared scallop, watermelon, speck, corn and watercress. Watermelon and corn makes sense. Speck and scallop makes sense. Fresh, juicy, porky goodness.

The first main that caught my eye was the halibut over spinach, with a fennel and star-anise puree along with a porcini and potato ’crochetta’. In theory, sounds like a really smart flavour profile. 

The good: Most of the fish was perfect, with an excellent crispy layer on top and moist, flaky interior. Spinach was a nice strong compliment. The mix of textures throughout the dish was really successful.

The not: The puree was ultra mild to the point where it was hard to say what it tasted like. The filling of the crochetta didn’t yell porcini either.

I think this dish has huge potential, but I really missed the promise of fennel, star-anise and porcini.

You may think the above is a ravioli, but this stamp-shaped pasta is called Sfoja Lorda. Vertical fills it with halibut and services with lobster, tomato, and wild fennel. I’ll say the star of the dish was the halibut filling, which I’ve yet to have in a pasta dish. My issue was the lobster is overwhelmed and the fennel flavour was missing again.

The last dish looked beautiful. The risotto of the day was also lobster, so we said why not?

The mouth feel was great and the flavour was pleasant, but I really wish something had stood out. Lobster meat is really quite subtle so anything to dial it up is appreciated and I just felt like I was missing it again.

The last dish of the night was the dessert above. I can’t seem to find that night’s dessert menu online, so I’m not going to take wild guesses at the ingredients. What I do remember is that the cake fell apart really easily, got sopped up in the sweet sauce below and turned into a bit of mess with the cocoa-flavoured sauce.

Dining Date Night

You may have heard me mention this service before, but I’m just going to reiterate how useful and easy it is. 

It lets you make a reservation at some solid restaurants for $10 during off-peak nights (usually excludes Fridays & Weekends) for up to six people. In exchange, they give you 30% off the entire bill including alcohol. The four of us save $40+ and turned this pricier place into something pretty affordable.

Click below to sign up. Highly recommend it:

 

Service and Ambience

So here’s the obvious part: during weekdays in the summer this is a bar for business people in the financial district (and those eager folks that pursue them). If you don’t like that atmosphere, you may be put off. If you’re not and don’t mind a lively patio in a great location, this is your scene.

 

On the service side, I was impressed. The great thing about these restaurants is that the kitchen isn’t particularly bombarded with orders so your food comes out pretty quickly. Our server was also very attentive and was always around when we needed her.

The Reco?

This was a really tough one. The apps were great and definitely reco-worthy, but the mains and dessert all had some issues that held them back from fully delivering on the menu’s compelling promises.

Without the 30% off, I’ll say Vertical borders on being too rich for what it delivers. That said, the apps give me faith that there’s more delicious food to be had here, and with the available discount, there aren’t enough reasons not to come back.

Other reviews:
 Food Junkie Chronicles (tasting menu)   |   Toronto City Gossip

 Posted by: Jacob, Visited August 2, 2012

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