Early last night I had drinks and appetizers at E11even Restaurant in the heart of the Sports and Entertainment District, right next to Maple Leaf Square at 15 York Street, a short stroll from the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood. Amidst the ‘Bright Lights Big City’ crush of rush hour and the streams of hockey fans moving en mass to the Leafs vs. Sabres Games (where the Maple Leafs would hold off the Buffalo Sabres with a final 3-2 score), this massive restaurant was expertly feeding an eclectic crowd made up of business attire and big guys in Leaf jerseys.
First, although I tend to favour the intimate small storefront restaurant, this massive space had been attentively divided into zones with raised platforms, banquettes, dropped ceilings and the like. So even though I was initially overwhelmed at the ‘production’ of this restaurant machine, once we were settled into a booth the dining experience rivalled any five star cafe.
Here’s a snap of their smart vodka martini and their ‘Fireside Cocktail’ made of amber and spiced rum, pear and pineapple juice and spices. I could probably live of that drink for a week, easily!
If you’ve been dining out lately, you may have noticed that restaurants are raising the bar by baking their own in-house breads.
At E11even it’s sweet brioche topped with sea salt crystals served with fresh churned salty butter. Presented warm from the oven it teases the palate with what’s to come:
We indulged in four dishes…
HOUSE SMOKED SALMON with toast points and chef’s sauce $16
WARM BEET SALAD with walnut brittle and goat cheese $15
TRUFFLED MAC ‘N CHEESE $10
NIAGARA PROSCUITTO & BUFFALO MOZZARELLA (flown in from Italy) finished with olive oil, arugala and chopped herbs $23
Being a west coaster, the smoked salmon most rocked my world, but every dish was its own magic. In fact, I’ll give props to E11even… I would say it’s one of my top picks for 2011.
If I was to Tsk Tsk at anything, I gotta confess I’ve never been a fan of massive television screens in any cocktail bar. They’re distracting if not a little tacky. But I respect how they serve their purpose in the Sports and Entertainment District. What I’m more bothered by is the rise of I-Pads in restaurants for the cocktail and wine list… after a long day facing a computer screen and communicating by blackberry when on the road, I consider dining an escape from technology. I’m there to enjoy the company of my guests, savour the libations and celebrate the chef’s gastronomy. As far as I’m concerned, to be forced to navigate a computer screen at any point during a meal breaks the spirit of breaking bread. Boo!
It won’t stop me from returning though. E11even is a place I’d happily take friends, family or a date.
Check out their website by clicking HERE!