The Corner House

The Corner House
501 Davenport Road
Toronto, ON

Food: */**
Service: *
Ambiance: *
Recommended: Possibly…
Price for 2: $100-120 (3 course prix-fixe, 2 glasses of wine, 2 coffees)

I was hoping for great things from this restaurant. We just happened to walk by it one day in the Davenport/Spadina area near Casa Loma- the menu looked great and it’s located in a cute little house in a residential neighbourhood. Returning home, the online reviews also looked pretty promising.

We thought we’d save it for a special occasion, since it’s a little on the pricey side (although the 3 course prix-fixe for $35 each made it slightly more manageable).

I’d called for reservations, but when we arrived they didn’t have our names down. Fortunately, they didn’t seem to be overcrowded and had no trouble fitting us in upstairs. The house itself was cute, with all kinds of nooks and crannies where people were tucked away. However, the upstairs room didn’t have much of an ambiance, given the overall romantic feel of the place. It was a bit drafty and (not so great) music was playing intermittently from speakers mounted in plain view over the door.

Our server was reasonably attentive, but notably awkward. He did some weird water-pouring maneuvers and generally seemed a bit lacking in the social skills department. The food was fairly slow to arrive, which worked fine for us but could have been a problem if we weren’t in the mood to wait. Also, no small talk, offers to take coats or pull out chairs, scraping of the bread crumbs off the table…you know, the little details that one might expect at this kind of a restaurant.

The meal started off with a warm assortment of bread and hummus with olive oil. Our appetizers were both spectacular– the herb/garlic shrimp (which, as my companion pointed out, had the potential to be very blah) was warm, delicious, and flavourful– perhaps some curry was involved? My arugula salad with blue cheese, candied walnuts, and crisp pears was perfectly dressed and freshly presented.

The main course was where things fell apart for my dining experience. I ordered the “Seared Spring Hill Organic Rainbow Trout with Smoked Bacon, Field Mushrooms, Yukon Potatoes, Leaf Spinach, Herb Mustard White Wine”. What I received was the trout dish off the real menu (which I wasn’t too concerned about since it involved corn and peas instead of mushrooms and spinach). However, despite the welcome substitutions, the plate was an epic fail. The overall the combination of greasy, undercooked potatoes, WAY-salty bacon, and some fried onions thrown in for good measure made me feel like I was eating at a greasy breakfast diner. Not exactly the experience I was going for on a romantic, celebratory night out… I didn’t even finish my plate.

Fortunately, a couple bites of my date’s meal made me feel like the restaurant wasn’t completely hopeless. He ordered “Venison Chuck slow cooked in a Red Wine-Juniper Game Sauce… with Herb Spaetzle, Root Vegetables, Elderberry & Cranberry Chutney”. His was completely delicious- the venison was unbelievably tender and flavourful, and the spätzle (which turns out to be a germanic fried egg-noodle-esque accompaniment) was surprising and tasty.

Dessert was also a nice finish: a rich belgian chocolate torte dutifully accompanied with a dollop of creme fraiche and some berry coulis, and an impressive cherry & white chocolate bread pudding. Funnily, we also really enjoyed our decaf coffee, which turned out to be Van Hout.

Overall, The Corner House was worth a try. But I’m not sure if the not-quite-there ambiance and service, coupled with a really disappointing main, make it worth the splurge to go back.

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