Tucked in the Hydrostone Market, the sedate storefront of Epicurious Morsels only hints at the delights to be found inside. A chalkboard outside advertises the daily specials, and if you allow yourself to be lured in from the sidewalk you’ll find yourself in a small, elegant dining room decorated with rich colours, wood trim, plenty of fresh flowers and a glimpse of a spotlessly clean open kitchen at the back.
When we drop by it’s raining outside and our server is quick to whisk our coats away to dry; our coat tags presented to us in a tiny tin. Such details are what have made Epicurious Morsels one of the hidden treasures of our culinary scene.
I first stopped by here for brunch five or so years ago, and discovered the magnificence that is the smoked salmon—a house specialty, and deservedly so. The salmon is featured in many dishes, including an excellent smoked salmon latke and smoked salmon benedict.
Tonight we’re starting with the lobster strudel ($9.95), which turns out to be a whopping portion—oodles of strudel. Phyllo pastry encases a spiral of lobster, spinach and goat cheese, served over a light tomato sauce.
Flounder, which doesn’t often appear on Metro restaurant menus, is my second choice for a main. I spot the pepper steak with foie gras ($26.15), and initially have my heart set on that, but don’t want the side of potato that comes with it. The salad that comes with the flounder catches my eye, but when I ask if I might switch the salad for the potatoes, I am told no. Our server leans in to the table. “Jim doesn’t like to do that,” she says, explaining that he creates each dish to look a certain way.
Now, I can understand that, and I can understand that the chef has taken time to balance flavour and presentation for a “perfect plate.” But it’s a little self-indulgent, if indeed that’s his policy, to not honour a guest request. It’s not asking him to change the integrity of the dish; it’s a substitute. I decide that I want to try the salad more than I want the steak, and order the flounder (incidentally, almost $10 cheaper than the steak). It’s sauteed beautifully, a nice golden brown outside, tender and moist inside. The salad of warmed asparagus and crab is seasoned with lime vinaigrette and was worth missing the steak for. The other entree is a rack of lamb ($27.95). Though good, the meat is a little gamy-tasting. The wild mushroom risotto that comes alongside is a meal unto itself, redolent with the earthy aroma and flavour of mushroom, creamy-textured and utterly fabulous.
Dessert is an unusual lemon shaker tart ($6.25), a real treat for lemon lovers. Whole slices of thin lemon are layered in a flaky, buttery crust with enough sweetness to keep eyes from watering while keeping a distinct tangy pucker factor.
Epicurious Morsels is one of the few restaurants I’ve had the pleasure to frequent that not only hit the ground running, but also has managed to sustain a high quality of cuisine and service over the years. This intimate little gem of a restaurant should be tickling our taste buds for years to come.
Epicurious Morsels5529 Young Street455-0955Tue-Fri 11:30am-3pm, 5-8pmSat 10:30am-2:30pm, 5-8pmSun 10:30am-2:30pmClosed Monday
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