January 30, 2012

Winterlicious #1- The Drake Hotel

I'm slightly backlogged with posting, but I thought that I would go ahead and blog about my Winterlicious meals before the event ends. After being underwhelmed by 'licious meals a number of times, I was very careful to screen the restaurants when I made my picks. This means that I would only go if I was interested in both the restaurant and the menu. The Drake Hotel, having been on my radar for a while now, passed both tests. In particular, I've heard a lot of good things about their brunch. Even though I wasn't here for brunch, I thought that their Winterlicious menu ($20 for lunch, $35 for dinner) was quite interesting with good variety. I went with three friends and between the four of us, we covered most of the menu.
From the start of the meal, my problem was with the service. I swear, we were seated at the most conspicuous table in the entire restaurant- a brightly lit high table. Yet, we were still ignored. We could not, at any given time, find our server, whether to take orders, ask questions, or have water glasses refilled. I don't need super attentive service, but I was really annoyed that we couldn't flag down anyone despite repeated attempts.
Luckily, my mood improved after the food arrived. Mel and Timmy ordered soft + sexy pumpkin grits with sage pesto, roast apple and wilted greens. This was easily the best and the most memorable dish of the meal. In a word, it was scrumptious! The grits were creamy and rich, and I loved the pairing with the herbal pesto and sweet roast apple. It was a really homey and satisfying bowl of food, and I really enjoyed the multiple spoonfuls that I stole took from Mel.
James got the chicken noodle soup with egg noodles, dill, and root vegetables. I could smell the aromatic dill from across the table! But since I wasn't a fan of chicken noodle soup, I didn't try any. 
I wanted the pumpkin grits as well, but since I always want variety, I decided to order mezze instead- grilled pita, tzatziki, hummus, baba ghanoush and heirloom carrots. Overall, I thought my appetizer was rather mediocre, especially in comparison to the pumpkin grits. My favourite was the baba ghanoush, which was the eggplant dip. In contrast, I thought that the tzatziki was a little bland. But my biggest problem was the grilled pita, which was weirdly chewy. I had difficulty breaking them apart, as if they were stale.
For our mains, James opted for beer braised short rib with smashed yukon’s, cider onions and horseradish cream. I took a few bites. The short rib was quite tender and the flavours were nice, but I wouldn't have been able to finish such a rich meat dish in one sitting. This was Mel's favourite of the mains, but I didn't think it was extraordinary in any sense. To me, it was missing a wow-factor and didn't excite me.
Timmy declares that he's obsessed with fish, so he went for the pan seared cornmeal trout, which came with rice and beans, brussels sprouts and jerk sauce. This was my (and Timmy's) favourite of the mains. The trout was nicely cooked, and I liked that textural crunch from the cornmeal crust. The jerk sauce was creamy and delicious, and it reminded me of a béarnaise sauce. The only problem was that the brussels sprouts were nowhere to be found.
Mel and I were more adventurous and ordered the chicken + mushroom mole tostada with radish pico de gallo and queso fresco. Our tostada arrived with a mountain of veggies piled high. I liked that there was a fair amount of heat in the mole sauce, but I had expected the sauce to be a tad sweeter for some reason. The dish, overall, had pretty pungent flavours, so after awhile, it became a little too much for me. I couldn't finish my tostada and packed some of it home. Mel finished hers, but said that this was her least favourite out of the three entrées.
I was genuinely excited about desserts, especially the pudding chômeur- maple syrup baked with bourbon vanilla ice cream. I previously had this québécois classic in Montreal and I really loved it! However, the Drake's version was nothing like the one I had in Montreal, and a whole lot less satisfying. I expected a gooey, moist, and decadent bread pudding, but I was surprised by a piece of syrup-drenched cake. It wasn't very impressive, and I couldn't really taste the maple syrup nor the bourbon in the ice cream. And above all, it was too sweet. This was my least favourite dessert out of the three.
The second dessert was a pineapple upside down cake with sour Niagara cherries and brandy crème fraîche. Although this cake was a little too sweet as well, the acidity from the pineapple and the tartness from the cherries provided some balance. At least it was more interesting than the pudding chômeur.
The last dessert was  a chocolate caramel tart, featuring SOMA chocolate and a hazelnut crust. There was another long story behind the tart. After Timmy ordered it, the server came back to let us know that they were running out of the tarts, and told him that he could either order something else, or wait and see if there were any left when it was dessert time. He opted to wait and see. When the rest of the desserts arrived, his tart never came, and nobody followed up with us. Of course, it was impossible to get our server's attention, so it took us forever to finally get our tart, long after the other desserts were devoured. Mishaps aside, this was my favourite dessert out of the three. The chocolate tart was rich, dark, and luscious, but what I loved the most was that heavenly hazelnut crust. I'm very partial to hazelnuts, and it was a wonderful complement to the chocolatey filling.
All in all, I was underwhelmed by my experience at the Drake Hotel. There were some highlights the sexy pumpkin grits and the chocolate tart were yummy and memorable but the overall meal was marred by inattentive, or rather, almost non-existent service. However, I'm still intrigued by the Drake Hotel's ever popular brunch, so I'd still be open to coming back to try that.
The Drake Hotel on Urbanspoon


  1. Service SUCKED but sexy pumpkin grit was so sexy in my mouth =P

  2. Yea, if I knew you were going there earlier, I would have let you know the service there is so-so. In particular if you guys didn't order any alcohol, then you will get even less attention. I haven't tried their brunch either, so can't warn you if it's good or not.

    Have you gone to Bymark yet? I actually booked a reservation for it for next week, going with your suggestion of that super burger. If you went already, how did you find it?

    1. I'm going this Friday! Trying not to get myself too excited about it though, in case it doesn't live up to expectations...

  3. i'm glad at least two of my choices (the short rib and tart) turned out good but if the service sucks, then i'm glad i didn't go. see you at bymark!



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