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Friday, July 16, 2010

Biff's Bistro :: Summerlicious 2010


Entrance, main dining area, and bar
First on my Summerlicious 2010 hit list was Biff's Bistro, an Oliver and Bonacini restaurant. Having had a great experience at Auberge du Pommier (Summerlicious 2009) and an even better one at Canoe (Summerlicious 2008), I was anticipating a great lunch. Biff's Bistro definitely delivered!

Biff's Bistro 
Meal: Lunch (Summerlicious Prix Fixe)
Dined: July 2010
Verdict: Go!
Price: $15 Prix Fixe + tax & tip + drinks
Location: 4 Front Street East 
Website: http://www.oliverbonacini.com/Biffs-Bistro.aspx

Lucky enough to work downtown, and even luckier to be able to take a long lunch once in awhile, I trotted down to Front & Yonge on a sunny Tuesday. Despite its prime location (near the Financial District), fantastic patio weather, and the fact that it was Summerlicious, it was surprisingly empty:
Enjoying the quiet & casual patio on a Tuesday afternoon
Perhaps not many people are as lucky, or were turned off by the construction going on next door. Toronto vets may remember that a Shopsy's Deli was here for over 20 years. Oliver and Bonacini has since opened their O&B Cafe and Grill at this location, and are renovating the patio. It looks like it's going to be a great one. I for one wasn't particularly put out when Shopsy's closed - I have fond memories of eating delicious corned and roast beef sandwiches from them when I was a kid, but the quality since plumetted and I was sorely disappointed.
Bye Bye Shopsy's: Looking forward to seeing O&B's patio once it's done!

If you want a good, fatty sandwich you ought to try Caplansky's Deli on College St (my first choice) or The New Yorker Deli at Yonge St and Bloor St (decent). Or better yet, check out next Sunday's Deli Duel at Wychwood Barns...but enough about sandwiches (for now anyways)! This is about Biff's and Summerlicious!

What's the best way to approach Summerlicious? Do your research, go with a decent (3-4) number of people, and if possible try their lunch menu. That way you can sample a bit of everything and the lunch items are often identical to their dinner menu, minus one or two dishes. For $15 less!

Chickpea butter
The buns (white) were nice and soft - freshly warmed and came with a generous chunk of chickpea butter. I'll shamelessly admit that I slathered it on like calamine after camping. Not as amazing as previous O&B bread baskets, but not bad - not too crusty, and not some crumby (hah! get my pun?) store-bought thing.
I was quite pleased with how prompt the appetizers arrived. Unlike Auberge du Pommier and Canoe, interesting little explanations did not accompany the dishes (which I assume is because Biff's is on a bit of a different scale). Oh well, here we go!

Salmon tartare with crème fraîche & summer radish
Yum - a perfect patio appetizer. The salmon was fresh and subtly marinated and the crème fraîche had a nice light consistency to accompany its tangy flavour. The lemon zest was slightly candied (but not too sweet which is how I like it!), the radishes were crunchily fresh, and the single olive (which I happily halved) was stuffed with something deliciously pink (should have taken a picture and asked what it was! Now I'm super curious. Lesson learned.). This was the favourite of the ladies that I was lucky enough to lunch with :) ...but not mine!

Summer tomato & spinach tartlette with pistou 
This was my favourite. Surprising, considering that there was a gazpacho in the mix. I am a huge fan of flaky pastries that aren't so shiny that you can see your face as you eat it. I was also pleasantly surprised with the size - I assumed that the tartlette would be a round little thing and we'd have to battle it out with our forks. The pistou that accompanied the dish had a slight flavour, but the spinach did most of the (delicious) work.

Gazpacho with shrimp hache & crème fraîche
I will admit that I was a tad surprised at the presentation of the gazpacho. I'm used to seeing the dollop of crème fraîche and a little more care with the overall presentation. This was my most anticipated appetizer, and while good it was a tad too creamy for my taste. Still, I love a good tomato-based anything so when my friends said that I could gobble up the rest...I happily obliged. So far, the gazpacho at Boulevard Cafe is still this summer's winner.
As with our appetizers, our entrees came in good time:

Baked salmon with haricot salad & sauce verte

The bed of salad was nicely done - definitely enjoyed the haricot greens and beans, and it was perfectly cooked (oh how I hate overcooked beans). I usually avoid salmon from restaurants - too many experiences of overcooked fillets leaving me wanting to go home and sear my own salmon steak. This was not bad - one end was quite nice and juicy, while the other end was a bit overcooked. Half a win, so half a chance that I'll re-order salmon at a restaurant in the future.

