New reviews: Stock, Banh Mi Boys and Bestellen
A big-ticket steak house, banh mi to queue for and a scenester meat shrine
Trump Hotel, 325 Bay St., 416-637-5550
Most hotel dining rooms are conventional and quiet—depressing, even—but the restaurant on the 31st floor of the Trump Tower hums with captains-of-industry energy. Wealthy travellers gawk at the view, stockbrokers knock back $50 glasses of Tignanello, and Harry Rosen suits abound, including, on the night we visited, one worn by Harry Rosen himself. A dollar sign replaces the S in Stock’s logo, and there’s truth in advertising. The wine list starts at $50, and a $20 manhattan would be easier to swallow if it weren’t bludgeoned with bitters. Chef Todd Clarmo comes from the Oliver and Bonacini franchise and dishes up hit-and-miss steak house fare. The thick New York strip is tender; the crispy frites alongside come with a fabulous truffle aïoli. The lobster chunks in a salad, however, range from sweet and tender to salty and soggy. Pastry chef David Chow makes an incredible lemon cake with pistachio crumble, yogurt sorbet and lavender pearls. You can do better for less elsewhere, but no one in the room seems to care. Mains $24–$120.
Banh Mi Boys
392 Queen St. W., banhmiboys.com
After working for years at their parents’ Vietnamese sub shops, brothers David, Philip and Peter Chau hung out their own, much-hyped shingle. Street food obsessives buzzed on Twitter about the tiny, cafeteria-style place long before it opened, and when it did (last December), it was instantly overrun. The brothers promptly closed for two months of renos. The bigger, brighter space is now permanently open for business—and it’s doing a lot of it. The five-spice pork belly banh mi lives up to the hoopla. Cucumbers, cilantro, pickled daikon and carrots accompany the meltingly tender meat on foot-long baguettes that are a little heavier and chewier than the standard. Tapping into the trends, the brothers also make good steamed buns and tacos filled with things like Korean kalbi beef or Thai lemon grass chicken thigh. Kimchee fries slathered with spicy pulled pork, mayo, green onions and their namesake condiment taste better than they sound, but not by much. Expect long lines at lunchtime.
972 College St. W., 647-341-6769
It’s been a year since chef Rob Rossi finished second on Top Chef Canada, and his first restaurant, a carnivore haven on College Street co-owned by fellow Mercatto alum Ryan Sarfeld, is finally open. The under-40 crowd creates such a laugh-laced din—a table of 10 hoots and cheers when its whole suckling pig arrives—it nearly drowns out the Arcade Fire soundtrack. In the wide-open kitchen, Rossi looks to be having a blast, too. All this fun yields mixed results. One starter brings overpowering chorizo stuffed into a squid torso with a texture closer to catcher’s mitt than calamari. The steaks taste as delectable as they look hanging in the dry-aging room. A 10-ounce tenderloin is charred, yet bloody rare in the centre. Sticky toffee pudding made with carrot cake is a nice twist—although the dessert prices, like those of the wines by the glass and bottled water, are unlisted and add to the shock when the bill arrives. Mains $18–$29.