One of the highlights of my week was attending the opening of Toronto’s Chop Steakhouse. Didn’t take me too long to decide to go after I received my invitation. What was a little bit daunting was that I was to go alone as my EyeCandyTO partner Abraham was out of the country for a while. Unfortunate as that might be, it was also an opportunity to meet new people. So I went on my own expecting to be wowed, after all the reviews I have read coming from the bloggers from the west. I came early hoping the lesser crowd would let me go about my photography easier and would also get me to talk to people who can give me a tour of the restaurant.
I saw their efforts to put on signage on the road to increase their visibility. It was easy enough to find it at Dixon Road as their façade was big and imposing, just like most steakhouses would go. As I entered the restaurant, on its foyer was an ambush of a photography stop. That was indeed a first for me and my initial reaction was panic. LOL. Good thing the photographer, Dave Starett, was friendly enough to let me off the hook, half-accepting my goofy explanation that no matter I am a photographer myself, I never mastered the art of gracefully posing for a photo myself. I sauntered off quickly before he changed his mind :)
Getting inside the bar area, I was greeted by a crew telling me of what was in store for the night. As there were just a few patrons ahead of me, I had the leisure of taking my pick of a table. Again I was missing my partner being alone in a big table. But before I can ponder further, I was invited to join the women of the table in front of me. Janet and Anne, from one of the invited local businesses in the area, were my blessings for the night as their warmth and humor was a good plus for the evening. Together we sampled food and drinks that came our way. Chop Steakhouse have a very good choice of samplers for us to try. If I remember everything right, the night included steak bites, sliders, beef carpaccio, bruschetta, crab cakes and beef tenderloin. Paired with that food, was an open bar for wine, beer and cocktails.
My favorite for the night were the beef tenderloin and the bruschetta. Most of the time, I am not a big fan of blue cheese but to this perfect bite, the earthiness to the taste added a lot of volume to the perfectly cooked tenderloin. The bruschetta too was a very good addition to the menu as it was a welcome relief to the richness of the samplers. That burst of light tomato with the tartness of the balsamic reduction mixed with the basil was very memorable. I should also give the crab cakes special mention as I was impressed with the wisdom of how it was built. On top of the crab cake was an aioli draped with little slivers of lemon and dill. As one bites into it, that lemon gives that burst of citrus that added another dimension to the experience of eating the crab cake. Lately, I have been more of a beer drinker but for this night, I actually preferred Chop Steakhouse’s White Greyhound, which was a cocktail of grapefruit juice, grapefruit syrup and vodka. It was so good, it was so easy to overdrink it. LOL. I have to consciously keep track of how much I was drinking and was staggering it with glasses of water.
Another foodie treat was given to me by no-less than the Chop Steakhouse Vice-President of Operations, Marcel Blais. He was making his rounds at the tables when I met him. When he found out that I was a blogger, he graciously asked me if I was interested in getting a tour of the kitchens. Like what I have previously tweeted last night, the best way to this foodie’s heart was to be given a background view behind the kitchen doors. He was most proud to show us the above heat salamander able to rise up to a temperature of 1800 K to sear steaks in a shorter time than conventional methods. Innovative controlled vapor ovens sat in the middle of that kitchen and it is what they use to make sure locking in the moisture and the natural flavors of prime ribs that go through it. As he talked, I identified with his enthusiasm. Marcel’s love for food was clear. It was all that I needed to see from an owner to get me on board their product. There was no faking passion for food.
Another highlight for the night was a good conversation with the Chop Chef Michael Nezny. He was as passionate as Marcel, describing the food articulately. When asked what was my most favorite, I had to confess, that despite the goodness and tenderness of the steaks, my most favorite of all the samplers was the bruschetta. I think he was most pleased that I understood that the reason it was on the list was that it was to balance all the richness of the other dishes. To speak to a chef who can articulate it well was a treat. I always appreciate a good conversation with inflections of excitement and enthusiasm. It made the dining experience much more memorable to be in company of an equally appreciative foodie.
Thank you for the invitation for the opening of Chop Steakhouse. It was such a good evening of meeting new friends and dining with very good food. I can see this restaurant making waves in Toronto as it knows how to do steak right. Congratulations for a very successful opening! :)