Maybe it’s my lack of ability to forget the past at times, but generally when I’ve been left with a less than stellar meal at your average restaurant, you won’t ever find me back there again. Not that I’d actually ever been to Earls King Street – the Toronto flagship location for the longstanding restaurant chain – but after my time living out in Whistler and eating at Earls on the West side of Canada (granted it was several years ago) I didn’t think I needed to. Well, as I often am, I was proven wrong the other night.
Not only should I have ventured towards the intimately (and sustainably) designed, well laid out lair that is Earls on King Street sooner, but you will likely see me back there before long.
Before speaking with Executive Chef Richard Baksh, I wouldn’t have known, let alone thought, that Earls had things like a fresh bread program, a commitment to house-made condiments like their pickles and their marinades, or that they personally source all of their meat and butcher everything in house. Not only was this news to me, but it was seriously good news.
Before tasting Leroy’s Crispy Dry Ribs I wouldn’t have expected that the menu item that was first introduced back in the 80s would have been secretly stocked and ordered by figureheads such as the Ontario Premiere (I won’t say which one) long after it was removed.
Upon first glance of a beef carpaccio on a menu that isn’t Italian I would have been so rife with skepticism that it would have never graced my palate. Yet, I learned that all of their AAA Certified Angus Beef is aged and trimmed in house… and what’s more, the carpaccio was paper thin, seasoned with a nice pepper crust, and meant to emulate their take on steak and eggs, with a hellishly good deviled egg. Oh, and it came with freshly baked bread. Nice touch.
Yeah, I sipped my Signature Caesar with touches of citrus and the salty snap of pickle brine and tried to pretend it wasn’t one of the best I’d ever had. I also attempted to ignore my propensity for caring-less about a cocktail while sampling the Moscow Mule. Problem is, when you’ve got Daniel Boulud-trained Beverage Development Director Cameron Bogue making it with house made ginger syrup, it’s kind of hard to scoff at.
But, their lobster and prawn roll couldn’t be good, right?! A brioche shaped like a hot dog bun? Fooey! Butter and lime poached seafood – cant be done well! Again, I was wrong. Oh so wrong…
Alas, though now I know about their beef program, I still couldn’t believe they could make me go bravo for their steak. Just because they age it for 28 days and hand cut the stuff, that couldn’t guarantee its tenderness. Just because they wet rub and marinade these guys in fresh herbs, spices and other savoury secrets for a whole day doesn’t ensure an extraordinary flavour…
…Did I say I’ve been wrong before?
By this point in the meal I was tired of doubting. It was on to dessert, and despite my laissez-faire attitude towards a sweet ending to a meal, I dug into my seasonal crumble packed with fresh pieces of strawberry and rhubarb, topped with vanilla bean gelato flown in three times weekly from Vancouver (because apparently it’s the best there), and expected nothing but excellence. The vibrant tartness of the berries melded perfectly with the sweet, creamy and cooling gelato, and the crisp ground almond crumble was just oh so good.
After all that, it felt nice to be right about something.