We sure liked the Soho Kitchen on Argyle and were sad to see it close. The location has been home for a couple of months now to the oddly named Foggy Goggle and I'm curious to see what it's all about.
The Foggy Goggle is not especially busy tonight and, somehow, the sparsely decorated room feels uncomfortable on this mild evening. I don't know if it's the super-high ceiling or the lack of much of anything on the walls, but despite the traditional style and mishmash of wooden tables and chairs, it feels inhospitably cold.
Our server brings the only bit of warmth in the room tonight---she's funny, friendly and quick with her recommendations, giving her opinion with an enthusiasm that's rare in the service industry.
The menu is small---about the same size as the drinks menu, actually. Most items are nine or 11 dollars. For beverages, there are plenty of beers on tap, a small selection of wine and some specialty mixed drinks, which we decide to indulge in another time.
We start with a cup of seafood chowder ($6), which is a pretty large cup. Mussels, salmon and haddock are plentiful, as are chunks of unpeeled potato and slices of celery and onion. The broth is thinner, well-seasoned with the natural flavours of the fish and vegetables and salted and peppered. I really like this chowder, although I wonder at calling it "seafood" and not just "fish" chowder, with the amount of finfish.
Our main courses are a steak special ($18) and the portabello mushroom burger ($11). Typically, I don't order specials since they're not always available and not usually an indicator of the quality of the rest of the menu, but in this case I can't resist because of the side dish---horseradish mashed. When the steak arrives, it's perched atop roasted potatoes and sauteed vegetables that have been drizzled in balsamic vinegar, but there's no sign of the horseradish. Our server quickly puts that right and it is indeed delicious and worth the extra few minutes it's taken. The steak, ordered medium rare, comes very rare. It's a difficult piece of meat to cook because of the thickness in the middle, so I'm not overly surprised it's not done correctly.
The portabello mushroom burger has the mushroom sliced, not a whole cap. It's laden with feta and greens and is good, although a smaller bun is in order, I think, and we find it a little greasy. Still, great marks for taste.
On the side, there's a cup of the soup of the day. They are out of the original soup of the day but the kitchen has just prepared the next day's soup, a curried carrot, and we take a cup of that. Unfortunately, the temperature of the soup is cold. Fortunately, the spice is hot and we agree this is going to be an excellent soup tomorrow, once the flavours have a chance to mingle and develop.
We've had a chance to look around at the decor some more and agree that the front of the restaurant looks more inviting, with the patio just outside the windows and tallpub-style table and chairs inside. And for what it's worth, the sink in the ladies' loois gorgeous.
While the meal wasn't bad, it falls just shy of being really good (cold soup, undercooked steak). But that chowder is super and the vegetables done expertly, so the potential for greatness is there.
I just wish the room had a little more personality---and didn't leave it up to the server to provide all of it.Only the finest washroom fixtures are found at Liz Feltham's personal website, foodcritic.ca.