Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 401 King Street West
Time of visit: Dinner on a Friday in February
Wanting to have a ladies' night out, we decided to try Bloke and 4th's Winterlicious, knowing the food would not be excellent but at least we'd be in a lounge for drinks afterwards. But, little did we know, numerous service issues would materialize:
- The day before our dinner, my friend receives an Open Table notification noting Bloke has cancelled our reservation. She has to call in to remake the reservation.
- On the night of the dinner we call in to reduce the reservation by one person. During this time, we ask if we can change our reservation to a later time, which the person on the phone agrees to. However, they didn't update the system so upon arriving, we're advised we are late. Luckily, there are empty tables so they seat us anyways.
- It takes a while to get our first round of drinks (about 25 minutes). Upon arrival, our waiter proceeds to pour it into a glass that has a lip stick stain on it. To his credit, he does apologize for this, exchanges the glass and opens another bottle to make up for what was already poured into this dirty glass.
- We wanted to try to PB and J Bombs for dessert, but they are all out for the night. We're given a vague explanation of the chef having to limit this dessert. Honestly, the key ingredients are peanut butter, jam and Cornflakes - all inexpensive ingredients that have long shelf lives. There really is no excuse to be stocking out of the dish, especially if on the Winterlicious menu there is only three choices. At the very least, Bloke's should have offered another substitution that is off the menu.
- Our mains arrive before the appetizers. After informing the server of this error, he has to "go check with the kitchen". Upon returning he agrees that the mains were premature. Instead of just apologizing, he tries to explain that the mix-up is not the waiter's fault but is the kitchen's error. As customers, we don't care, every employee of a restaurant is one team and blaming each other in front of customers is unprofessional.
- Nonetheless, what the server did do right is immediately notify the manager who came to our table. Indeed it was great the manager apologized for the mix-up and after some prodding offered us another bottle of prosecco on the house. They try to be generous and also give us a complimentary order of duck fat French fries. But, the fries were horridly stale and hard. At that point, we were so hungry, we ate some anyways.
My "appetizer" was the fire roasted tiger shrimp and was my favourite dish. The shrimp were cooked perfectly and had many great flavours & textures complimenting it. I like the hot sweet and spicy sauce brushed onto the shrimp and the accompanying cool corn, avocado and pineapple (?) relish. The chips in the middle were elephant garlic chips which were interesting and tasted less like garlic and more like carrots or yams.
For the "main" my friend and I share the Bangkok slaw and Bloke & 4th mac and cheese. Both were surprisingly small for a main dish:
- The Bangkok slaw consists of a handful of Asian dressing coleslaw, topped with one slice of seared tuna and about four pieces of calamari. Each part of the dish tasted good, the coleslaw well dressed, refreshing and paired nicely with the warm seared tuna. The calamari was tender and not over cooked. I just wished there was more of it! If I had come during their regular dinner hours and paid $26 for this dish I would be disappointed in its value.
- The mac & cheese came in small Corning ware dish (in picture actually just a portion scooped onto a plate). The pasta was cheesy and had a hint of spice from the chili sauce mixed into it. But, compared to the numerous upscale mac and cheese dishes available across Toronto (O&B Cafe and Tundra just to name a couple) it was nothing spectacular.
For dessert I opted for the molten lava cheese cake, a big disappointment when I had my hopes set on the deep fried peanut butter and jelly concoction. Sadly, Blokes needs to invest in hiring a pastry chef or consider outsourcing their desserts. The dessert tasted like something I could make at home with store bought molten lava cake mix stuffed with a piece of frozen cheese cake. Even the salted caramel and bourbon sauce didn't help improve its caliber.
Overall, the food actually tastes pretty good. Nonetheless, I will not return for dinner given Bloke appears to have problems with executing dinner service. There needs to be someone responsible for quality control from what comes out of the kitchen and how drinks are served. Something as simple as checking all the utensils and dinnerware to ensure they are clean before using is easy to implement. I appreciate the manager tried to resolve the issues by giving us two bottles of prosecco for free. However, this isn't a profitable business model to follow - giving away the highest margin items.
Is Winterlicious worth it?
As a special feature to the Winterlicious blogs, I will attempt to calculate the savings being offered (based on my meal selection).
Winterlicious - $35
Regular menu - $52 - tiger shrimp ($18), Bangkok slaw ($26) and lava cake* ($8)
Savings - $17 or 33%
* The lava cake isn't on their regular menu; prices based on similar dish
Overall mark - 5.5* out of 10
* What saved the restaurant was having the manager step in quickly and providing enough complimentary items to make up for all the things that went wrong. Otherwise, it would have likely gotten a 3.
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Gastro World's Grading System
- Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
- 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
- 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
- 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
- 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
- 10 - absolute perfection!