Posts Tagged ‘The Restaurant’

Everyone has special places that they feel incredibly comfortable in:  for Ben & I, it’s Nota Bene Italian restaurant in downtown Toronto.  It’s the dining equivalent of slipping into a fine Italian cashmere sweater:  always elegant, light but warm and makes you look better than you really do. (All of that flattering lighting of course.) And the food is a wonderful exploration of refined Italian flavours that never  make you feel full, just satiated, and sighing with satisfaction.  (And yes, upon reflection, that last line sounds a lot like our other favourite activity that involves satiation.  Ah well, food is love.)

In San Miguel de Allende, where we spend the winters, our special place is The Restaurant, where the chef is Donnie Masterton.  Although there are other fine restaurants in our adopted city, we observe every special occasion at The Restaurant.  None of our out-of-town guests leave without enjoying at least one meal in their gorgeous courtyard, under the Moorish arches, the stone fountain filled with rose petals.   I could wax rhapsodic about the tender tandoori thicken tacos, the delectably sticky Asian glazed pork riblets, or  seared tuna tostadas,  and of course, the burnt carmel ice cream with marshmallow sauce and with its salty counterpoint, Spanish peanuts.  It is one of the first places we go to when we return to San Miguel in the fall. And it helps that it is the “cafeteria” for one of our favourite people in San Miguel, Joanie Barcal of Allende Realtors.  I can taste those riblets now.  Yummy. (A highly technical culinary term.)

So we were delighted during one of our last visits to The Restaurant when Donnie told us that he was coming to Toronto to do a special one evening guest appearance at the incredibly hip, The Drake.

 It is the  “The iconically hip Toronto brand”  TORONTO LIFE,…”among the hottest venues in the city for all things cultural”, WHERE“The Drake Hotel is a nexus of culture in Queen West… Drake keeps the bohemian vibe alive in the gallery district.”  NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELER,”Anchoring Toronto’s trend-setting West Queen West district, the multi-talented Drake Hotel sails way ahead of the city’s other boutique properties”. FODOR’S 100 HOTEL AWARD and finally “The lightning rod for global hipsters” NATIONAL POST

We are, by our own admission,  not hip at all.  But Ben has a son and a daughter in law who can make the grade:  plenty of tattoos, possible  piercings (best not to ask on what part of the body) and they are the hardworking proprietors of a downtown bar/restaurant themselves.   We brought them along to help us give us the necessary “cred”, and of course, to give them a break from caring for their patrons at the Football Factory and their 2 young boys.

I called for reservations about 10 days before, eager to show support our favourite chef and get our preferred time (early to bed grandsons, so early reservation).  Whoops…..  no room at 6pm.  No tables at 9:30 either. I was a little shocked for the moment actually, but should not have been surprised.  Toronto is currently undergoing a wave of Mexican food fascination, with hot spot tacquerias springing up downtown almost overnight.  Combine the latest food trend and the trendiest place in town, well, you can expect to sell out!

I was stymied, but Ben said, “Why not ask Joanie if she has Donnie’s personal email?”  So we emailed our good friend and she emailed another friend in San Miguel real estate, who emailed her contact, who emailed the entrepreneur and visionary founder of The Drake,  Jeff Stober,  who responded with the magic words, “I am out-of-town right now, but when I get back, I will contact the GM of the restaurant, and we will work something out”.  And he made it so. I cannot tell you if I was more impressed with his response time (same day) or his staff’s responsiveness (same hour).

Incredibly relieved (we had after all, already promised the kids a special night out with our special chef from San Miguel) we got tarted up (me in my sparkly Manolos and Ben with a purple silk poof in his black cashmere blazer:  we cannot do hip, but we can do swanky ) and headed to Toronto.  When we pulled up to The Drake, we realized, horrors, that we were at the wrong address! Drake One Fifty is at 150 Adelaide, not Queen West! We were mildly embarrassed at having been proven “uncool”, but were some what vindicated that even Pat and Chrissy, who live just off Queen West, had not realized that there was another location.

So, what does one say about Drake One Fifty?

The downtown extension of the Drake Hotel is an updated Parisian brasserie, with leather banquettes an elaborate trellis, and an oval bar that seems to be a hunting ground for cougars. TORONTO LIFE

It certainly reminded me of  days working in the financial district, when the after work crowd of  expense account financiers,  sitting at the bar at Canoe or Far Neinte downstairs, would swing around as one to quickly assess the incoming guests and then swing back with an almost audible sniff of dismissal. (How very uncool.)

Needless to say, our little band barely rated a second glance.   But who cares:  we got a big warm welcoming hug from the star of the evening, Donnie Masterton.  He came out to meet Pat and Chrissy, and later, we met our hero of the evening, Jeff Stober.  Donnie’s girlfriend Angela was there, looking stunning as usual.  Donnie mentioned eating at some of Toronto’s most interesting eateries:  Beast, The County General, Susur Lee’s latest, Bent.     I think that he was very impressed with the culinary scene in our city, and as much as I would have liked to ask him what were his favourite’s places,  what he thought of our food purveyors and product availability, and lastly,  what influences he was coming away with, I am hoping that we will see the results of this whirl wind tour of   Toronto on the menu in San Miguel.  He looked like a man inspired and was just taking it all in, absorbing and processing.

The food on Monday night was  wonderful:  I marvelled at how he coaxed that much flavour and tenderness out of the beef short ribs, and the Thai “pork carnitas” salad was just as good as in San Miguel.


And he is going to come back!   A special event, timing TBD,  is being planned for Jeff’s newest venue: The Drake Devonshire in Wellington Ontario.

An urban oasis in the country… will draw from the county’s richest traditions when it opens and provide a cultural hotspot just as accessible to the locals as to vacationers looking for a good time.” – GLOBE & MAIL

We don’t know when Donnie is returning, but trust me, when we do, we will reserve at least a month in advance!

Read Full Post »