Joanna's take on...Table 17
*Editor's Note: Table 17 is now closed, but Joanna's take is still relevant! Read below.
This restaurant review stuff is hard. On one hand I want to be totally honest with you and I am and then again so is the restaurant but sometimes I wonder if I get the same service and experience as everyone. This is not because I am any where near special; it is more because people in the industry know each other. When I write about the places I think you will enjoy I try and do places that have been around for a while or have owners who are experienced restaurateurs. I don’t want the place I write about to disappear to quickly.
This is why I chose to write about Table 17. This is a very cool, intimate place in the heart of Leslieville. I think it may be 2 old storefronts opened up because you walk in and there is a wicked upstairs private dining room. You are greeted by awesome Mr. Mike behind the bar and a few tables in the window, walk to the other side and there are nicely spaced tables with a lovely harvest table dead center to house clean linens, cutlery and Bonjour Brioche chewy, crusty dense loaves. Slices of this divine loaf will be brought to you with killer cocktails and the house olive oil, which I happen to love. Good, grassy stuff with a sharp bit and full of olivey flavour.
Let’s get back to Mr. Mike, as I like to call him. Mike is without a doubt a fixture in the Toronto food scene. I first met Mike at the late Michael Carlevale’s Black and Blue in Yorkville. He is incredibly artistic and musical and is what Europe calls a professional waiter and he is now the creator and master of the bar here at Table 17.
One of my many nights in question, I have been eating here since they opened about 7 years ago now I began with one of my favourite cocktails. I know it is gin and I do hope you realize I take drinkers of all sorts with me just so you can also hear about others. See how hard I try for you guys? My cocktail of addiction is The Tendulkar. Now, this drink has quite the story so get ready. It was named after Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, a very famous Indian cricket player who hailed, at that time from Bombay. That is where the Bombay Sapphire comes in. This all may be Gavin Holmes fault. Gavin now is partners with Table 17 owners John Sinopoli and Erik Joyal in this crazy cool dive bar named HiLo across the street. Getting back to the cocktail.
Gavin is English and hence the cricket connotation. So, this Tendulkar has gin, and Indian herbs like coriander, basil, mint and fresh lemon simple syrup. Purely perfect. My partner in this expedition, aka my eldest had Mr. Mike test out a new spring creation called Mike’s Mad Man. This will be incredible in a few weeks with local Ontario strawberries. It is a funky play on a daiquiri with pureed fresh berries, Bacardi rum, kicking it old school and adding the new school with Dillon’s Lime Bitters and lime simply syrup. Needless to say it is a very pretty, well-balanced drink.
The menu changes a lot here. It changes with the seasons quite a bit and also when something inspires either owner-chef John S. or his chef de cuisine Joe Agostino. Now, a 2 second aside, all the staff has been working here for long periods of time and they do their best to move staff up and give incredible opportunities. In a business like the restaurant industry that is really phenomenal. David is the general manager and a great guy. I seriously think we met in his first few weeks as a waiter. Erik, business head and owner must have seen something in this scruff dude because in the years I have watch Dave grow and flourish.
Joe is a fabulous chef and in quite in sync with John’s basic style and then runs with dishes. One of the very cool things Dave said to us when chatting about the people and the place was; “Everyone here has the ability to learn as much as teach one another.” So a line cook helped Joe master a pork belly technique and so on. Super cool in my books and obviously part of the reason for their longevity.
Onto great eats; now one thing you must know about us is we like to grab a lot of flavours and dishes so many times we will eat few mains so we can get say, 6 appetizers. We love to share so this is easy for us. Right now the spring menu is getting under way and we had some very tough decisions but we straightened our shoulders, threw our heads back and did what we had to do; ordered dinner.
I was dying for the fried artichokes with roasted orange and mint mayo but other things seemed more complex and therefore once again for you all I ignored my own personal wants. I know my angel wings are crooked.
We did get the Crab Salad, this was a very refreshing dish of Blue Crab, salt baked celery root disks, sous vide compressed Granny Smith apples, a lovely herb salad with chervil and tarragon with a very light black truffle vinaigrette. This is one of those dishes with such incredibly classic French flavour pairings. Next up was Carrot Salad. My eldest hates carrots any way except when her mother makes them and now when John and Joe do. This salad was a stunner with roasted and pickled heirloom, rainbow carrots, Italian creamy Burrata, sea asparagus that added a nice grassy, salty kick, Marcona almond crunch and a rich carrot vinaigrette. My very tine suggestion would be to gentle down the pickling solution as it is quite puckering and I lost a bit of nuance from the roasted veg.
This one I did for me, I had to, this food will be my last supper. I discovered it when I went to the South of France to work at 19 and have never looked back. Foie Gras Torchon when made well and it is perfect here is a thing of sublime beauty. Served with a great background group of; Jerusalem artichoke puree, hazelnut streusel and cherry Bourbon gastrique with whole cherries the balance was perfect. The buttery toasted brioche rocked out too.
A must every time I come here is the Polenta Abruzzese. Now, I always thought this was a dish from Napoli as the very first time I had it was in the basement kitchen of a Neapolitan family. This is the coolest presentation ever. Let me tell you about when I first had this. It was years ago now and there were at least 10 of us at the table. Over the actual table was a huge wooden board that was the size of the table. My friends Mom who was 5 feet in socks lifted from the stove the biggest pot I had ever seen. She hoisted it onto the table, bent it over and out poured a lava of polenta that we were instructed to spread evenly over the entire table. Next came another pot, these had to weigh at least 50 pounds with boiling hot ingredients inside. This one had the sugo, which was, of course, their own tomatoes and sausage as well as pork ribs and hunks of stewing beef. The same thing again, dump and then spread over the table. You then added your own cheese and chilies and created a “plate” which was your area to eat from.
When I first saw this at Table 17 my heart filled with joy. It is such a fun delicious dish. You are presented with a small wooden board of creamy polenta and then chef comes out with a sugo of the day in a tiny copper pot and proceeds to pour it over the polenta. Mountains of cheese are grated over top and then the chilies and you sprinkle appropriate herbs. The whole thing becomes a shared mess of yum.
We decided at this point that if we were even going to taste one little sweet then we needed to call it a day on dinner. I have raised children with serious gourmet cheese palates and they are addicted to bleu. Often they will by pass dessert for cheese. Me, not so much I want both. My kids will often drop in at Table 17 solely for the cheese platters. Tonight because we were 2 my eldest had had an incredible bleu and wanted it again. This is a Tiger Bleu out of B.C. and it was served with delicious honeycomb and tart refreshing green apple. A little sliced baguette and she was in heaven.
Ever since I went to Sicily a few year back I am in love with all things pistachio so when I saw a buttery tart filled with pistachios and honey I just had to have it. The cardamom crème Anglaise and Cointreau whip cream was not too tough to eat.
Friends of my eldest saw us in the window and came just in time for these last few treats and vowed to return to Table 17 again soon they were so pleased.
Needless to say, you may find me here when you come by. Say hi to John, Erik, Dave, Mr. Mike, Joe and all the great crew. I am sure you too will be back.
Please let me know if you do go and always let me know your thoughts and how I can improve for your reading pleasure.
782 Queen Street E