Oct. 14, 2009

Appraisals: Quince Restaurant (Toronto)

Quince is one of the Toronto must-try places - a Mediterranean-inspired bistro with reasonable prices and fresh, innovative flavors. It has been evaluated as extraordinary by the Eye Magazine and after getting some mixed reviews from Toronto Life, also one of the Toronto's Best New Restaurants of 2007. The founders of Quince are Jennifer Gittins and Michael van den Winkel, a husband and wife formerly known from the high-valued Stork on the Roof. Their new place, opened in fall of 2006, is located just a few blocks south of the busy intersection at Yonge and Eglinton.

Enclosed by a pretty patio graced with teak furniture and plenty of cushions in bright, primary colors, Quince is directly across the street from the abandoned hulk that was once Cheaters, an infamous nudie bar. Only two doors down, we can find the famous place Coquine and a neon sign saying "Adult Video & Novelties" - I bet you wouldn't expect this in a region famous for its blossoming business district and parks popular for families. But in the last twenty-five years, there has always been an eclectic mix of shops on this part of Yonge Street between Eglinton and Davisville. Clothing shops, bead and paper shops, home decor, but also adult venues - all this can be found around here.

Just at the door at Quince's, we are warmly welcomed by a hostess and offered a spot near the bar on one of the low, cushioned banquettes. Even though it's a Saturday evening and we are in this lively neighborhood, we can still choose a table, pleading excessive height. “What’s downstairs?” I ask. We get a reply from our hostess: "Oh, that's our private dining room." It is available for lunches and dinners and it has its own bar and lounge, all elegantly decorated (although the tile floor will tell you it's located in the basement). Tonight it's off limits to couples, being available for corporate or private groups of maximum 40 people or cocktail receptions of 70 people at most. For these events, the staff offers you a menu along with matching wines, so that you don't have to care about all the details yourself.

Our waiter is approaching with a brief list of specials, just a moment after we have picked our table. I want to say a brief list of specials consisting of a long explanation of ingredients and preparation methods, and how the meals go together. We can see that the waiter is apparently an expert, he doesn't even need to refer to his notebook as he explains us what is garnish vs. a side dish. The waiter could be best described as personable, friendly and efficient. Left alone to ponder if a whole sea bream (“Most people choose a side with it, it’s just the fish,” our waiter cautions apologetically) is a good idea, we take a look around. I notice the cleverly designed lighting that enhances the whole space of the dining room and adds lovely warmth to it. The space seems to be noticeably large but still somewhat intimate at the same time. The volume level is very comfortable too – despite almost all the tables around us being full, we can easily hear each other and the background music (think D’Angelo and Stevie Wonder). The interior is decorated with modern art in earthy colors, gracing the loft-style brick walls and adding balance to the exposed ductwork, painted in chocolate brown to ease off all traces of sterility. Amazing for voyeurs, a semi-open kitchen offers a glimpse of the wood-fired oven behind the bar.

If you want to see the rest of our review, see the original article, thank you.

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