Who Are We? We’re BFFs whose love of stuffing our faces has taken us to the US and Europe in search of the world’s top restaurants. But recently, we decided to have some food adventures closer to home. We’re setting out to try one new (or at least new to us) Toronto restaurant every week for a year – or at least until we can no longer fit into our clothes.
And here’s the catch… we want to give you an authentic experience so all of our reviews are done anonymously. As far as the restaurant is concerned, we’re just two patrons who take lots of photos of their food. Or are we?
This week, we hit up the recently opened Drake 150, a spinoff of the popular Drake Hotel.
Address: 150 York St.
Vibe: Afternoon power-lunchers make way for rowdy hipsters at night
Closest subway: St. Andrews Station
Drink menu: cocktails, premium draught beers, wine by the bottle or glass
Service: Attentive and efficient
Patio: Street-level in summer
First Impressions: The first outpost of the Queen West institution, the financial district’s Drake 150 is immediately striking thanks to the impressive décor. The contemporary-meets-classic setting boasts a 60 foot oval marble bar, a Brothers Dressler-designed wooden pergola, a mural by Douglas Coupland, leather booths, handmade geometric Moroccan tiles and a photo booth. This is definitely a place to see and be seen.
Roasted Cauliflower ($14)
Is there a more trendy appetizer right now than cauliflower (except for maybe warm olives, also present on Drake 150’s menu)? Their take on this once-ignored vegetable sees it roasted and served with toasted pine nut granola, truffle puree, black garlic and grapes. The cauliflower retained a nice crunch and was nicely complemented by the acidity of the grapes. We would definitely order this again.
Half Dozen Oysters ($22)
We ordered the oysters upon learning that Kumamotos were available – our favourite! These ones came from California, and were served alongside Raspberry Points from PEI. We were recently spoiled (both by quality and price) by a visit to John & Sons Oyster House, though these withstood comparison. We could have used more variety in terms of sauces (hot sauce and mignonette were our only options), but the sweetness of the oysters won us over.
Lobster Pizza ($28)
Seeing as were sitting among Bay Street high rollers, we figured we might as well order the most decadent-sounding combo on the menu: lobster and truffle. After all, when in Rome, right? This upscale pizza featured generous chunks of lobster tossed in a truffle purée dotting an unremarkable crust, which we cut ourselves with the accompanying scissors (this seems to be a trend). Unfortunately, we could barely taste the delicate lobster and fior di latte cheese, thanks to the heavy-handed sprinkles of tarragon and garlic.
Rotisserie Half Chicken ($26)
This is the first time in ages we’ve gone to a restaurant and ordered something as boring as chicken, but we weren’t really feeling any of the other entrées on offer. Luckily, Drake 150 knows how to do comfort food. Though not as exotic as some of their other menu offerings, this roasted half chicken was perfectly moist with crispy skin, and came with the saltiest fries we’ve ever tasted (which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing). The chicken gravy tasted less like the homemade version we were expecting and more like a knockoff of St-Hubert dipping sauce (again, not a bad thing).
Sugar Pie ($9)
Drake 150 offers a rotating pie menu, and the day’s special was a Canadian classic: sugar pie. The filling’s texture was creamy and heavily flavoured with cinnamon, though we were more impressed with the accompaniments: creatively spun sugar and a scoop of wonderfully savoury Earl Grey ice cream, which added interest and depth.
Lemon Tart ($9)
We finished off the meal with a classic lemon tart, which was wonderfully fresh and featured a lovely brulé crust. The accompanying candied fruit cut the tartness, while the toasted marshmallows provided a nice touch.
Final Thoughts: Though the service was brisk (possibly because we were told we had to give up the table in an hour and a half because of another reservation), we never felt overly rushed. Your enjoyment of Drake 150 may depend on your noise level tolerance and timing; around 7 p.m. the mood was laid-back and conversational, but there was a noticeable shift about an hour later when the music got cranked and the vibe got clubby. Time your visit based on how much you want to soak up the atmosphere versus how much you want to hear what the people you’re with are actually saying.