Richmond Station

Posted on November 15, 2012

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Just like any Torontonian foodie, I was addicted to watching Top Chef Canada and was rooting for Chef Carl Heinrich. Watching the show, I identified with his straightforward, no fuss, quiet demeanour. When the twitterverse was abuzz with his opening a restaurant at Richmond St. West, downtown Toronto, I knew I just had to come and try his cuisine. Ever since it opened last month, I was trying to get Richmond Station into my schedule and tonight I finally made it. And what a brilliant dinner it was.

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Strolling on Richmond St. West, it was easy enough to find the restaurant as it was just a few steps away from the corners of Yonge and Richmond Sts. I was particularly impressed with the restraint and simplicity of the signage – subway themed logo with an arrow pointed towards the restaurant. I also subscribed to the “less-is-more” concept. As I was taking pictures of the façade, I noticed the hostess catching me with my paparazzi ways. I liked the warmth of the reception as she beamed at me with a smile.

The restaurant looked deceptively small from the sidewalk. Soon as you enter, a long bar delineate the right side and subway tiles and big Toronto archived images adorned the opposite wall. We were led towards the back of the restaurant and it was a pleasant surprise to see an open kitchen as wide as the dining room as if a stage for an audience to watch. I shamelessly beat my friend Abraham for the better seat of the table given us, wanting to be the one facing the kitchen. I am always been fascinated to watch chefs as they go about prepping meals seamlessly.

What was most impressive was the organization of the kitchen and the harmony between cooks. Swift and competent, fast and well-orchestrated despite the obvious pressure of feeding a well-attended dinner service. An unexpected treat was Chef Carl coming to our table and personally started our dinner with a conversation of what were the features of the day. Of all the other reviews I have read, I didn’t come across that he personally goes in and out of the kitchen to connect with his diners. That was a really pleasant surprise. Another thing too that made a good impression with me was the friendliness of our server, Jason. He was easy to talk to and was helpful when we asked him for recommendations of what to choose. The detailed descriptions of the dishes definitely helped us make a decision how to select our main from a very well-thought menu.

Abraham and I decided to share plates for the night. We started off with chips and lox, followed by the Beef Duo with Celery Puree and Celery Batons and Stn. Burger with Rosemary Fries. The in-house cured lox was elegantly presented paper-thin with crispy potato chips for accompaniment. I was impressed with how clean it left the palette even after several chipful of lox I have eaten. Virtually no fishiness and it absolutely perked up my appetite. Next came the Stn. Burger with Rosemary Fries and the Beef Duo of Shank and Tenderloin sitting on top of celery purée and adorned with celery batons. I must say that the Stn. Burger was absolutely impressive on its juiciness, flavor and heartiness. I can now understand the long line of fans for Chef Carl’s signature burger. Finishing off the burger, we started with the Beef Duo. Despite the main use of celery, it was actually mellow and complimented the meat beautifully. I wished I had more of the bread that was served earlier with Soya Oil and Boca Noir Vinegar. I would have wiped the plate with the bread to get the last of the gravy if I had more. LOL.

At this point, I was stuffed but I had enough room for dessert. Chef Carl came back to the table and I had to confess that I was a food blogger when he commented about the amount of pictures that Abe and I were making while having our dinner. I was surprised that he actually noticed despite his busy bustling kitchen. I guess it worked both ways, I can see through his kitchen and he can see the dining room too. To cure our need for a sweet fix, we have ordered S’mores with marshmallow, dark chocolate, graham crackers and cranberries. When Chef Carl returned, he was carrying two plates. He gave us the treat of trying the pear tarte tatin with almond ice cream together with our S’mores. While the S’mores would pacify any chocoholic’s craving, my vote goes for the pear tarte tatin with almond ice cream. Chef Carl has layered this dessert with different intensities of almond in the form of an ice cream, snow and chunky almond butter. Together with the pears, the balance of sweet and savory was beautiful.

I have blogged now for a while and I must say this meal was one that left a very good impression and one of my most memorable. It was my kind of food, very well executed, straightforward and unpretentious. I am now definitely an even bigger fan of Chef Carl Heinrich than I was yesterday.

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