And so it continues… my food adventures in Toronto’s two-week long Summer Food Festival: Summerlicious.
For my second stop, in my five-stop itinerary, I went to Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill for another seafood-filled lunch with the family. As with my previous Summerlicious review, here are some stats on Starfish, before I begin my review (courtesy of Google):
- Sun 12-10pm
- Mon 12-10pm
- Tue 12-10pm
- Wed 12-10pm
- Thurs 12-10pm
- Fri 12-10pm
- Sat 12-10pm
Zagat Rating: 25/30
I confess! My love for seafood runs deep. And this is perhaps the reason why I have scheduled seafood restaurants back-to-back on my 5-stop summerlicious gastro-tour. Although seafood remains the star of the show, my latest stop at Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill, was a stark contrast to the prim-and-proper Chiado. Personally, I preferred Starfish’s casual, bistro-style dining experience to Chiado’s formal dining. From the rustic brick walls, to the blackboard oyster menu , Starfish reminded me of the many happy memories spent in San Francisco’s oyster bars.
Starfish’s food stays true to the bistro’s atmosphere: genuine, straight-forward, good food. And I mean GOOOOD food. Starfish knows their seafood, stocks the freshest ingredients, and lets their seafood speak for themselves.
Dining with the family has its perks. Case in point, our party made sure we ordered one of each dish, so that we can sample the entire menu. For the appetizer, I highly recommend the Green Gables Oysters. Those sweet briny bites of ocean is what makes people rave about Starfish, one of the few restaurants in Toronto that procures such a great variety of oysters around the world. Although I only eat oysters on the half shell as-is (or with a squirt of lemon juice), I did try the cocktail sauce on its own, and it was absolutely delectable!!!
A good alternative appetizer -for those who don’t eat oysters- is the smoked salmon, which pairs wonderfully with the sweet and tangy pickled kohlrabi and scallion slaw.
The fish cakes were nicely crisped, but I didn’t feel it was anything special.
All the mains were excellent. I was especially surprised by the pan-seared salmon, since it seemed somewhat boring. But boy was I wrong! The salmon skin was crisped to a perfection, while keeping the tender, succulent fish a beautiful pink in the middle. The fried brussel leaves added a textural diversity to the dish, while the smoked bacon lardon incorporated a burst of the dark, smokery, savory kick that comes with smoked meats. While the efforts of the brussel leaves and bacon is commendable, the award for Best Supporting Role in a Delicious Fish Entree goes to the beautifully prepared piquillo sauce: where the sweet, smoky brightness of the piquillo peppers melded seamlessly with the salmon, and tied in the other components of the dish. (I apologize for the out-of-focused photo, I was too keen on digging in).
As with the salmon, the pickerel was perfectly seasoned, with a crisp skin and tender meat. The barley risotto was a welcoming addition to the pickerel, bringing a rustic earthiness to the dish. Having said that, this dish paled in comparison to the salmon.
If you are going with friends, make sure one of you orders the steamed mussels. A colossal dish of molluscs swimming happily in a provencal broth, infused with a subtle star anise flavour from the tarragon. This dish comes with a big portion of fries, which is a show stopper on its own.
I paired this meal with a pint of Foundry Cider. I have been informed that I have spent an extended period of time living under a rock, because I haven’t heard of this cider before. But if you are like me, and haven’t tried this specific cider, I URGE YOU TO TRY!!! It is, one of the most full-bodied ciders I have had, with a crisp apple flavour, and the perfect sweetness to go with the meal. Just look at that beautiful gold! Mmmmmm….
Now onto desserts. For all the sweet-tooths out there, don’t miss out Starfish’s stunning rendition of the British classic: the Sticky Toffee Pudding (or the STP). This dessert is a must-have if you enjoy sweet desserts (be warned it IS sweet, albeit less sweet than many versions of STPs out there). Imagine biting into a a syrup-soaked cakey pudding, with the rich butteriness of the toffee and cream sauce.
For those who don’t like overly sweet desserts, the berry crumble with frozen creme chantilly is a good pick. Yes, creme chantilly is just a fancy schmancy way of calling whipped cream, and berry crumble with whipped cream doesn’t sound all THAT special. But it is an interesting and light dessert, and freezing the cream gives the whipped cream an added lightness to it: think airy frozen yogurt.
And then there’s the brownie- moist, chocolaty and oh-so-nice when paired with the cherry sauce.
($20 lunch or $35 dinner – same menu)
Green Gables Oysters (4)
Pride of PEI, mignonette and cocktail sauce
Smoked Atlantic salmon with a pickled kohlrabi and scallion slaw
House smoked haddock fishcakes with roasted baby beets, pickled french beans & sweet onion jam
Steamed P.E.I mussels in a Provencal broth with fresh herbs, fennel and onions, Starfish frites & house aioli
Pan seared salmon with a butternut hash, house smoked bacon lardons and fried brussels leaves with a piquillo sauce
Pickerel on barley risotto with pesto, tomato & shrimp
THE STP – Sticky Toffee Pudding
Chilled berry crumble with frozen creme chantilly
Starfish 3-bite brownie, white chocolate ganache with a drunken cherry glaze