100 Cumberland St.
Located in the heart of Yorkville, Sassafraz stands out from the rest of the buildings on the block and is easily recognizable as the yellow house right on the corner of Cumberland and Bellair.
I went to Sassafraz last year for Summerlicious and was really impressed with everything overall and the food tasted great. I didn’t get a chance to do a review so I decided to revisit the restaurant again this year, but sadly the food was not up to par. Patrons still get to experience the wonderful ambiance that the indoor waterfall and atrium at the back of the restaurant provides, but for $45 the value just wasn’t there this time around.
The service was decent, but nothing exceptional. I found it to be a little slow at times and the wait staff was slightly unorganized. Although friendly with the appearance of being professional, the service was not as smooth as you would expect from a top dollar Summerlicious restaurant.
Confit Pork Belly. This was my appetizer which came on a bed of stewed tomatoes, escarole and garlic chips. It was a very westernized take on pork belly, a context which I have never experienced. I am used to eating Korean style pork belly, which was very different. This dish was very good. The skin on the pork belly was nice and crispy, housing a beautifully cooked inside which went well with the stewed tomatoes. Because pork belly is so heavy, I really enjoyed the pairing with the stewed tomatoes and the escarole tossed in a light vinaigrette. It created a well needed balance.
Pan Seared Scallops. With roasted spinach, almond slivers and a sherry gastrique. This was another one of the appetizers offered on the Summerlicious menu. It was also very good. The sweetness of the sherry reduction tamed that very distinct bitterness from the spinach and together created a very nice pairing with the pan seared scallops, which were cooked to perfection.
Vichyssoise with Lobster and Truffle Essence. I’m not a big fan of chilled soups, but although I didn’t get a chance to try this dish, it was very enjoyable from what I was told.
All of the appetizers we sampled were delicious so I had high hopes for the rest of the dinner going into the main courses. Unfortunately, this is where everything started to fall apart. I don’t have many good things to say about the main dishes or the dessert.
Braised Lamb Shank. This was my main course which came on a bed of roasted garlic sweet potato mash, asparagus and a sweet apple cider glaze. When reading the menu online for the first time, I was immediately drawn to the different levels and components of this dish. I am a big fan of pairing apple with meats like lamb and pork so I had to get this. Unfortunately, I was wrong about it and the execution of all these flavours did not come out as I expected. The lamb was very dry and the dish was overly sweet. The sweet potato mash did not have any roasted garlic flavour and when soaked in the apple cider glaze at the bottom, the sweetness overload took away from the natural flavours of the lamb.
10oz New York Striploin. Grilled and served with Ontario peas and foie gras mash. Similar to the lamb, I found the steak to be a little on the dry side. The foie gras mash was delicious, but was still unable to compensate for the poorly cooked Striploin. This dish was very bland overall.
Seared Swordfish. This was the only main course that I enjoyed thoroughly. It was served with a lemon caper orzo, green beans and blood orange emulsion. The swordfish was seared to perfection. A beautiful flaky piece of fish that was cooked in a way that allowed the rich flavours come through. The lemon caper orzo was delicious and complimented the swordfish nicely. It was very buttery and the hint of lemon heightened the freshness of the fish.
Chocolate Brownie. Served with brandied cherries, Chantilly cream and an amaretto reduction. I don’t have much to say about this dessert other than the fact that it was overly sweet.
Banana Cream Tart. Served with toasted coconut cream and a mango sherbet. This was not very good at all. The tart was rock hard and you could barely get through eating it. The pairing with the coconut cream and mango sherbet wasn’t very good either as they all have very strong contrasting flavours that did not come together well.
The dishes at this year’s Summerlicious at Sassafraz are a hit or miss. Some things I enjoyed a lot, but for the most part I was disappointed with the way the food came out. Perhaps I am a little bias from the reminiscence of last year, but either way for $45, I think patrons can expect a little bit more.