Thursday, April 16, 2009

Colborne Lane - 04/10/2009

45 Colborne St
Toronto, ON Canada
(416) 368-9009

When choosing from highly rated restaurants, I typically prefer restaurants with longer menus. Based on that criteria, Colborne Lane's 14-course Kitchen Table menu was a must. Chef Claudio Aprile studied briefly under Ferran Adria and his influence can be seen throughout Aprile's cooking. While the food at Colborne Lane incorporates elements of molecular gastronomy it doesn't take it to the same extreme as El Bulli. In fact the restaurant seems to shy away from referring to their food as molecular gastronomy.

Melon - compressed fruit + cucumber water + smoked ham
The first course was the restaurant's take on ham and melon. The melon was compressed making it extremely dense. Meanwhile bits of serrano ham and cheese were dunked in liquid nitrogen resulting in a final product that tasted like a smoky hammy ice cream. The flavors were all fairly light and made for a good amuse despite the cucumber water feeling a bit out of place.

Yellowfin Tuna - yuzu + ponzu meringue + red valentine radish + avocado
The tuna sashimi was topped with a variety traditional garnishes albeit in very nontraditional forms. The effect of this distinctive preparation is that each bite of the dish tastes a bit different depending on what else was present. I would have liked to try everything in one bite but I think that would have had too much going on. The quality of the tuna used for the sashimi wasn't particularly impressive; however the accoutrements made this dish quite memorable.

Green Apple - gorgonzola + celery root + bosc pear + tarragon
This dish felt needlessly complex, for a salad of apple, pear and celery there was so much going on it was hard to appreciate any of the flavors. The best part of the course was the mild blue cheese which was again dunked in liquid nitrogen.

Beetroot - smoked duck + majorero + golden raisin + blis elixir
The presentation here reminded me of something out of Alinea although with no instructions on how to extract the food from the holder this course got a bit messy. The duck was extremely tender almost dissolving on the tongue leaving a fatty smoky aftertaste. I actually would have simply preferred they leave off the main ingredient as the beets added a medicinal sweetness to an otherwise delicious bird.

The restaurant doesn't typically serve bread during the kitchen table tasting but I specifically asked for it. First up was a crispy bread topped with sunflower seeds and a house-made tomato sauce. The bread was more of a hollow cracker and reminded me of the Air Bread at The Bazaar. The vibrant tomato sauce tasted of roasted red pepper and coupled with the bread reminded me of a simple pizza. The second bread was fresh made dinner rolls which seemed out of place given the complexity of the other dishes served.

Veal - coconut + truffle + piquillo + thai basil
Our server called this beef carpaccio but the menu says it is actually veal. The meat was extremely tender and soft, very clean with no apparent fat or tendon. The veal itself had no flavor and relied on the other ingredients. Overall the flavor from the coconut and freeze dried blueberries dominated resulting in an overly sweet dish.

Parsley Root - blueberry + parsnip + amaranth + caramelized fennel
The soup was served in a clear curved bowl that reminded me of the bowl used at The Dining Room in San Francisco. The soup itself had a light sweetness that was offset nicely by the tart berries. The soup also had a tempura mozzarella that had a meaty texture and very light body. Nice flavor, though I wish the soup and cheese were a more well-integrated.

Foie Gras - blood orange + ras el hanout + key lime
One of my favorites of the night, my girlfriend describe this as foie gras ice cream and the little bits reminded me of Dippin Dots. Despite the unique presentation the flavor combination was pretty classic, unctuous liver paired with sweet/tart fruit.

Black Cod - sayoko miso + chopstick greens + scallion + tapioca
The black cod with miso was cooked perfectly, very tender silky smooth flake. Complimenting the miso sweetened fish was paired with lively bitter greens. The only knock against this course was the overly salty tapioca chip. Though fairly traditional I think this could have been a stellar course if not for the tapioca.

White Duck - hibiscus + apricot + leg terrine + egg noddle
We were told this was Pekin Duck, referring to a species of duck rather than a specific preparation. According to our waiter, Pekin duck is less fatty and more tender than normal duck. Despite my normal penchant for eating the duck standalone, I felt the hibiscus and apricot complimented the leaner flavor of the breast in this instance.

Lamb - caramelized eggplant + merguez sausage + mint + olive
The dish started with a very nice combination of the spicy rich sausage with the slightly gamey lamb loin with wonderful textural contrasts between the two meats as well. While the mint and olive paired well, the eggplant was far too blunt and sweet, totally upsetting an otherwise well-balanced dish.

Beef - winter squash + sundried tomato + steak sauce paper
I couldn't even see the beef covered as it was in a sweet tomato puree. I actually thought this was a dessert when it first came to the table. The beef was quite tender but like the veal, the flavor was lost among the seasonings. I enjoyed the tomato and the steak sauce paper, which reminded me of a BBQ potato chips. I just wish they didn't overpower the beef.

Rhubarb - in a variety of forms
The waiter actually said this was rhubarb consommé with ginger sorbet so I am not sure what the "variety of forms" refers to. A bit more shocking and powerful than I like in a palate cleanser. The rhubarb was so sour it made my teeth buzz while the sorbet was painfully cold.

Nitro - doughnut + créme fraiche + exotic fruits + balsamic
Our server brought around a bowl filled with liquid nitrogen and proceeded to pour creme fraiche which froze pretty much instantly. Freezing the cream instantly prevents ice crystals from forming; resulting in a super creamy and smooth ice cream. We were each then given a small sample before the kitchen crafted a dessert using the rest of the ice cream. By itself the ice cream had a mild tanginess that reminded us of frozen yogurt. The delicious ice cream was paired with a lavender cinnamon doughnut, raspberry and passionfruit pureés, and balsamic. The result was a complex blend of intense flavors that harmonized wonderfully; one of the best desserts in every dimension.

Iced Coffee - bomb!
The final course looked like an over sized mint served above a smoking bowl. In keeping with the whimsical nature of the restaurant, the smoke comes from dry ice. We were told to put the morsel in our mouths and let it melt. The iced coffee was so cold it actually burned my tongue. I am not sure what the exterior was made of but it tasted slightly milky. The interior was filled with Bailey's Irish Cream but with my numbed tongue all I could taste was the faint burn of alcohol. If only the meal ended one course earlier I would have been much happier.

As one would expect, not every course was a hit and some were downright awful; that is part of the experimentation that comes with this style of food. Certainly there are restaurants that serve better food but few that can offer as unique an experience. My one consistent complaint is that the kitchen adds too many ingredients to each dish. In some cases, the ingredient serves no purpose but I suspect they add it for the wow factor like the flavorless black sesame tapioca in the tuna. In other cases, the dish would have actually been better off had one or two things been left out ie. the cod and lamb. Whatever flaws it has, Colborne Lane does an admirable job of introducing molecular gastronomy to Toronto.

1 comment:

LM403 said...

The photos turned out really well!!