Restaurant: Bosk Restaurant
Last Visited: February 28, 2013
Location: Toronto, ON (Entertainment District)
Address: 188 University Ave
Transit: St Andrew Station – Northbound Platform
Phone: (647) 788-8888
Price Range: $50+ ($30-50 dinner mains)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
Food: 5 (based on what I tried)
- Executive Chef Damon Campbell
- Euro-Canadian meets Asian
- Seasonal menus
- Business casual
- Private dining
- Patio seating
- Cocktail program
- Excellent wine selection
- Live music seven days a week
- Breakfast 7am – 10.30am
- Lunch 12noon – 2pm
- Dinner 5.30pm – 10.30pm
**Recommendations: Seared Scallops, Foie Gras, and Bread Pudding. The Sablefish and Burger were also recommended, but I haven’t tried them.
It was one of the meals I was looking forward to most during Follow Me Foodie to Toronto, and no, it wasn’t at Momofuku even though it was in the same building. I debated trying David Chang’s infamous Momofuku, but since I tried Má Pêche and Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York, it wasn’t a priority to try it again in Toronto. So what brought me here? It wasn’t the $5 million public art piece by Zhang Huan, although Rising was quite a spectacle, but it was actually this.
It was Bosk, which is the signature restaurant at Shangri-La Toronto.
The moment I walked in I could feel it was a Shangri-La establishment. I can’t really say “hotel” because the check in desk was tucked away in a corner to avoid the feeling of being in a traditional hotel. The spacious white Lobby Lounge was designed like a royal “living room” and it’s a common spot for Afternoon Tea served by Bosk. It was expectedly ritzy with elaborate Asian paintings and elegant fresh flowers highlighting the room. I visited a few luxury hotels in Toronto, but this one was clearly aiming to be the most extravagant in the city.
The room feels mature with its classy cream coloured piano and champagne ice bucket stands placed beside each couch, but apparently it draws a local yuppie crowd. It was hard to imagine anything but high profile business people and affluent tourists coming here, but I was told the room turns into somewhat of a night club Thursday to Saturday nights. There is local live entertainment every night with an occasional live DJ, so the demographic can be quite mixed, although I have yet to experience it.
On this occasion I was invited to experience Bosk for lunch. The hotel only opened late last year and Bosk has already gone through a couple hardships. The previous Executive Chef Jean Paul Lourdes left the hotel for unknown reasons to me, however there were a couple rough reviews after the opening of the restaurant. The new Executive Chef is Damon Campbell and he was actually part of the reason I wanted to try it.
Campbell was one of the Team Coaches for Team Canada during the prestigious IKA World Culinary Olympics 2008. This was the same year Chef Hamid Salimian (one of my favourite chefs in Vancouver) competed, so I was looking forward to trying his work. I met Damon briefly at Diva at the Met last year, and Hamid recommended me to try it while in Toronto. I also knew one of Hamid’s previous chefs from Vancouver Jeff Kang, who recently joined the Bosk team, so I was excited to reunite.
My other bias is I am fond of the Shangri-La brand and I have come to trust their restaurants, although it is more about the chef than the brand. I haven’t visited every Shangri-La hotel restaurant, but the ones I’ve eaten at in North America and Asia were impressive. The brand is known for committing to first class, and from what I’ve tried the philosophy extends into the kitchen.
It is a white tablecloth restaurant, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it traditional fine dining. It was sophisticated, upscale and polished, but approachable. The room was rather empty during lunch, and I think locals are still learning about it. It can come off as pretentious, but it is a 5 star luxury hotel brand, and for the area it is aligned with many other restaurants. It is expectedly pricey, but the menu is creative, ingredients globally inspired and presentation avant garde.
The menu reads and tastes Pacific Northwest which was interesting being on the East Coast. However, it is a Shangri-La dining room which is always Asian influenced. There was an equal selection of meat and seafood which embraced all the staple dishes of a standard North American hotel menu; but the components were innovative and what set it apart. Damon was Chef de Cuisine at Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur, so he is familiar with Asian ingredients, cuisine and the Shangri-La brand. The flavours were simple and well executed and it was a straight forward menu for an uptown market.
I came with somewhat high expectations knowing chef’s resume, and the tasting menu delivered although he is capable of more. Being a “baby restaurant” with a relatively new chef, I think they are still getting to know their market and playing it safe, so I’m curious how it will grow. My experience and post is likely too early to be any sort of prediction of what it will be, but based on my experience I am excited for what is to come.
