NEWS March 28th, 2011

By Liz Campbell

Always room for more at Table 17

Busy spot delivers with rare finds

On a Monday evening, Table 17 has a steady stream of customers — this has to be a good sign! It turns out that Sunday and Monday are table d’hôte evenings with a three-course dinner costing just $32 and the opportunity to BYOW (bring your own wine). As we didn’t, we ask for glasses of their Sangiovese Multepulciano ($11 each) but the first glass isn’t quite right — there’s an after taste that tells us this wine has breathed its last. Back it goes without question and it’s replaced from a fresh bottle. Much better!

One of this spot’s signatures is arrancini, a dish I fell in love with in Sicily. It’s rare to find it in Toronto so we had to order a small plate of these. Three small, filled rice balls, each different, are served with tiny dishes of their appropriate dip ($6) — spiced lamb with sweet mint sauce; fontina and mushroom with tomato sauce; and goat cheese with wildflower honey. While all three are noteworthy, my guest and I agree that the lamb is our favourite.

From the table d’hôte appetizer list, my guest chooses beet salad — paper-thin slices of yellow beet topped with arugula and what tastes like sunflower seeds. This has no dressing and needs none — it stands alone very well, the various flavours blending nicely.
My own arugula salad is a little over-dressed — a little less balsamic vinegar, I think. But the pistachios and grated cheese add a lovely touch and bring the acidity down a notch.

Beef cheeks bring a smile to my guest’s face. Sitting atop a puree of root vegetables in which parsnips definitely come to the fore, he variously pronounces the dish decadent, tender and beautiful!

The jus is rich and beefy and there’s a roasted onion to add a bit of zip.

“A nice fusion,” he adds.

My main course is two substantial pieces of trout whose skin is so crisp and tasty with a sprinkling of superfine crumbs and anchovy, I actually eat it! I’m not generally fond of fish skin. Ditto the fennel — not generally my favourite vegetable because its strong taste tends to overpower everything else — which proves to be mild and a wonderful complement.

There’s also a tiny salad of sorts, made of two types of julienned radish and segments of orange, an interesting contrast of citrus and radish bite.

We both comment on the fact that the portions are reasonable — not over-large but happily proportioned to enable one to enjoy the meal without feeling one is in the midst of an eating marathon.

Dessert proves a simple choice for my guest — anything chocolate gets his approval. I, on the other hand, immediately respond to sticky toffee pudding. His parfait appears to be chocolate granite on frozen chocolate mousse.

“It’s very chocolate-y but somehow doesn’t quite get there.”

And there’s a cherry pit in the midst of it which is unexpected! The waitress, when told of it, smiles, “An unexpected surprise.”

Hardly, and it might have been a nasty one.

My own sticky toffee pudding takes me back to my childhood when this was a special treat. The toffee is sweet, thick and, most importantly, plentiful! And there’s a swathe of tart apple butter on the plate, which appears to be extra superfluous, but proves a pleasant juxtaposition with the sweet toffee.

The interior of Table 17 is warm and welcoming, a blend of wood panels and interesting chandeliers. I particularly like the huge harvest table down the centre of the main dining room, repository for fresh bread, cutlery, condiments, etc.

It gives it a homey feel.

You can check out menus online but don’t count on them. This spot does seasonal menus and the website hasn’t kept up.

In March, Table 17 is participating in Stop for Food, a local initiative that gives a portion of proceeds to The Stop, a community food centre that strives to increase access to healthy food in a manner that maintains dignity, builds community and challenges inequality.

Go to support The Stop, but this spot doesn’t need an additional reason to stop in.

Table 17, 782 Queen St. East, 416-519-1851. www.table17.ca.