Restaurant review: Essen

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It’s been a while since hubs and I have dined out, so last night we decided to pick a restaurant. I did a quick search for some of the top places, but of course none of them had seatings. I had tried Bar Isabel, Yasu, Bent, Harbord Room, Branca, and Richmond Station. I gave up, knowing that all of the best would require reservations weeks in advance. Quinta came to mind. It was underrated and I was willing to see what was on their menu, but I discovered that the owner closed it down and reopened it as Essen. I’m going to be honest, it didn’t sound exquisite, but after looking at their menu, I could pick out a few things that I’d be willing to eat. I tried to make an online reservation, but it displayed no availability, so I called. Scored a table!

The interior is still reminiscent of Quinta. It was somewhat busy, but not full. The format allows you to choose from a prix fixe menu ($25 per person), or you can choose a number of share plates from their menu, or you can choose an entrée if you aren’t up for sharing. Obviously the most economical option would be to do the prix fixe menu. It starts with an appetizer platter, consisting of humus, chickpea salad, bean salad, and brine pickled carrots and greens.

essen-appetizer-platter

Be prepared for some serious garlic and onion breath! We did manage to polish off each of the bowls.

The main, which included roasted carrots, cauliflower, red cabbage, chopped salad with your choice of mashed potato or pearl couscous. The meat would be your choice of albacore tuna loin, falafel platter, or schnitzel, or for an extra $6 per person, you could select roast muscovy duck breast or braised beef brisket. Finally the meal would end with a dessert plate. We opted for the duck breast with currant jus as our meat.

essen-fixed-menu

The dessert plate included all of the desserts on their menu: Nechama’s strudel, rugelach, coconut wafer, apple cake with vanilla ice cream, and deep fried puff pastry with pomegranate molasses and halva.

With two glasses of the Cave Springs Dolomite Pinot ($11 per glass), our meal came to $94.92. To be honest, I found this to be an expensive meal for what we got. As hubs and I were eating the main dish, I leaned over and told him that I felt like we were eating a home-cooked meal. It was good, but let’s be honest, I could have produced something similar at home. In fact, I do roast carrots and cauliflower at home. We do include duck breast in our dinner rotations, which hubs does a perfect job of searing. We don’t use currants, which was a nice touch. I used to make couscous more often, but I’ve switched to quinoa or barely or farro.

Maybe I should have tried the Jewish Ramen. The picture in the Toronto Life review looks delish; however, we had had noodles for lunch so I didn’t think to order it for dinner.

I’m don’t have intentions of returning to Essen. When I go out for a meal, I want something exquisite and interesting. I want to anticipate my next visit, and the different dishes I will try. I definitely don’t mind comforting and home style, but the price should reflect the simpleness.

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