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Restaurants

The Long Anticipated Foxley Bistro

Posted by Paul / Reviewed on September 12, 2007 / review policy

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Foxley Bistro is new, yet it still has a past. The menu is fresh, but not without its own unique history. Foodies all over Toronto are excited about it, but somehow still a bit skeptical.

So why the double edged sword? Why the odd sense of unease? Well here's the story kids: Foxley's chef and owner Tom Thai has already made a reputation in this city. He started at Cafe Asia, then moved to Youki where he worked under chefs Camilo Costales and Andrew Chase, who have been highly respected for bringing real Asian fusion to Toronto.

Then later on, he started doing sushi at Canoe, then much of the same (though quite a bit more creatively) at the highly regarded Tempo (now renamed Mini-Market by Tempo). And now finally, after a year spent travelling in search of inspiration, Tom Thai has returned with Foxley Bistro.

Why must I always choose dimly lit restaurants to review? Does that say something about me psychologically? ANYWAY, please excuse the graininess of the photos. I'll make my best effort to make up for it in pure writing awesomeness.

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First up, lamb and duck proscuitto dumplings. This is a winner for sure. Meaty and rich on the inside, crispy on he outside, with a nice vinegary Japanese dipping sauce to even everything out. A perfect start to the meal.

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Up next was one of my favorites for sure: sea bream ceviche with yuzu and shiso leaf. Historically, Thai has always been more known for his raw dishes, so this was a no brainer for me. Clean and fresh with a nice hit of citrus from the yuzu and some strong herbal aromatics from the shiso (sorry if that sounded a little pretentious... I just LOVE yuzu and shiso... reminds me of Japan). After this dish, I almost wish I'd tried the other two ceviche items on the menu, but for a first visit we decided to take the more eclectic route.

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I don't really remember ordering this one, but it turned out to be a great little salad of blue crab and avocado. This one probably screamed "Thai" the most out of all our orders through the addition of a number of prominent and spicy sauces fighting on top of the melow crab and avocado. This one had some really interesting "bites" to it, and I really love dishes like that. Each would change based on how you'd scoop it, and where all the ingredients would dispense themselves.

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This might have been the most disappointing of all the dishes: roasted duck breast with umeboshi and a port reduction. This isn't to say that it was a terrible dish by any stretch of the word. It just turned out to be one of those dishes that doesn't at all live up to the words that decribe it on the menu. The duck was very nicely roasted, but when I read "port reduction" and "umeboshi" I'm expecting really big and prominent flavours. What we ended up with was a very mellow and simply unexciting dish. Oh well, can't win them all right?

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Here's another one that really brought me back to Japan: grilled Japanese pike mackerel with yuzu-ponzu sauce. Now here's an item that basically promised simplicity and gave just that. Fresh whole fish, grilled, with a nice crisp citrus sauce to lighten things up. Not much else to say except this: fish tastes better grilled whole!

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And of course I couldn't forget their spicy frog's legs, with poblano peppers and szechwan spices. I'm actually kind of embarassed to admit that this was my FIRST EVER taste of frog's legs... I know, I know... a sacriledge for a true lover of food to have gone this long without trying them. But I'm glad I chose Foxley as the place to try them. Moist and spicy and crispy on the outside. Just plain delicious.

Another item that we ordered later on (after a few more glasses of wine) was the grilled side ribs with a caramelized shallot glaze. I think the vino might have gotten me a little over-excited though, because I dove right in, completely forgetting to take a photo. Either way, I must tell you that this dish was truly a highlight of the evening.

The ribs on their own were as tender as you could imagine, just jumping off the bone. And the sauce was thick, dark and sweet, and screaming with all sorts of flavours that just left you in amazement trying pinpoint each of them. Is it molasis? Cloves maybe? Pickled ginger? Anise? In the end we gave up and simply remained thankful for the sick and creative individual who was ambitious enough to bring all these flavours together in one dish. Okay, I better stop writing about the ribs now, because I'm this close (picture my thumb and first finger about a millimetre apart) to biking over there right now.

