July 20, 2011

Summerlicious @ Sassafraz

Sassafraz is housed in a gorgeous yellow Victorian house in the heart of Yorkville. I've read many positive reviews about this fine dining institution and I was genuinely excited to enjoy a Summerlicious dinner here.
When I walked into the restaurant, I was stunned by the elegance of the interior. The restaurant was truly a beautiful space. I loved the skylight that poured into the room.
The towering wine shelf is an eye-catching piece in the room. 
Knowing that the portions will be small, I allowed myself to indulge in the bread, which was quite tasty with butter. It was nothing spectacular, however.
Like I said, chilled soups seem to be very popular for this particular Summerlicious. This vichyssoisse with lobster and truffle essence was the third chilled soup that I had. It was better than the one I had at O & B Café Grill, but not as good as the one from Canoe. For me, the soup was overly sweet and I needed more salt to balance out that sweetness. The chive oil in Canoe's chilled soup was incredibly aromatic, whereas for this soup, I couldn't really detect that truffle essence.
I loved the vibrant colours of the Creole spiced gulf shrimp on corn grit cakes with cayenne bell pepper sauce. The dish was very beautifully presented and put a smile on my face. It was also very tasty- the shrimp was nicely cooked and had that perfect springy bite to it. I also enjoyed the touch of heat in the cayenne bell pepper sauce. I've never had corn grit cake before, so I was surprised that it had a fluffy, egg-like texture, almost like a quiche. It was a great vehicle for soaking up the delicious sauce. Overall, the flavours were complementary and I enjoyed this a lot more than the soup.
For our mains, both of us chose the Dungeness crab cake with adobe cream and jicama salad. Usually, I always get something different from my dining companion so I can try out more dishes, but I really love crab cakes! This one, unfortunately, didn't exactly live up to my expectations. The crab cake was full of crab meat, which was great. However, I'm more partial to pairing crab cakes with something creamy, usually some sort of mayo-based dip or aioli. While the sauce here was tasty, it lacked that creaminess that I desired. As well, the jicama salad was warmed by crab cake, which made it less refreshing. I would've enjoyed it more if it stayed cold.
For dessert, my boyfriend chose the rose water scented chilled cherry soup with dark chocolate mousse, crisped rice croquant and vanilla tuille. From the description, I had imagined the main component of the dessert to be the cherry soup. When it arrived, I was pleasantly surprised that the chocolate mousse was the star of the dish. The mousse was delicious: intensely chocolatey and smooth, and the rice croquants were crispy delights! Unfortunately, I didn't try the vanilla tuille or the cherry soup, but the chocolate mousse alone was quite successful.
For myself, I opted for the blueberry tartlet with white chocolate crème diplomat, toasted meringue and lime gelée. Once again, I found the description to be quite misleading, because I imagined the tart to have a blueberry filling. In reality, it was a white chocolate cream tart garnished with blueberries. That said, I still enjoyed it because I absolutely love white chocolate. The toasted meringue was like a melted marshmallow, adding a creamier dimension to the tart. On the other hand, I didn't appreciate that lime gelée, which I found to be shockingly sour to my palate. On the whole, the tart was very refined and fitting for this dining environment, but I actually prefer my pastries to be more rustic, perhaps a little more buttery and greasy (like the gooey pecan tart from Canoe!).
I think the most enjoyable aspect of my meal was the lovely dining ambiance. As I said, the restaurant is stunningly beautiful! However, there were other glitches that marred the meal. For instance, the food all came really fast one after the other, but our server was not very attentive. We had to ask for water refills multiple times. Worst of all, during the dessert course, there were these little bugs flying around that were very bothersome, and our server never noticed. All in all, I would be willing to pay $25 for the food that I had, but I felt that the remaining $20 went to the décor. Ultimately, I'm not sure that I would come back to Sassafraz. Even though the restaurant is beautiful, the service wasn't perfect, and I'm reluctant to pay a premium just for prettiness.
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