647 930 9517 | $16-28 Mains | 60 Richmond St E
After having gone to one of Rose & Sons first dinner services, I started to develop a tendency to try out other restaurants making their supper time debut. Hawthorne had been very popular for the lunch crowd over the past few weeks and was just beginning to offer a new menu in the evenings, so I decided to drop in with a bunch of friends to sample their offerings.
Exterior Image Credit: Karolyne Ellacott, Toronto Life
I’m not exaggerating when I say the menu that night was extremely eclectic. The same menu shares edamame, lamb empanada, lemongrass ribs, fish and chips, peking duck phot and steak frites. Usually, this would send me running for the door, but the described elements of each dish seemed to be in harmony so we proceeded to order.
Starting with the ‘russian unorthodox’ above, there was a pattern of over-salting early in the early-going. The flavour combinations of horseradish, apple beet, caraway and dill made sense, but not all them showed up on the plate and I couldn’t help but feel the aioli was really salty.
One of the other starters was a mushroom ‘soup of the moment’ with some decent mushroom flavour, but really lacked depth. Felt very one-note and again probably had more salt than it needed.
The last app was a small beet and beef tartare with pickled mustard seeds, horseradish cream, and coffee oil. I can’t say I really picked up the oil, but for a third time, I’d say the tartare was too salty.
On to mains. My order was the ponzu glazed pork belly with lobster broth, long bean, crispy toast and chili peanut dust. While the broth did have lobster flavour, it was quite bitter almost like a Massaman curry. I was really hoping for some bright flavours or spice somewhere to help balance, but everything else on the plate was rather bland. No hint of heat or peanut, which made me wonder if there was any dust at all.
The crispy skin char with vanilla poached tomato, chestnut gnocchi, charred kale, onion fondue and bee pollen just sounded way too ambitious. I didn’t order it, but I did have a bite of a few elements and I just didn’t get it, especially the tomatoes. Very odd combinations here.
The beef cheek with bok choy, stone crab chow chow and crispy potato cake was another dish that sounded like there may be something there, but flavours didn’t really come together. Again, felt it was a bit bland.
The final dish sort of embodied the ongoing theme of promising description, followed by flat result. This chicken (while huge) was supposed to have east African spice and coffee essence, but really wasn’t as pronounced as it needed to be. Also, the presentation felt like Swiss Chalet take out and the croutons surrounding the bird were not what I’d call a good rendition of panzanella salad.
Service and Ambience
Safe to say the food was disappointing, but I did like the vibe of the place. Tasteful use of stone and wood with lots of jars filled with preserves made for a pleasant atmosphere. I can see how the giant bar facing into the kitchen would be buzzing during lunch.
Interior Image Credit: Karolyne Ellacott, Toronto Life
I also thought our server was very friendly, attentive to our large group, and was also around to answer questions or take any ad hoc orders. I really wish the food had been better so that we could have validated some of his recommendations.
I honestly think the menu stretches this place too thin and has resulted in dishes that seem to over-promise and under-deliver. I continue to hear good things about lunch here, and perhaps this early dinner service is not reflective of the food quality this kitchen puts out, but I can’t recommend this in the slightest based on what I tasted. Sorry guys.
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Posted by: Jacob, Visited Jan 11, 2013