It happened one week ago today. A family Summerlicious dinner. As we do every year, my family and I get together to try out new restaurants around Toronto.
Not new on the scene necessarily, but new to us. Restaurants that we wouldn’t normally think to visit for just any old meal. Maybe it’s a formal spot, or features a cuisine not entirely familiar. Sometimes it’s a place in a difficult location (as we’re coming together from different places across the GTA). Whatever the reason, we look forward to Summerlicious and Winterlicious times of year to take advantage of the prix fix menus and experimental vibe of this biannual celebration.
One place on our “we should really try that sometime” list was Centro. Centro has been a fixture of the Toronto restaurant scene since the late 80’s. In fact, this is their 25th anniversary year, and they are pulling out all the stops, including playing host to an Alumni Chef Dinner Series and maintaining a strong social media relationship with their patrons and fans.
I must admit, when I first told friends about my upcoming plans, most had never visited themselves, or had heard fine but not amazing reviews. But Summerlicious is all about trying new things and taking a chance, so off we went.
As we entered I was surprised by soaring ceilings and the overall grandeur of the space. Not at all what I had imagined from the exterior view. We were warmly greeted and immediately shown to our table.
The main dining area was fully booked when we arrived, and everyone seemed happy to linger long after desserts were done. The room carried a delightful energy that just added to the excitement of a special night out. Now, what to order?!
Luckily all three of us ordered different dishes so we had an opportunity to sample each. Is there anything better than sharing food off some one else’s fork?
First up were the appetizers:
Charred Scallop Ceviche, Braised Pork Belly, Smoked Eggplant Gnocchi (not pictured)–we were off to a great start!
My ceviche was firm, fresh, and the heat from the radish and poblanos was exciting. The crispy shredded potato was the perfect finish. Mum’s gnocchi was delightfully rich as expected and Bro’s pork belly was salty-sweet and satisfying.
Then our mains:
Mum’s trout was light, nicely paired with bright, fresh pea puree and all presented beautifully on the plate. Bro and I chose the roasted striploin served with a decadent bacon potato gratin, creamy and filling, reminiscent of homemade scalloped potatoes from my childhood.
As if the two first courses weren’t enough, now it was time for the best part: Dessert!
Mum’s macaron sandwich was rich and tart, and was plated with deep pink-red cherry sorbet (gastrique). The texture of the macaron was slightly tougher than it should’ve been. But overall Mum was pleased.
Bro’s Mango Parfait was light, refreshing and the perfect end to our meal.
I tasted my first-ever panna cotta (I know, can you believe it?) which was creamy and not at all Jello-like as I had expected (hence the reason I had never tried panna cotta before). The feuillitine was sweet and crispy and I really enjoyed the peach white chocolate mousse.
Centro prides itself on consistency and longevity. This was translated to its patrons as a formal yet enjoyable experience, not at all stuffy. It’s long-tenured employees were adept and proud, not tired. It’s food classic with a locally sourced, in-season focus.
While we enjoyed the buzz of the main dining room, a small group of patrons were enjoying the cosy piano bar tucked at the bottom of the stairs. It looks like a perfect little spot to hide out in during the cold winter months. They also offer private dining areas for special events.
Centro’s Summerlicious Menu is priced at $35/person. When they heard of our impending visit, they welcomed us warmly and were kind enough to sweeten the deal further by treating us to a few lovely extras. Special thanks to Jeremy and our kind waiter for looking after us, and to Carolyn for her behind-the-scenes support and engagement.