Saturday, March 11, 2006

Boa Nova Rodizio Grill House

Boa Nova Rodizio Grill House
6 Charles St. West
Kitchener, Ontario

We had read many other fairly positive reviews for this place over the last few month, so it had been near the top of our "to visit" list for awhile. However, being an all-you-can-eat type of place, we decided to wait for that most opportune time to visit; when we were hungry enough to stuff ourselves silly. After all, these types of places surely must emphasize quantity over quality, right? Wrong.

First, the technical details. There are two separate features to the restaurant. First is the hot and cold buffet, which was quite good as far as buffets go. Hot items included two soups, sauteed mushrooms, bean casserole, plain and fried rice, and a few deep fried dumplings (probably potato and seafood - I couldn't tell but they were very tasty) On the cold side there was seafood pasta salad, grilled calamari, smoked salmon, shrimp, tuna pate and various deli meats and cheeses. A nice selection, well presented and constantly refilled, and everything looked very fresh. Nothing sat on the steam table for very long, and a lot of attention was paid to keep things clean and orderly. I was impressed, although most of my buffet experience has been at Chinese and Indian buffets where the emphasis has been on, well, not quality. One can order the buffet on its own, but that kind of defeats the purpose of coming to this place. Because you'd be missing out on the main event - the rodizio grill.

In the kitchen, there is a large gas grill with numerous (28?) skewers grilling various cuts of meat. It varies depending on the day and whether it's lunch or dinner time, but when we went on a Saturday evening we were offered eight different meats plus pineapple. I'm not sure how they kept track of all the tables (since obviously every table started at a different time) but we were offered all eight in order before getting repeats

  1. Chicken drumsticks - crispy on the outside tender and juicy on the inside, not dried out as I expected at all
  2. Bacon wrapped chicken - more bacon than chicken, so it was a bit salty
  3. Pepper steak - heavy on the peppercorn rub, it was cooked to a medium well which was a bit more than my liking
  4. Chorizo sausage - meh
  5. Garlic steak - great flavour, overcooked as above
  6. Pork loin - great, if you can get piece that hasn't been attacked and dried out by the grill
  7. Lamb roast - cooked properly, didn't have the strong lamb taste/smell that can affect poorly cooked roasts
  8. Top sirloin roast - by this time I think I was too full to appreciate this
  9. Pineapple - roasted on the skewers then coated in cinnamon and sugar - delicious, juicy and tart, perfect to complement the pounds of meat just consumed - I had them come back with many more slices before the night was over
The whole rodizio concept revolves around the gauchos, whose job is to transport the skewers of meat to your table, where they remove it from the skewer or slice it onto your plate. You're given a card with a red side and a green side - green side up means "yes, please" more meat, while the red side means "no, thanks", I'm still digesting.

Overall, the service was very good for a place that claims to be casual dining. We were met immediately at the door, offered our table and an explaination of the restaurant. Plates were cleared quickly, and we were never left wanting for more meat for long. The gauchos were attentive and tried to keep track of which items we liked to bring back (more pineapple please!).

For dinner, buffet and skewers of meat is $35 per person. One can just have the buffet for less (perhaps $20 ish?) but why bother? It's not particularly cheap, but a unique and worthwhileexperience.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Truffles @ Four Seasons Hotel Toronto

21 Avenue Rd.
Toronto, Ontario M5R 2G1

We went to Truffles during the Winterlicious. The whole restaurant was packed on Friday night. There were some chairs w/ black polyester/elastic seat covers, obviously those were brought in for the Winterlicious rush.

Truffle's Winterlicious menu includes three courses, two options for each course. So we managed to cover both and shared the food. In general the portions might be slightly smaller than what they would normally serve. Or no change in portion, but the size of the plates might be smaller than what they would normally use. One thing I am sure is that we were quite full after the meal. So they didn't manage to reduce the cost (for Winterlicious) by cutting down the food portions.

First course:
Fennel Soup Tomato Marmalade
or Winter Greens with Carrot Croutons Aged Gouda and Carrot Sultana Vinaigrette

I am not a big fan of fennel so I think it was just ok. J was happily sipping thru the whole bowl of soup. The salad was quite generic, not much plating involved. (When I say "generic", I mean it is generic within "its category"; something you expect to get from a decent restaurant.) The highlight of the salad was the shaved aged Gouda; it adds depth to the plate. Btw, the salad looked small but it was quite filling. This could have been served on a 10-inch or 12-inch plate. I don't know why they had to cram all the ingredients into that little 8-inch plate.

Second course:
Crispy Duck Confit Savoy Cabbage, Pancetta and Caramelized Chicory
or Brown Butter Basted Salmon Sunchoke Puree, Roasted Cauliflower and Truffled Enoki Mushrooms

J really enjoyed his Salmon. The fish was slightly overcooked in my standard but it's just my personal preference. The brown butter played the charm. (Note: I highly recommend that you cook w/ brown butter. You'll be amazed by the enormous, nutty flavor it can aid to your dish. How to make it? Easy. Heat the butter on low-medium heat until all the water content is gone and the color turns yellow-brownish. Remove it from the heat before it burns.) As for my duck can something submerged in fat NOT taste good? The veggy part was very flavorful (partially due to the pancetta?).

Third course - Desserts:
Bergamont Crème Caramel
or Warm Dark Chocolate and Pear Tart Roasted Cashew Ice Cream

I never have Bergamont creme caramel so I don't know if it was done the way it is supposed to. I didn't like it though. The texture was closer to jello than to typical creme caramel. The fruits used in this dish seem to be straight from a can (along w/ the syrup). To salvage the mood for the rest of the night, J offered to trade w/ me. The tart was ok. Compared w/ the previous two course, dessert is the weakest link.

Overall, all the food was nicely prepared but nothing is exciting. Maybe this suits their clientele? I suspect people who can afford and are happy to stay in Four Seasons appreciate good food but on the conservative side.

I feel the need to complain a little about their cocktail. I ordered a Cosmopolitan. It wasn't the worst I've ever had but I expected more from a decent restaurant like Truffles, especially after they charged me $14 for one! A Cosmopolitan normally consists of vodka, triple sec (or Grand Marnier, if you want to kick it up a notch), lime juice and cranberry juice. I can't believe how "flat" that cocktail was. Cosmopolitan can be very complex yet beautiful, not necessarily a "girly" drink. If using better quality of triple sec or cranberry juice is not an option, they should at least use freshly-squeezed lime juice to add the complexity. Compared w/ this disappointing Cosmopolitan, all of sudden $14 cocktail "Luce" seems a steal.

The service was slow; however, it was clear that they were swamped by the Winterlicious crowd. Our waiter "disappeared" for quite a while. At one point a lady came to add more sparkling water in our glass so we thought maybe we were caught in the middle of the change of shift. However, he "miraculously" showed up at the end and seemed slightly shocked to find out that not much left in our bottle. Before we could even react, he opened another bottle and said it was on the house since he thought other waiters might accidentally serve other tables w/ our water. Also, the hostess was very courteous. I showed her the coat check tag and inquired where we could get our jackets. She actually took the tag, ran to the other side of the floor and got them for us. I am normally quite skeptical about any restaurant evaluation system/measurement but few trivial things like those make me feel there might be a reason that Truffles is rated an AAA 5 diamond restaurant.