May 24, 2010

Gluttony on the go: Toronto, part III

Another place that my friend and I happened upon during my trip to Toronto was the Grindhouse Burger Bar in Downtown Toronto. We had been walking around the area taking in the sights for the better part of the early afternoon and popped into this eatery for a late lunch.

Address: 365 King Street West
Phone: (416) 977-3010
Style: specialty burger bar

Let's start with the great things about this place.

Grindhouse prides itself on the quality and locality of their food. Indeed, everything is made in house and all their burger meat is naturally raised, and hormone, antibiotic and GMO-free. With that kind of conscious effort that goes into the food, it's no surprise that the patrons are willing to pay a bit more for the small portions that they get. Or, in my case, appease the disappointment that there was no desserts available that day. (But more about the small portions and disappointment later.)

It also helps that the place has a snazzy decor to match its personality. With its plush red seats, exposed brickwall and carefully chosen colour palate that extends all the way to the bathroom, it gives off a comfy-yet-sophisticated vibe, which is perfect for its no doubt trendy clientele of downtown urbanites.

The seats lined next to the wall are plush and booth-like. Note the pillows and wall ornaments.

Marble tabletops with little flower centerpieces, slick-looking and (more importantly) well-stocked bar, a harmonious use of red and mellow yellow paints...full points on ambiance and aesthetics.

Then came the food.

Our first reaction was to marvel at how small the portions are. My friend's fish 'n chips was rather small for a 12$ meal, whereas I was skeptical whether my burger and side order of onion rings would even fill me up.

My burger and onion rings. You can tell how small they are in comparison to the mayonnaise dish.

My friend's fish 'n chips. There was exactly four pieces of fish, and only a small handful of fries underneath.

But hey, we thought, if this food is as delicious as it looks and sounds, being all organic and healthy, then its worth its pricetag. Plus, if you think about it, 12$ isn't really that much for a really delish mid-size dish...right? After all, an appetizer from a fancy restaurant would easily set you back more than just 12 bucks, no?

Well, the thing is, this isn't a fancy-schmancy kind of place. And even if it was, I'd still expect the food to be worth its price tag. What Grindhouse aims to be, that is a healthy and specialty burger bar, is all for naught if the burger itself doesn't live up to standards. And boy did my burger not live up to standards. I'm not saying that it was the worst burger that I ever had, but the meat was just on this side of bland and just short of being juicy. Even the onion rings tasted mostly like batter and seasoning. My friend's fish 'n chips were similarly just a bit too tasteless to justify its price.

My meal looked great and I had high expectations due to the restaurant's philosophy, but in the end it just resulted in deeper disappointment. It feels like they started with all the right ingredients, but went wrong somewhere in the process and wound up just out of reach of the wanted result. Which, in a way, is almost worse than being a seedy, lowly-rated eatery. At least that way, you walk in with zero expectations and only end up being mildly surprised by whatever enjoyable food you get, whereas in Grindhouse's case, everything seems so great that you come to expect something fantastic on the food front, only to be sorely disappointed.

Bottom line: great intentions, great presentation, but food doesn't deliver.

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