Just got home from a delightful get together with my 'girls' at the new place to be in Bayview Village...'Origin North' (to distinguish it from all the other Origins that exist in different directions in this city, I guess). We have whined and dined on that very spot in the suburban parking lot in no fewer than two other restaurants, over the years, both of which have been demolished to make way for this modern new shrine to upscale eating. It's probably just as well, since no one wants to visit a buffet laden with cold salads and tuna pasta anymore, although one of my friends was kind of addicted to a melange they featured called, 'Ambrosia' in which Kraft miniature marshmallows are folded into cubes of brightly coloured Jello, whipped topping and canned fruit.
(There are still many recipes for this online if you feel nostalgic for the Old South).
There's no Ambrosia at Origin North. It's all new food, which is to say, tiny bits of edible matter formed into elegant sculptural forms presented on geometric white plates as, they suggest, 'kind of tapas for sharing'. This is all the rage in Toronto these days.....the opportunity to order several dishes and sample a range of goodies among friends and associates.
Now the logical supposition is that if the intention is to share dishes, then the portions should be sufficient enough to give everyone at least a bite, but logic is not the guiding principle here. So be warned, if you should decide to go, that you do have to order several dishes to constitute what used to be considered a meal. Everything is pretty and tasty but very expensive, given the ingredients and amounts.
Perhaps I should have stated my dining prejudices at the outset. The generosity and abundance typical of an Italian or Chinese meal, platters laden with fresh, high quality vegetables and delicious seafood and meats, is what I enjoy the most about eating in or out. I was brought up on Jewish cooking, with its tendency to 'gedempt' (ie. overcook) everything. No dinner plate was complete without at least three brownish items. I didn't know vegetables could be green till I was 20! Newly married, celebrating domesticity as a creative outlet, I quickly cottoned on to the delicacy of French cuisine as soon as I got my hands on Julia's premiere tome. Long before "Julie and Julia", and, come to think of it, blogging, I cooked my way through 'Mastering the Art' and the Time-Life series of international cookbooks.
My dinner parties were a hot invite. I've never turned back.
It seems to me that this new concept of toy food is designed, in more ways than one, for what we used to call 'picky eaters'.
For example, call me old fashioned, but I cannot live without a carb or two in my life, so I judge a restaurant, in part, by the quality of the bread it serves. When we asked for some bread at Origin, four slim, dry slivers of stale baguette arrived, almost as a reproach, two slices with burned grill marks, two unsinged. Very strange. No olive oil, no butter....since the restaurant is not exactly Italian, Asian or even North American, I guess it's having an condiment identity crisis.
As suggested, we 'shared' a few of their specialities. The duck tacos with hoisin and sour cream (two tiny tacos per order) were so-so for anyone who has experienced the wonder of Peking Duck in many of Toronto's Chinese restaurants (that would be me). Breaded calamari in a mixed slaw with a few chunks of pineapple and strips of ginger were pretty to look at but $15! Have you ever purchased fresh squid? It's practically free! The chocolate dessert, a fingerling-sized 'crunch bar', was good, beautifully presented with fresh (but not wild, in-season) blueberries and powdery crunchy stuff scattered on the plate. (This may be the detritus of the nitrogen-processing now in vogue....we saw a misty demonstration going on for a large business gathering across the room). I think I detected a teaspoon of some pink ice, too, but it was gone in two spoonfuls before my turn came and that was that!
The service was enthusiastic and friendly. A little too eager, perhaps. Dishes were removed before people had finished eating. Several times. I have a new pet peeve with restaurants. Plates should not be snatched away while some people at the table are still eating . Who wants to be the only one left with a half-finished plate in front of them? I asked our server if she was in a hurry to move our table, even though the restaurant wasn't full? She disclosed that they were told that lunch diners were in a hurry.....had to get back to work...
I assured her that after a lifetime of work, we were no longer in a hurry....we were there to enjoy each other's company, so she could take it easy.
Conversation was frustrated by the volume of 'house' music chosen to drown out all attempts at it. As the room filled, the noise increased to an unpleasant level...our server was forced to scream at us when describing dessert options. One of our party, a lovely woman who apparently doesn't get out much anymore, commented....a few times, till she was heard, that it all reminded her of being in a 'disco'.
The pretty young waitress had no idea what she was talking about.
Did I mention that all the employees were gorgeous? Even the chefs....who are on full and adorable display. This is not meant to be a criticism, just an observation.
Just wondering what the hiring process must be like, though.
On behalf of my readers, I visited the Ladies Room to inspect the facilities. I needed to turn on the flashlight App on my iPhone to see where I was going. (I am nothing if not current and well equipped). My immediate impression was that this room had to have been designed by a man. (A man with little knowledge a lady's bathroom requirements). Besides the dim, romantic lighting, there was no place to put your purse near the mirrored wall if you, say, wanted to comb your bangs or apply a little lip gloss. The whimsical trough/fountain, standing sculpturally, in the centre of the room took me right back to Junior High. Remember those sinks where you have to step on a bar near the floor to generate a little shpritz from a circular spray arm? And your purse falls off your shoulder into the basin below?
There is an attractive website and many reviews online, and at various foodie blogs, praising less faintly than mine. Some diners were more miserable and disappointed than I was, some happier. I do notice, co-incidentally, that the highest praises are being sung by the fortunate few who acknowledge that they were invited to the 'opening party', where they were plied with abundant food and drinks for free and, therefore, had a more reciprocal obligation to be complimentary. It is on those sites where you can gape at colourful shots of the various offerings, so I'm not adding pictures today.
Unfortunately, I didn't bring my telephoto lens.
Besides, with a quartet of hungry diners, there wasn't enough time to position a camera before the plates were cleaned! (And whisked away!)