ARIA: Stunning style and snapper to match

416-363 2742    |    $16-22 pasta, $27-38 pesci, $35-47 carni

 

Chances are, unless you’ve been to the ACC in the last little while, you’ve never heard of Aria. And even if you were in the area, you probably didn’t know much about this shining jewel across the street from the Real Sports Bar. Yes, it’s almost intimidatingly good-looking from the outside, but after two visits, I’d encourage you to walk in. 


Food

The menu just recently changed, so not everything here is still available. Not to worry though, I’m sure the rest of the Italian fine dining menu will be quite well done. The menu’s offers a variety meat, fish and pasta as well as small sections for crudi (raw bar) and fritti (crispy fried goodness). 


Photo Credit: Food Junkie Chronicles

When we searched through the crudi, had to go with the tuna, charred pineapple, basil, mint, olive oil and fennel pollen (above). This is a great raw dish that’s far from bland. Basil and mint keep this fresh, pineapple adds juicy sweetness, tuna texture is wonderful, and an undercurrent of fennel and the charred fruit add that extra taste layer. Really enjoyed this.


Photo Credit: Food Junkie Chronicles

The other crudo we dined on was the carne cruda (basically beef tartare) with raw egg yolk, black truffle and porcini fries (above). Despite the attractive presentation this dish missed for me. More than a little too salty and I’d believe you if you told me they’d removed the truffle entirely. The porcini fries just tasted like salty fries.

In addition to these starters, I’ve also had the new fennel salad and shaved octopus carpaccio, both of which I’d recommend as light starters (no pics, sorry =S).


Photo Credit: Food Junkie Chronicles

For the mains, you cannot miss with the snapper dish (above). Aria’s nominated it for Dish Duel for good reason. You can find my take on it here.

I’ve also had their new paccheri pasta with scorpion fish stew. FYI: paccheri looks like short, smooth, hollow cannelloni tubes. They were perfect al dente, the portion was filling, and the stew hearty and comforting. Not the most ‘fine dining’ dish you’ll ever have, but nice nonetheless. 


Photo Credit: Food Junkie Chronicles

As for dessert, tried the pine nut and truffle honey tart with basil citrus curd, raspberry and lemon (above). Can’t say I was impressed or disappointed, it was pleasantly sweet and the mix of lemon and raspberry was nice. Missed the basil, earthy quality of the truffle honey, and pine nut flavour could have been more forward.

Service and Ambience

It goes without saying that this place looks incredible inside. It’s stunning from the floating globes, to the amazing spiraling woodwork (or at least, it looks like wood), to the wine tower and glowing back splash covered in wine bottles. It’s looks like a restaurant straight out of Ocean’s Thirteen (compliment). 


For such a “fancy” restaurant, I found the service unexpectedly warm. Our servers were charming and attentive, likely a holdover from the atmosphere at Noce on Queen West (same owners).

The Reco?

You can’t beat the atmosphere and awe of the place, and you can’t deny there are some outstanding dishes (snapper and tuna crudo). When you tally up all the dishes, you’ll come away happy with the performance, even with a dish or two that doesn’t wow you. I’ll be coming back for more.

Other reviews:
Toronto.com    |     National Post    |     Post City

 Posted by: Jacob, Visited Feb 6, 2012

Aria on Urbanspoon

LUMA: Really wanted to like it more





647-288-4715    |    $9-26 lunch entrees,  $15-36 dinner entrees

Dropped by for a Friday lunch on the patio with high expectations. 

Food

The menu was promising for lunch, with items I’d expect to only see on a dinner menu: burrata, roast pork belly, veal flank steak, etc. Unfortunately, I’d categorize the menu as hit and miss based on our group’s experience.

Hits:

Mixed Drinks - ‘Fruit of the luma’ and ‘blackberry charger’ are both cleverly named, not too sweet, and perfect on the patio.

Coconut Poached Red Snapper - Friend of mine enjoyed the lightness of the perfectly cooked fish with the mix of root veg, ginger, lime and tofu. There’s a bit of heat here as well.

Ricotta Gnudi - Light and fluffy, tasty mushroom foam (there’s a ton of it, actually covered the gnudi entirely), and chunks of Parmesan made this affordable lunch portion ($13) a good value.

Misses:

Grilled Octopus - Always a good test for a kitchen. Good flavours (not great) when you got everything in one bite: pickled eggplant, candied olives, romesco, arugala. Problem was there was barely any eggplant or olive on the large portion and the romesco was bland. In addition, the octopus, while not rubbery, wasn’t tender and had a very dense quality reminiscent of steak, making it difficult to chew. Not sure if it was intentionally prepared this way, but it wasn’t pleasant to eat. We saw another table near us send theirs back to the kitchen.

Lobster burger - This was my main, paid $21 for the burger (no side) and was let down. The lobster wasn’t chewy but the delicate flavour got lost in the togarashi mayo, cucumber, and bun. I appreciated the texture of the crispy shallots, and I think it tasted good as a unit, but I needed to be wowed by either the lobster flavour or some great use of spice/acidity. Just wasn’t there. 

We tried the endive salad and shrimp salad as well. Both were neither hit nor miss. Wish I’d ordered the burrata; heard it was delicious.

Service and Ambience

High marks for both. Restaurant is beautiful and located in a convenient location as I’ve come to expect from O&B. The elevated patio, while loud from mid-day traffic, is a cool spot on a nice day and is great for people watching. Food presentation was also impressive for lunch dishes.

Service was friendly, attentive, and didn’t rush us through our long lunch. Our server recommended my friend’s snapper (good call) and was around frequently to check up on us. I’m definitely a fan of the style of service at O&B restaurants.

The Reco?

I’d like to tell people to come here, but my bottom line is food and both of the dishes I ordered didn’t pan out. It’s a great-looking spot, and you could very well pick a satisfying dish - the fact is that I didn’t. For that reason I can’t give Luma more than two stars.

I’ll admit a second visit for dinner might enlighten me, but I think I’m going to lay off the O&B for a while and give the little guys around the city a try.

Other reviews:
National Post    |     Globe and Mail    | Toronto Life

Posted by: Jacob, Visited Oct 7, 2011

Luma on Urbanspoon