On the table:
- Off to a solid start. Complimentary bread and butter can say a lot about a restaurant, so I always comment on it.
- The bread was served warm and they were not your typical dinner rolls.
- The rosemary herb buns were very light and fluffy with a sprinkle of parmesan baked on top for a bit of crispiness.
- The inside was pillowy, soft and stretchy, and they were savoury with rosemary and sea salt.
- The buns were delightful and served with an addictive creamy and rich house made garlic aioli.
- It was memorable bread and the aioli had body and texture unlike many others.
- Citrus segments, dill crème fraîche
- This appetizer was more suited for spring or summer, but the citrus fruits were appropriate for the late winter.
- It was a light starter (salad) course and the flavours were clean and fresh.
- I actually would have preferred this course with a wine pairing because it was so mild in flavours.
- It was a cucumber “cannelloni” stuffed with dungeness crab.
- It was an interpretation of the popular crab in a cucumber cup hors d’oeuvres.
- The crab was flaky, moist, sweet and delicate and it was simply treated and natural.
- There was a nice textural contrast with the crunch of cucumber wrapped around it, but shaved slightly thinner would have been better.
- The cannelloni was a bit plain so I wouldn’t mind another layer of sashimi or one more ingredient in between the crab and cucumber.
- The crab was as juicy as the citrus segments (grapefruit and orange).
- It kept things natural and the choice of citrus was more exciting than traditional lemon, which doesn’t enhance the sweetness of crab.
- The crab was also marinated in a little bit of orange zest and only a touch of crème fraîche.
- The dill crème fraîche was a nice change from mayo and I liked how it was on the plate rather than covering the crab meat.
- It came off as mayo more so than crème fraîche and there was orange zest in that too.
- It was finished with a fruity extra virgin olive oil drizzle and grassy pea tendrils.
- He used pea tendrils instead of peashoots which make nice garnishes, but the way they were used risked being not eaten.
- I would have loved some peas on the plate to tie in the pea tendrils, but again perhaps more appropriate for the warmer months.
- The dish was slightly under seasoned for me and I could have used a sprinkle of salt, or better yet fish roe, but it was still very good.
Parés Baltà Cava Brut, Catalonia, Spain – This is a sparkling wine from Spain and it is known for its excellent value. It was crisp and refreshing with flavours of apple and a mineral aftertaste. It would go with almost anything, but I didn’t expect it to be paired with the foie gras just because I wasn’t expecting foie gras. Personally I prefer sweet wines to be paired with foie, but there was enough sweet on the plate and this was a nice contrasting wine to cut the fattiness of it.
- Brioche French toast, apricot puree, cocoa hazelnut crumble
- And good night. Foie as the second course? Yes, please.
- I gravitate to foie, especially when it is presented like this.
- I appreciate creative executions for foie, but I enjoy it best simply pan seared on both sides.
- It is such a beautiful and indulgent ingredient on its own, and if the restaurant can afford to serve it like this, than please do. No pâtés or poutines, just like this is fine.
- The flavours and style were right up my ally and the foie had a crispy crème brulee like sear.
- The brioche didn’t look too nice, but it absorbed the oozing foie oils perfectly.
- It was a crisp, but not crunchy toast and I could taste cinnamon and warm spices.
- The brioche was almost the same texture as the foie and there was a wonderful sweet and savoury balance.
- The hazelnut crumble was more like a crumb topping and I wouldn’t have minded even more.
- I loved the crunchy texture and nuttiness of the cocoa hazelnut crumbs, but I lost the cocoa. I could taste some maple in it though.
- The a la carte foie course was served with banana purée, but this one had an apricot purée.
- The apricot purée was sweet with little acidity and the acid came from the pickled heirloom carrots.
- The carrots were a bit unusual since this had a breakfast like theme, but it was still okay.
- The sweet purée just enhanced the umami in the foie and it was a very classic foie dish, with some unique twists.
- I would be really curious what this would taste like with a banana purée.
- Every component served a purpose, but the foie stole the show, which it should.
- I actually had a Foie Gras French Toast at Black Hoof later on in the trip which was also excellent.
- Avocado purée, hon-shimigi mushrooms and miso sesame emulsion
- This was beautiful and it is offered as an appetizer course a la carte (portion will be larger).
- This actually made me miss BC because our local scallops are delicious.
- The whole dish was very typical of the West Coast and Vancouver.
- It was another fresh, light and warmer weather dish, so the tasting menu was almost going reverse, but the foie was a fantastic surprise.
- The scallop had a well seared crispy top and just a light sear on the underside.