Smoked ham & Gruyère crêpe with Dijonaise
Well well. Who would've expected a ham and cheese crêpe to be so good? The cheese definitely sold the crêpes, which were pleasantly warm and had nice, salty cooked ham tucked inside. Plus more haricot greens = happy Erin! I think I'll pick some up the next time I'm at the market. The winner out of the three entrees!

Caramelized onion & chèvre frittata with arugula & preserved tomato

What was so special about this frittata? Nada. It was nice, but next to the other two entrees the flavour was lacking. A nice dish, but I wouldn't order it again. I liked the sundried tomato - but is that really a surprise? Nevertheless, it was time for dessert!



Assorted Cookies 
Cookies! A nice sampling of cookies, but nothing to write home about. It certainly made for a nice picture. I like my cookies moist, not dry, and naturally I liked the chocolate square in the back the most. I think I'm quite the cookie snob. It was a sad day indeed when Le Gourmand closed (with no warning I might add!). I'll always mourn the loss of their giant warm, chocolate chip cookies.





Lemon cake with blueberry compote & lemon crème
Yum! I love lemon desserts. Bring on the lemon tarts, candied lemon rinds, sour lemon candies, and lemon poppy seed bread any day. This cake was really light and fluffy - not so much moist as really well aerated. The lemon flavour was very subtle, and paired quite well with the lemon crème (so I was glad that the cake wasn't too strong). The blueberry compote was a nice balance, although I've had better at Canoe with (surprise, surprise) with their lemon meringue tart.







Warm flourless chocolate torte with strawberries & Grand Marnier
Like many girls, I love chocolate. A chocolate torte? You have to beat me away with a stick. As I am not well-versed when it comes to liquers I can't really comment on the Grand Marnier strawberry mix, except to say that it complimented the warm, soft torte extremely well. It was not too sweet, and the torte was very rich so the flavours blended quite nicely. My favourite out of the three, hands down.




Overall, I was very happy with my Summerlicious lunch at Biff's Bistro. For $15 prixe fix, you get quite the sampling. I wholeheartedly recommend it, and noticed that they have $1 oysters after 5pm! Given their nice, spacious patio and location near the entertainment district, Biff's is great for a night out or a casual lunch.

Biff's Bistro 
Meal: Lunch (Summerlicious Prix Fixe)
Dined: July 2010
Verdict: Go!
Price: $15 Prix Fixe + tax & tip + drinks
Location: 4 Front Street East

Website: http://www.oliverbonacini.com/Biffs-Bistro.aspx

So that was it! My first and perhaps a little long-winded review for this blog. Feedback would be appreciated (anyone can comment) and expect more in the very near future! :) 

*As with all reviews, simply click the this link and you will be directed to a google map, with both street and map view of the restaurant's location 

Biff's on Urbanspoon

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Awesome first review! Very well thought out and well written. I will definetely follow you on all of your food adventures so that I can learn more about my city!

Debby said...

You've convinced me, I'm making reservations soon! I love your photos! and your honest opinions!

Anonymous said...

you eat your money.

Anonymous said...

I'm really enjoying your reviews. Keep it up! The Biff's review brought back good memories.

Erin said...

Thanks! :)

wing004 said...

I was talking to the bartender @ Canoe on Saturday and he said Biff was his favorite of the O&B restaurants! I'm definitely going to try this one out!

Your pics and reviews are awesome.

Erin said...

Thanks :3
It's probably the best bang for your buck out of all of the O&B I've visited. I haven't gone to their new Canteen or Luma yet though!

wing004 said...

I was talking to the bartender @ Canoe on Saturday and he said Biff was his favorite of the O&B restaurants! I'm definitely going to try this one out!

Your pics and reviews are awesome.

Debby said...

You've convinced me, I'm making reservations soon! I love your photos! and your honest opinions!

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