Since thoroughly enjoying my visit to outstanding CUT Steakhouse, I've been dying to return to try out the Urban Grill, located on the floor below. The Grill features tasting plates, smaller portions suitable for sharing, in a more casual environment. Well, the Grill may be more casual, but like big sister upstairs, no expense has been spared to create this carefully relaxed atmosphere.
Floor to ceiling windows, spectacular lighting fixtures and funky seating make it feel fun (just don't lean too far forward in the chairs, as they have a tendency to spill out the occupant onto the floor).
We sit near the open kitchen, the better to watch our plates come up.In the meantime, we sip our drinks (from the extensive wine and cocktail list) and people-watch.
Most of the items on the grill menu come in at under 10 dollars, with four to six dishes recommended to make a meal for two people. Our first plates are pakora ($7) and a sugar cane and beet salad ($7). This food is presented on long, rectangular white plates and is certainly visually appealing. Happily, the flavours match the dinnerware.
Golden and red beets, little discs of goat cheese and a splendid honey goat cheese dressing make for a fabulously tasty salad. The pakora, thin discs of mashed potato deep fried in a light batter, are equally delightful with a tamarind sauce to enhance the neutral flavours of the pakora.
Next up is house-made ravioli ($8) and lobster poutine ($9), two dishes as heavy and pedestrian as the first two are light and fanciful. The "ravioli" is not a stuffed pocket, as expected, but a wide strip of pasta drowning in a thick porcini mushroom sauce, on a bed of cooked leeks and inexplicably garnished with a sunny-side up quail egg.
The lobster poutine is a pile of fries, topped with lobster meat, halloumi cheese and drenched in brown sauce. The lobster, while plentiful, has the overly salted taste of lobster frozen in brine, while the "gravy" is so heavy that the fries are soggy. This is not a bad dish, but the sheer size of the portion is a turn-off: It's just too much food.
The same fate befalls the pasta, which has great mushroom flavour but there is just way too much of it. We leave some uneaten so as to save room for our final courses, chicken tikka ($8) and a trio of Kobe sliders ($12). Kobe beef has become a catch-phrase for any beef with any Kobe blood, and is now farmed in North America. Japanese Kobe beef now goes by "wag-yu," to distinguish it from the generic competition. These sliders, the little burgers that are all the rage on tasting menus, are shaved roast beef piled on brioche buns with sweet pickles. The beef is heavily seasoned but in this form, there is nothing that sets it apart from less expensive cuts.
Brioche, the buttery, rich bread, may not be the best choice for a burger bun. When it's reheated it becomes greasy; its naturally sweet, eggy taste isn't a good foil for the beef. I love the chicken tikka, though---two skewers of flame-grilled chicken breasts marinated in yogurt and spices with a sweet onion relish on the side.
Coffee comes in a small French press, for a fresh, high-quality cup of joe.
Overall, the Grill was a mixed bag, but there are enough good points that I'll return to indulge in a fancy cocktail and relax in a hip atmosphere with seamless service.