Friday, February 22, 2008

Crystal as Restaurant? Thumbs Up!

As Gallery Space? Not So Much...

Walking up Bloor to the Royal Ontario Museum this evening, the Michael Lee-Chin crystal was an impressive sight. Without a doubt the best time to see it: gleaming in the moon-lit sky.

Friday evenings are a hoot at the ROM. Open til 9:30 pm with half-price tickets, the place is abuzz with families of toddlers greeting dinosaurs with glee, bands of self-obsessed tweens, and young couples smooching in the dark corners of the crystal. Not a bad spot for illicit behaviour - but possibly one of the worst gallery spaces I've ever seen. The harsh angles make crazy shaped corners that serve no functional purpose. Vertical display cases clash with the triangular walls, distracting from what is an impressive collection. Even more disappointing - considering the serious financial investment backing it up - are the many dings and cracks and amateur painting evident on second glance. If I were a family member of any of the donors who's names appear on the gallery walls, I'd demand a refund or a serious re-design!

Enough said.

c5, on the other hand - the restaurant on the top floor of the crystal - couldn't have found a more perfect home. With the lights twinkling from nearby buildings casting a romantic glow on the dining room, we took our seats and settled in for the 2-hour extravaganza.

Our main purpose in heading to the ROM was to sample and vote on the 3 contenders for c5's signature cocktail, the ROMtini - so we began with a flight of "weeny-tinis." Each had a distinctive ingredient added to the Grey Goose vodka: vanilla, hypnotique (a berry liquer), and prosecco. The first was ruled out right away because of it's medicinal after-taste. I voted for #2 (it's Cosmo-like flavour and blue hue won me over) and nodrog went with #3. The result of the vote will be announced on February 29th!

An amuse-bouche of perfectly grilled squid accompanied by "yucca charcoal" arrived as we sipped our cocktails. I'm not sure how the yucca was prepared but its smoky flavour made the dish a memorable one.

We had no trouble deciding what to order - there were a number of inviting choices, but several stood out as "no brainers":

*For me: The $65 prix-fixe bar menu (a new offering at the ROM): braised beef ribs with foie gras and wild mushroom tartlet, seared duck in a port reduction with barley and a dessert I'll describe below. A "glass and a half" of shiraz complemented both dishes well (an interesting wine menu option I've never seen before).

*For nodrog: Quail and foie gras, beef and sweetbreads (and half of my dessert!), accompanied by a "glass and a half" of gewurtz and shiraz.

Everything came beautifully presented and skillfully prepared, although the portion sizes were anemic for the prices ($25-40/dish). We both agreed the highlight of the meal was the sweetbreads with their nutty flavour and cracklin' texture. Especially for me, who never orders them and mistakenly thought I wouldn't like them.

The dessert - a light way to end the meal - was creatively laid out on a huge white plate: dollops of fluffy goat cheese cheesecake, each speared with a ginger snap (were they really shaped like dinos or were we just drunk?), with a small bowl of grape granite.

Our only complaint about c5: the harsh lighting of the open kitchen means that half the dining room is way too bright (we asked to be re-seated to the other half because of it). A frosted glass enclosure would still allow diners to view the kitchen activities.

ROM members note: don't forget to ask for your 10% member discount like we almost did!

$230 for two, including about $80 for alchohol (what can I say? it was a stressful week)
Our ROM member discount saved us 20 bucks
c5 at the ROM

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