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Williamsville, New York
November 25, 2003
My wife and I were at a function in Toronto and decided to stay overnight the day we drove up. We stayed at the Toronto Hilton, and Tundra is the restaurant just off the lobby. We arrived back at the hotel at about 8:30pm, starving, and not looking to go far for a meal. At that time, business at Tundra was winding down and we easily secured a table, but during prime-time reservations are recommended.
The dining area is thinly partitioned with wood walls from the lobby (which can be loud and echo-y) and is towered over by cone pillars of lights, which adds a funky groove.
Tables are small, dark and intimate but somewhat close-set, with white linens (adorned with a small rock at each setting) and comfortable one-armed chairs.
The food is uniquely Canadian, featuring game meats and an exclusively Canadian wine list - a nice touch that can force a wine lover a little outside the comfort envelope.
Being adventurous diners, we looked forward to this change of pace. As it was late, we did not have an appetizer, but a basket of breads was brought to the table with a carrot wasabi puree spread to start. These are breads well worth blowing your low-carb diet on for a day!
On the menu, what caught our eyes and taste buds were a bison steak in a maple/bourbon reduction sauce with smashed fingerlings and autumn vegetables, and a red deer loin with a corn and squash bread pudding and wild berry and chestnut compote. Presentation on the white china was artful, but not fussy. Not your standard fare, and both were very nicely done.
The wine we had chosen, a Niagara peninsula meritage, was not in stock after we had ordered it, so they courteously upgraded us to another meritage of greater value but at the price of the chosen bottle. The sommelier came over to explain personally, which we thought was an unnecessary, but professional, gesture.
As mentioned, being off the lobby and just partitioned, it tended to be a bit loud, but in Toronto, it is all about the scene, so if you can get past that, you'll enjoy yourself. The service was prompt and professional, if not a tad chatty.
If you are looking for a different tack for dinner and are open to a little native fare, Tundra can be a very rewarding experience!
See their website at Tundra at the Toronto Hilton
From journal Americans who LOVE Toronto!
November 19, 2003
Touting itself as a quintessentially Canadian dining experience, we were probably anticipating the restaurant itself even more than the food as we had heard and read much about the II by IV decor, which claimed to take its design cues from the Canadian wilderness. This turned out to be a little disappointing. Although it has interesting lines and a good use of light (for the most part), the emphasis seemed to be on the sometimes unforgiving nature of the Canadian landscape and not on the expanse, the warmth or the beauty of the country.
Service was adequate; we got the feeling that the waiter was none too happy about the restaurant's participation in Summerlicious, but he seemed to warm up to us by the main course.
Despite our disappointing first impressions of the presentation of the restaurant, the presentation of the food was delightful. Often from the "tower" school of delivery, the presentation gave height and breadth to the perfectly sized portions. The starter (tuna Nicoise) and the main (crispy skin grain fed chicken supreme, summer vegetables brunoise, Yukon gold potato rosti and herb sauce) were delicious and full of contrasting flavour that quickly redeemed the absence of warmth in the space. In reflection of their claims to the meal as quintessentially Canadian, we could not sense anything that made it particularly Canadian. In any other restaurant, I would have called the meal European fusion.
In the end, the food was excellent, both in taste and design, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a very good dinner, especially since Tundra seems to have extended a prix fixe menu beyond Summerlicious at a price of $35. However, I wouldn't call Tundra the best overall restaurant the city has to offer.
Website (with menus): http://www.toronto.com/infosite/311649/1.shtml
From journal Trawna