- I prefer an even crispy sear on both sides, but many chefs do the 70% one side and kiss on the other.
- This one was slightly overcooked and a bit chewy, but it wasn’t ruined.
- To enhance the crispiness and give the dish texture to contrast the creamy sauces it was sprinkled with crispy rice.
- The miso sesame emulsion was creamy and rich and almost like an aioli. It had good body and it wasn’t too thin.
- The emulsion had intense umami and I could taste some ginger and spicy Japanese 7 spice powder (Shichimi).
- It wasn’t a spicy sauce, but I could feel some heat and it was beautiful with the meaty scallop.
- It started off sweet and then it was tangy and there was just enough for the single scallop.
- To cut the richness of the miso sesame emulsion there was a tangy avocado purée and pickled hon-shimigi mushrooms.
- There was also a minced avocado and cucumber salsa marinated with lime juice which I found a bit too sour.
- The textures and flavours of everything went really well together and it was a dish to be savoured.
- I wanted a whole plate of this tasting course which is always a good sign.
Charles Melton Nine Popes Shiraz, 2009, Grenache, Barossa Valley, Australia – What a pairing this was! It was a rich and fruity wine with black plums and chocolaty notes. It was a bit smoky and spicy with licorice and cinnamon and the tannins were well rounded. It had depth and length and the acid from raspberries. It worked beautifully with the lamb course ahead.
- Smoked paprika potatoes, crispy cauliflower, date purée, spiced lamb jus
- Now this really reminded me of home.
- I’m not sure who influenced who, but I’ve had this dish a handful of times from one of my favourite chefs in Vancouver, Hamid Salimian.
- Lamb 2 ways (neck and sirloin) is one of Hamid’s “signature dishes,” but both chefs are friends who have also worked together, so overlap is not too surprising.
- If I hadn’t tried this dish before I think I would be more “wow’d”, but I’m a bit biased now having a few versions of it.
- This was Chef Damon’s version which is different than Hamid’s, but it was still reminiscent.
- Lamb 2 Ways has been done by many chefs, but it was because the flavours here were Middle Eastern or Moroccan it reminded me of Hamid’s.
- There was a sweet medjool date purée, a savoury and tangy spiced lamb jus and then 2 pieces of slow roasted lamb.
- It was a tender good quality lamb loin and then a moist and tender lamb shoulder terrine that was likely cured, braised, sous vide and roasted.
- The lamb shoulder was my favourite and it shred apart effortlessly.
- The sauces weren’t as sweet, salty and sour as Hamid’s, but they were balanced. I was pleased with the control of his sauces in flavour and plating.
- There was good texture from the slightly spicy crispy cauliflower.
- The cylindrical paprika spiced potato baton tasted Cajun or Mexican in spices.
- Overall it was a very rich and strong flavoured dish, and there were a lot of flavours happening, but it was not confusing or muddled.
- Butterscotch ice cream, bourbon and apricot gel, pecan streusel.
- This was amazing! It is not only because I have a sweet tooth that I loved this, but honestly it was a fantastic bread pudding!
- I know “bread pudding” is just bread pudding, but just look at this! This was unlike many bread puddings.
- This was a warm brioche bread pudding made from very tightly compacted brioche pieces.
- It was sliced and almost like a bread pudding terrine.
- It was a denser bread pudding with chocolate throughout and it was very moist and spongy.
- There were dots of Jack Daniel’s bourbon gel on top which I wasn’t keen on alone, but it was a great spread with the apricot gels.
- There was a nice syrupy and sweet sticky apricot puree which was from the foie gras dish, and I questioned if both dishes originally used banana purée.
- This was a grown up bread pudding with mature condiments.
- The texture came from crunchy broken pieces of chocolate sponge toffee and a pecan streusel.
- The quenelle of butterscotch ice cream didn’t taste too much like butterscotch and it was a bit neutral in flavour and icy in texture.
- The menu offered a bread pudding with brown butter ice cream, which I think sounds even better! I actually made it once here.
- The bread pudding was sweet, but not overly so and the ice cream wasn’t too sweet at all.
- Most of the sweetness came from the rich and creamy dulche de leche smear which was better than a typical drizzle of caramel sauce.
- Overall the dessert left a lasting memory and it makes it hard to go back to any other bread pudding.
- From the plating to the flavours, this dessert did no wrong.
- This was one of the best desserts I had in Follow Me Foodie to Toronto, although the Candied Eggplant at Buca and Foie Gras Ice Cream Sandwich were alongside with it.