So all in all, yes, I would definitely recommend giving Foxley a try. All items on the menu are meant to be shared (as we gladly did) and they range quite dramatically from around $5.00 to $22.00. So based on some cleverly planned choices, it's actually quite possible to grab a bite with some friends and stay under budget. But if you're one of those lucky few with little to no budget constraints, try their $22 grilled monk fish with basil chimichuri and baby arugula and tell me how it was, would you? Please and thank you.

Discussion

29 Comments

Debbie / September 14, 2007 at 08:20 am
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Egads, those food descriptions sound amazing. It's only 8 in the morning, and I find myself craving ceviche and ribs...
Peter / October 23, 2007 at 07:57 pm
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THE WORST SERVICE EVER. I will never eat in this restaurant after the way I was treated. In fact, I didn't get to eat at Foxley despite standing in the front entranceway for an hour. It all started out innocently enough... Last Saturday I was going to take my girlfriend out for a birthday dinner. We had both wanted to try Foxley for a while, so we called to see if we needed reservations. On the phone we were instructed that there was a no reservation policy (could have fooled me). We arrived at Foxley at around 7:30pm. It was typically full and there were 2 parties of 2 ahead of us. We were instructed that it would be about 15 minutes before we got a table. Fine, sounded reasonable. What happened next was incredulous. First a party of 2 managed to usurp the "lineup". Then, a party of 4 and after that another party of 4. At this point there was 1 party of 2 still in front of us. After being summarily ignored while all of this was going on, one on the 2 wait staff on duty (a little understaffed for a Saturday night) found the courage to approach us and try to explain what had happened. By this point 45 minutes had transpired and we were definitely a little pissed. He began to explain that the people that had jumped the queue had come early and "reserved" seating. "Really?", I exclaimed and reminded him of what I was told on the phone earlier. Then, he backpeddled a little and stated that they had all been sequestered at a nearby location so as not to block the entranceway. Yeah, right. Minutes later, he seated the 2 women ahead of us, and told us that we were definitely next, he just needed to clear a table and we shouldn't worry. As fate would have it, another one of those "sequestered" line-jumping parties of 4 arrived and voila, I watched the table we had waited more than an hour for delivered to some people who had obviously just walked in. How absolutely vulgar and in poor taste. Shocked and awed we decided to leave and have a quick meal at Golden Turtle because we had other plans a bit later; but it totally ruined our nigh... we spent most of the rest of it decompressing. All I can say is don't go to Foxley on a Saturday and expect to get a table... unless you make a "reservation".
inthebizz / January 12, 2008 at 03:54 pm
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debbie, perhaps you should thank your blessings that you are not starving to death and can afford to eat out. obviously the foxley sounds as if it is worth the wait - i haven't tried it as of yet but it sounds very popular!! as for the "wait" ruining your evening - get a life!
gfdq / September 11, 2008 at 05:06 pm
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Amazing food. Don't listen to Debbie. This is well worth the visit... dumb broad.
Mathew / October 2, 2008 at 09:32 am
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Foxley is currently my favourite restaurant in Toronto. Great spot - great food - great service. It's too bad you had a negative experience Debbie. I have recommended to many and they have all enjoyed it!
Mathew / October 2, 2008 at 09:36 am
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FYI - it's a busy spot and the staff will routinely take your cell phone number and recommend you go accross the street for a drink(they do not take advanced reservations). Relax and enjoy!
dontwant toknow / October 30, 2008 at 10:20 pm
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wow was thinking of going to this place but after reading the rude and obnoxious men postings after Debbie's horrible experience i can see where even more (&((& or should i laughingly say men of toronto hang out - no thanks
Jen / November 4, 2008 at 03:09 pm
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Amazing food with lots of flavours; great service. Love this place and am going back for sure!!
jennifer / November 19, 2008 at 11:18 am
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Debbie- I totally agree with you. The service was ok BUT the food was incredibly disapointing. We started with the chilean sea bass sashimi- tasted like metal and was drenched in shirichi sauce. then the duck 'prosciutto' was hidden and went unnoticed in my lamb dumplings. They gave 3 ribs for 2 people ( that just pisses me off) and the ribs were cold so the fat had solidified and made up a large mass of the rib- like a cold tumor. The ribs were also topped with burnt garlic shavings- what's the point of that!?
NOT WORTH THE WAIT
kevin / November 19, 2008 at 06:37 pm
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Ate at Foxley last weekend. The service was not unlike what Debbie mentioned. I guess its a trendy place and if you dont know anyone, you dont get a quick seat. If this type of service bothers you, please save yourself the time and do not eat here. The food was good, but probably a little pricey for what you got - would rather save the extra cash and get some better service downtown and have a fancier meal. Overall it was so-so. All hyped up - hey, they got me in didnt they??
Jason Smith / December 5, 2008 at 11:39 am
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You mysoginists are idiots. The negative review was by Peter, not Debbie. Fools. P.S.- Thisp place blows chuncks, and is regularly reviewed by the same 2 fools that work there.
Vicki / December 10, 2008 at 06:15 pm
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Jesus, finally - thanks Jason - I kept reading these comments thinking, "are these people all idiots?...what's with the Debbie bashing? Peter wrote the bad review." Anyway, for the record I like Foxley a lot, and every single time I've been there (3x) I've had good service as well as really good food.

