We get to go and taste new menus at different restaurants all the time, often the smaller, more intimate eateries. But when I got an invite to head to Earls test kitchen out of their Vaughan location – yes, you read that right, VAUGHAN! – I had to hitch up everyone’s fave Brit, Sam, and make the trek. Earls may be a chain, but they take their food to the next level. Sam and I were among a group of foodies who were treated to a four-course tasting of their Spring menu…a nice anticipation of the warm weather to come in the dead of winter!
They kept us hydrated with red wine, apparently they’ve heard about when Sam and I hit the town. And then sent out some beautiful dishes that were so fresh and carefully prepped. And the bread! Made in-house daily and oh-so-good. Earls Executive Chef Ibrahim Tams filled us in on the restaurant’s commitment and focus on doing as much as they can fresh and ‘homemade’, and it shows.
We started with our favourite enemy, the bread. Ciabatta, focaccia, and brioche. So good! Then the fish tacos came out – which are so fresh with mango and avocado salsa over grilled Oahu white fish, tasted very Caribbean, and I loved that they weren’t deep fried like most everywhere else. The mini meatball sliders were my personal favourite. The meatball was made with provolone, ground chuck and chorizo and served on freshly-baked brioche…sinful and delicious.
Next up was a trio of pasta – more carbs! The spaghetti with tomato basil sauce and grilled chicken was simple but really good. The lobster gnocchi – which EVERYONE loved – had a rose sauce and pea shoots. The gnocchi were huge and cooked perfectly and the lobster chunks were huge, a really well blended dish. I personally loved the linguine with seafood, asparagus, and lemon. The flavours blended perfectly and it was really light for a pasta – with fresh crab, shrimp, lemon rind for zest, and a very light cream sauce.
At first we weren’t very excited that a chicken dish was the main, but then we saw it and realized this was no standard fare. Roasted chicken with smashed potato, BBQ grilled veggies like red onion and peppers with a dollop of sour cream, a white wine sauce that was very dijon heavy. The sweetness of the veggies blended really well with the chicken and sauce. It was obviously Sam’s favourite of the night – meat and veg, of course.
The dinner ended with Earls take on a chocolate and peanut butter cup. It was like a Reese’s mousse. So delish! And the homemade chocolate and vanilla gelato…with salted caramel sauce…Let’s just say I had a very visceral reaction…in a very good way!
All we could think as we were leaving is that Earls manages to take the chain restaurant idea to a completely different realm. Everything was so fresh and it was really surprising how much care they put into everything. I think everyone should go and test out these new dishes…even if it means a trek out to Vaughan, or going downtown to the King Street location once the new menu launches. Watch the video for Sam’s and my running commentary and to see the dishes…and of course, get a peek at the vibe.
Earls Restaurants | 40 Collosus Drive, Woodbridge Vaughan | 150 King Street West, downtown Toronto