Review: Richmond Station, Carl Heinrich’s new downtown farm-to-table restaurant
At his new farm-to-table restaurant, Carl Heinrich, the 27-year-old chef who won Top Chef Canada, shakes hands with celeb-struck diners, looking surprisingly schmoozeless for a reality TV star. He invested his $100,000 prize money in the 80-seat Financial District room, which hums with end-of-week energy on a Thursday night, as suits loosen their ties and drain pints. The walls are covered in old-fashioned photos—scenes of farmers threshing wheat, for example—and there’s a chef’s table along the kitchen so true gastro geeks can observe Heinrich’s team of young, freakishly calm and methodical cooks. The short menu—a familiar collection of oysters, beef tartare, beet salad and a gourmet burger—is made with high-quality ingredients that, as a matter of chefly philosophy, are left to shine on their own. The intentional lack of flash makes for a perfectly fine, if perfectly unremarkable meal. A whole luscious lobster claw tops a crumb-crusted whitefish filet that’s fried to a tawny crisp, but both sit in a monotone cauliflower chowder that coats the seafood in meh. The burger, cut in-house from a heritage Ontario cow, is dressed with only cheddar and sweet beet chutney. It needs a hit of salt and sour to compel you past the second bite, which isn’t actually a problem because it’s roughly the size of a slider—and $20. The chef deserves props for adventurously topping a date bar with toasted hay ice cream. Unfortunately, strands of the barnyard-y stuff require chewing long after the vanilla ice cream has melted away. Sometimes the farm-to-table ethos can be taken too literally.