Also, as someone else already pointed out, there are no secret conspiratorial 'reservations' - these were actually indeed multiple parties who arrived before Peter did, but then had the sense to not stand there for an hour, and instead gave the waitress their number and went across the street for a beer while waiting for a table to come available. The waitstaff should probably never have told him it would only be 15 minutes, though (unless they meant for a seat at the bar).
Rob Hyndman / December 13, 2008 at 07:10 am
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We went for the first time last night after trying to get in many times but finding the wait too much.

The food was exceptional. Very creative, very novel. That in itself is something, but the quality was superb. My wife and I were simply amazed at dish after dish. If you're a foodie, you'll love it - there's deep talent in that kitchen. I simply don't understand the whining in these comments - but if you want more info feel free to email me or ping me on twitter at @rhh.

I do wish they'd move to a better space, though. It's a pretty tight fit. It's understandable for a still pretty new spot, but they're ready for more space, I think.
Tim / December 18, 2008 at 12:49 am
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I went last week and had a great time. The bill for two of us came to about $100 so it's not cheap but a nice treat. We ordered a few glasses of red, one of the ceviches (yum), the cod, the avocado and blue crab salad (also yum), an oyster starter (recommended) and maybe something else. Can't remember. I think wait times are shorter now. We went on a Friday around 8:30 and snagged the last table. The place was full but at least there wasn't a line-up.
Christopher Wilson / January 2, 2009 at 11:24 pm
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Well worth the wait. The Staff is pleasant and even on a busy Friday night preparedto kibbitz with customers without slowing the pace. Tom's food is well worth the wait too. And the Duck was incredible by the way.
Terry replying to a comment from Debbie / March 15, 2009 at 10:24 pm
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I LOVE FOXLEY. The food is definitely only for those are adventurous & appreciate interesting & different, which explains for the pricing. APPLAUSE to the no reservation rule cuz we are getting way too spoiled! As for the service one gets - you get what you give unfortunately.
Tasha / March 28, 2009 at 07:34 pm
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I absolutely love FOXLEY it is now in my top 10 restaurants in Toronto. The food is awesome ...try the spicy shrimp dish, the avocado and blue crab salad, the ribs, the red curry vegetables....I could go on and on...the good thing for me is that I live practically right next door so I just go give them my number and they call me when a table is ready. The service is fantastic...true that it is a small spot, but a gem nonetheless.
jo moses / April 22, 2009 at 12:53 pm
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FOXLEY was hit-and-miss for me. the service was great, the waitresses were uber-friendly, and the wine kept flowing. my dinnermate and i ordered a number of different things, but i have to say that three things stood out : the crab-stuffed avocado, the ceviche and the braised beef in some kind of lemongrass-reduction-sauce-thingy.

the first two items stood out because they were good, save for the abundance of cilantro/coriander... the beef tasted like it had been slow-cooking all night in lemon pledge- not that i've tasted furniture polish before, but if i was going to IMAGINE what it tasted like, that dish would have been it.

i mentioned it to my mate, and he agreed. gross.

