I first met chef Roberto Fracchioni when he was running Monk Kitchen, a true “hidden” gem that was located in the basement of the Templar Hotel. Sources tell me that Monk Kitchen is no more and the Templar Hotel is now void of a dining room. I had taken my sister there last year for her birthday, and we loved Roberto so much that when we found out he was cooking out of Flor de Sal, where the former Corner House was once located, we decided to go there for my birthday this year.
Cristina da Costa, former CHIN radio host turned restauranteur is the perfect hostess. She greeted us at the door, checked up on us without being obtrusive and when she found out we were celebrating a birthday offered us a dessert/aperitif on the house. She definitely knows how to make you feel special.
I’m glad that the dated décor left with the Corner House as the space is minimalist but modern and the patio is extremely inviting. Naturally, we both decide that’s where we want to spend the night.
Dinner starts off with Portuguese corn bread which fails to excite me. It was all too dense and rather bland. The only saving grace are the duo of olives from Cheese Boutique.
Wines are pretty pricey though I do like that they have the option of a half-bottle which allows room for both a white and red wine, especially for a smaller party of 2. My sister found a new favorite in the form of a Santa Rita Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile. We quickly search the LCBO to find a full 750mL bottle for $13.95 while our half-bottle rang in at around $30. That’s just to give you an idea on the mark-up.
An amuse of Ricotta and Beamster-stuffed shisito arrives at our table on a bed of pine nuts and cherry tomatoes. We quickly devour it. The cherry tomatoes are sweet, plump and delicious and the shisito pepper is extremely satisfying.
We start with a bowl of Bulhao Pato, clams cooked in vinho verde with garlic and cilantro. The serving is quite scant for the $18 price tag and I wonder if Fracchioni is taking Flor de Sal (which is the Portuguese-equivalent of fleur de sel) too seriously. I’d normally sop up every drop of the cooking liquids with my bread, but…
A palate cleanser dubbed the Sicilian Lemon Bomb arrives at our table infused with Limoncello and sprinkled with pomegranate.
With mains starting at $39, one’s expectation is high. I opt for the Branzino, which comes grilled whole with lemon and rosemary tucked into various pockets of the fish but the kitchen is happy to fillet it for you if you don’t want to do the work yourself. The accompaniment of sorrel, farro and radish is bland and flavorless and is more there for plating than it is for consumption. I certainly didn’t waste any calories on it.
My sister’s rack of lamb ($47) however, is fantastic. Grill marks are not there just for show as you can taste the charred goodness through the mustard and oregano. The fried artichokes get quickly consumed as my sister and I exchange glances before our forks race to finish the last piece.
It is worthy of noting that when we were originally deciding where to go for dinner that the final 2 considerations were Scaramouche and Flor de Sal. We eventually opted for Flor de Sal because of our previous experience with Fracchioni at Monk Kitchen and the fact that it was named in Toronto Life’s list of “Top 20 Best Restaurants” this year. Suffice it to say that we were extremely disappointed in our decision to go with Flor de Sal (and will think twice before taking a recommendation from Toronto Life again)…we didn’t even bother with dessert. All we could think of was the coconut cream pie we could’ve had at Scaramouche.
Flor de Sal definitely looks the part, with its elegant interiors, the amuse and palate cleanser and its area code, but for the price tag, better food can be found elsewhere.