THE GABARDINE: Wanted more gastro than pub

647-352-3211    |    $12-24 entrees

 

If you don’t know the place is here, you’ll walk right by on the way to the Eaton’s Center and miss it. It looks like a deli shop, but it’s much more (no offence delis).

I’d read mixed reviews, and wonder if gastropubs straddling the line between pub and gastronomy set some diners up with unreasonable expectations. A touch or flourish of refinement can either be delighting or an unwelcome tease if something falls flat. Depends on the individual. I’m personally a fan of the gastropub concept, so I stopped in for dinner.

Food

The first thing I said (and subsequently tweeted) when I saw the menu was that it was foodie comfort food epitomized. It’s not a complex menu, but an eclectic and almost random mix of favourites including steak, mac and cheese, risotto, burgers, Cuban sandwiches and hush puppies. Check the menu for your favourite or second favourite, it’s probably on there.

I started with the wild boar and venison terrine with house pickles and apple butter. I’ll say it didn’t kick off the meal particularly well. The terrine was a little bland and a bit dry, and I’m almost certain there was no apple butter anywhere. I’d guess the sauce on the plate was a berry preserve of some kind (blackberry maybe), but the plate was well-balanced with a good portion of microgreens and radishes for bitterness, tangy pickled fruits and the slightly sweet sauce. I’d say the Terrine really only added texture and the occasional peppercorn. I also found the portion on the small side.

My friends ordered the Cuban sandwich and the shrimp po boy. They both liked them, particularly the po boy which was huge, flavorful and a good value for $14.


Excuse the flash, room was dimly lit. Key takeaway: packed with seafood. 

My main, and redeeming dish, was the cioppino (above). It’s the first one I’ve come across in Toronto, and it delivered. It’s filled with black cod, mussels, and a large crab claw on top. The thick tomato broth had a good seafood flavour and a gentle heat that complimented the well-cooked seafood. The flaky cod chunks were the highlight. I wouldn’t say the freshness of the seafood hits you in the face per se, but I’d definitely eat this again.

When it came time for dessert, I’ll be honest and say nothing really caught my eye. I think I wanted more ‘gastro’ and saw comfort food. Almost had the whoopie pie with dulce de leche and cinnamon sugar peanuts. Someone let me know if I seriously missed out.

Service and Ambience

Our server was pleasant and opened up a bit as the night went on. We had one misstep with a good-looking pulled pork sandwich making its way to our table instead of the po boy, but otherwise all was well.

I really liked the look of the place. Felt homey but with enough refinement to add some class. Now that I think of it, the decor matched the food concept in that way. Also, my friend wanted me to add that the flowery china added to the cozy atmosphere. So there.

The Reco?

I think I was a little guilty of high expectations on the gastro front. I ordered a terrine instead of hush puppies or a simpler salad, and a cioppino in place of a burger, sandwich or pot pie. All of which, I’m confident are great comfort food. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I returned for any of those alternatives, I’d be a believer. Jury’s still out for me, but I’d come back for another try.

Other reviews:
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 Posted by: Jacob, Visited Oct 24, 2011

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