in all, i'm in no hurry to return, and i think i'd turn it down if it was recommended as a possible dinner destination. there are many far superior restos in the city, and Foxley falls short of them.
Lucy replying to a comment from Peter / July 16, 2009 at 04:06 pm
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I love Foxley & have been many times. Always great food and service. I am aware of their no reservation policy so I always leave my name and number and go for a drink across the street at Reposado (yum) until my table is ready. This is probably what happened to you. Should have gone for a BD drink.
David / November 16, 2009 at 11:26 pm
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I go to foxley with with friends all the time. Best asian/western fusion in the city. Don't worry about the wait, just go across the street to reposado for a drink and they'll call when your table is ready. Food is very flavor driven. Lots of spice, lots of variety. Large south east asian influence in the food. If you like fusion then you'll love it. If your not into south east asian and spicier flavors then you may want to pass.
Sebastian / June 11, 2010 at 10:23 am
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What Peter doesn't understand is that the restaurant is small, and that they can't have a lineup forming in the only small entrance in the restaurant. SO- you come and wait in a virtual line. First come, first serve. They call you when your table is ready. You aren't reserving a table, you are just waiting in line nearby. If you can't understand this, you fail at dining. TONS of world class restaurants do this. Most places will have a bar or a lounge where you can wait for your table, but Foxley is tiny and thus use the surrounding Ossington area to accommodate their patrons.

Jim / September 4, 2010 at 10:09 am
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Food was excellent, prices great. The service was spotty though. We didnt get cutlery with the meal or a pen with the bill, and it took forever to get our wine. Plus my entree was served about 10 minutes before my girlfriends.
anita / November 16, 2010 at 03:31 pm
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I've been here three times in the last year and the food has been great. The wait staff are really good they're efficient and not over-imposing. Prices are really reasonable. What a treat! I hope this place doesn't get too popular.

Best to come right at 6.00 when they open.
Mike / December 30, 2010 at 02:45 pm
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Peter, what often happens is that customers will leave their cell phone number with the host while waiting at another venue down the street. (I suggest Rapasado) Perhaps that explains why walk-ins were being seated ahead of you.
Marissa / January 7, 2011 at 12:12 pm
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Profoundly insulting service. Don't seat tables at the end of the night if you are going to bring them the bill while they are eating mains and justify this rude behaviour by telling them what time it is. As if I know what time your curfew is. Not offered dessert and coffee because it is late (11:30 on a Thursday-on busy Ossington). Where do you get off? Chef sits at the bar and doesn't intervene as rude waiter scolds table for wanting to at least finish dinner before paying...even though waiter had "a lot of numbers to crunch". "Obnoxious"? No, I am just another server who knows how easy it is to be kind to people while you take their money. Failed actors take note: Foxley wants to hire you. No smiles or manners necessary. And yes, the food is good enough. But I could have eaten the same thing down the road at Golden Turtle and saved myself about $150 bucks.
kanga / April 6, 2011 at 10:57 am
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I fell in love with Foxley the first time I went - so many interesting flavours, very fresh food, I couldn't stop eating! Worth the wait for sure.

On a side note the photos for this blog are terrible, I'm surprised blogTO does not have higher standards for photos.
foodqueen / April 16, 2011 at 03:36 pm
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FOXLEY is amazing,

NOTE: if you are coming at 7:30pm on a SATURDAY don't expect
the staff to clamor all over you for a table, if your gonna get all grumpy that you had
to wait on one of the hottest food strips on one of the busiest nights your better off going
to some chain food place. geez. or atleast show up earlier!

RIBS & CEVICHE & TRUFFLE OIL aLL THE WAY!!!


Bri L / May 12, 2011 at 04:10 pm
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This is one of my go-to places. If you don't like to wait, show up promptly at 6 pm like the locals and you can enjoy the 4 amazing seviches and a nice Prosecco in relative peace. Service has always been spot on for us, and I love that they will take your phone number and call you when your table is ready!
mr. / May 10, 2013 at 11:34 am
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Love Foxley.

Have been going for years and the food, service and drinks are fantastic.

I would encourage blogTO to do a NEW review for this place. The photo are not reflective of the amazing food.

If I had to change one thing about Foxley it would be the decor, they need a revamp, very dated. The patio is lovely and the decor and furniture out there is great, bring some of that inside.

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