Random fact about DKLo #17: I work right across from one of Toronto’s newest, swankiest hotels, the Ritz-Carlton. Though it pales in style and design to some of the chain’s Asian/Middle Eastern locations, the Toronto edition is still nice and grand in a conventional and understated way, something Canadians are undoubtedly comfortable with (I shudder to think what will happen if Toronto ever gets an architectural style that doesn’t resemble a glorified matchbox, but that’s another story).
The hotel’s spacious lobby leads to one of the most elegant places to have lunch in the city: Toca Restaurant. And on a hot July afternoon, that’s exactly where I went with Beffy. Despite my astounding internet fame (I’m big in certain corners of Liechtenstein and San Marino) I’ve personally never had a lunch meal at any hotel above a 3-star category, so I was quite excited about the gustatory prospects that such a fancy place promises.
Walking up the stairs to the restaurant, we were greeted by the host, who politely directed us to our table, besides a rather fascinating glass enclosure dubbed “The Cheese Cave”. Apparently for the rather hefty sum of $18, you can get 3 cheese selections to sample. As we felt that this was a bit hefty price-wise, we decided to forego the cheesy experience (har har) and took a stab at the lunch menu instead. Beffy chose the spinach ricotta ravioli, while I (though eyeing the same thing initially) decided on the club sandwich. We both were really quite looking forward to see what is their fancy spin on these dishes.
The food arrived not too long, and boy do they nail the presentation down perfectly. The ravioli was a hot bed of steaming beauty, with intermittent foams of cheese (it really says that, too, on the menu!) spread through the dish, as if providing punctuation marks to a beautiful sentence. From the few bites that I did try, I must say that I enjoyed it a great deal. It had a marvelously rich flavour, and the sauce and the pasta seemed to blend very well together. In some Italian restaurants, the pasta may be delicious, but feels distinctly separate from the sauce that envelops it. No such issue here. The flavours work very well together, providing a rich experience for your taste buds without overdoing it.
And on to my sandwich. The first time I saw it, I actually spent about two minutes trying to figure out how to eat it without making a lavish mess of everything (final answer: I just gave up and started cutting it up with my knife and fork). It looked really nice and was a very posh take on what is a humble sandwich. I found that the chicken was extremely tender but a bit bland, almost unseasoned even, but that it’s made up by the richness of the other components of the dish, which is perhaps their original intent anyway. The freshly cracked egg, main culprit of the mess I created, added a jolt of richness to the sandwich. And the bread itself was beyond awesome, tasting almost like the most delicious grilled cheese sandwich bread I’ve ever tasted, if a bit oily. I also love the fact that they gave me a cute bottle of ketchup as my condiment, as opposed to serving a dollop of it on the side. The fries were also excellent, and the dish was just very good overall.
One point of contention: When we asked for water to drink, the waitress automatically gave us an opened water jar that said “Q Water” on it. Thinking that this was just a cute container, we gratefully drank almost the lot. When we got our bill though, we saw that there was a charge of $5 for said water. As paying for water goes against almost all that I stand for (apart from truth and justice), I made the comment to the server that we actually meant TAP water. She apologized for the error and gave us the water free of charge. So this is just a tip: make sure you SPECIFY that you want regular tap water, otherwise be prepared to shell out a fiver for that plain liquid you just drank. And if expensive water’s your thing, then please disregard the entire paragraph you just read and I’m very sorry my good chap for wasting your time.
Overall, would I return? I believe so. The quality was spectacular, though the prices weren’t that cheap (over $40 for lunch for two). But as a once in a blue moon indulgence, it’s certainly worth a visit. And for a “business” lunch like what we had today, it’s worth it. Otherwise, unless you’re looking to impress someone, be quite wary about the prices here, and the 5-dollar waters.
By the way….Toca stands for TOronto, CAnada. Mind. Blown.
–Final verdict: Mari Makan!
181 Wellington Street West
Toronto, ON M5V 3G7