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Michael's on Simcoe

Posted by Erin Scholz / Profiled on November 2, 2012 / review policy

Michaels on SimcoeMichael's on Simcoe recently opened to the public after hosting hordes of celebrities during TIFF. The work of former Harbour Sixty GM Michael Dabic, the restaurant positions itself as an alternative to the oak-stained, brown-tinged, hyper-masculine steakhouse.

At first look, this is obvious in the choice of decor. In place of Mad Men cliches (you know, all that yellowish, warm colour-cast) the dining area is decidedly blue in tone. It's not uninviting, but there aren't many shout-outs to Barberian's type places here.

Under construction for almost a year, the space is every bit Dabic's own, right down to the MacIntosh stereo system (Michael's is only the second establishment in North America to be sponsored by the company) to the disappearing flatscreens behind the bar. "We gutted it beyond belief. Normally you can take things down to the studs," Dabic explained during my visit. "But here we took the studs out because they were rusted from water damage."

Michaels on SimcoeWorthy of note for would-be female visitors to Michael's: of the many things to get the renovation treatment, the washrooms take the cake. The women's facilities feature what has to be one of the most advanced toilets on the planet. Forward cleaning, backward cleaning choices trump the usual I'm-shy-and-I-don't need special cleaning options, don't they?

And now onto the food - what a perfect transition.

Michaels SimcoeMichael's offers USDA prime, corn-fed beef, both wet and dry aged because, as Dabic notes, "the customer should have the right to choose what they want." They also serve up plenty of Italian dishes and hand make their pasta daily.

I started with the seafood salad ($22), a homage to Babic's homeland along the Adriatic sea. Bare scallops, shrimp and octopus come simply dressed with fennel, olives and caperberries. An appetizing preparation, to be sure, but when I wasn't eating the scallops I found myself wanting more acid.

Michaels on SimcoeNext up was a venison carpaccio with shaved parmesan and truffles ($19). I like to consider myself a "venison expert" (that is actually a thing), as I grew up in a family of hunters and cooks whose chief source of meat was the deer. Even with such pedigree, I have to admit that this dish was one of the best preparations of venison I've ever had the pleasure of tasting (sorry, Dad).

Cut from the tenderloin and tinged with a bit of acid, the thin slivers of meat melt in the mouth with an obvious umami taste. The cheese adds the perfect touch of salt, while the micro beet greens provide a contrast in texture met only by the richness of the truffles.

Let it be known that at this point I could've gone home happy, but I was far from complaining when the black cod ($34) hit the table.

Michaels on SimcoeThe fish came topped with a slightly sweet walnut crust and was accompanied by a small beet and apple salad. Moist, buttery and flaked perfectly, it also seemed to melt in the mouth. I think I would rub it into my face if I was all out of moisturizer. Yes. What?

Onto the steak! The USDA prime dry-aged porterhouse ($64) is bit of carnivorous glory for those who crave a show-stopping main. Packed with salty, beefy flavour, I was particularly impressed with the tenderloin side, which, as per the night's theme, melted away without much effort from my jaw or teeth — an aptly named cut of meat and a testament to the dry aging process.

Michaels on SimcoeTo end, I indulged in the lobster ravioli ($29), which was stuffed to the brim with what seemed to be nothing but lobster (not a complaint to be clear) and swimming in a saffron sauce. If my black cod moisturizer ever ran out, I'd replace it with saffron sauce.

The space and cuisine has all the hallmarks of a slick, hot spot and the servers have that air of professional efficiency about them that seems almost corporate in nature, but there's also an earnestness and sincerity about this place that belies first appearances. The passion of both the owner and the chef tend to make you forget the suits and business deals in favour of the food - always a good thing.



sanjay / November 2, 2012 at 09:57 am
a steakhouse review with no steak photos? gah

cant wait to try out this place though!
Dave / November 2, 2012 at 10:17 am
You go to a steakhouse, and most of your article is not even steak related? Do they only serve one? Even if you didn't order them, at least mention the other meat dishes. This is the first ever review of a steakhouse I've read where the womens toilet gets more attention than the steaks. I hope this meal wasn't free cuz the restaurant certainly didnt get their moneys worth.
mobo / November 2, 2012 at 10:25 am
Let me get this correct. You went to Michaels On Simcoe and ordered a seafood salad, venison carpaccio, black cod, portehouse steak, & lobster ravioli ($168.00 + drinks + taxes).
Either you have got a massive appetite and deep pockets or this is not a review but rather an advertisement, as in Michael Dabic invited you to come and try the food(on the house) at his new restaurant.
The food looks great though.
Derek replying to a comment from sanjay / November 2, 2012 at 10:33 am
Lead photo. Gah!

Also: It'd be wrong to think that Michael's is a restaurant cut in the same vein as Harbour Sixty or Jacobs & Co. The menu is far more diverse than your traditional steakhouse, hence the non-meat dishes mentioned above. And really, who can chew through more than 30 ounces of steak in one meal?

And an important note regarding @mobo's comment: blogTO publishes two types of restaurant posts: blind reviews and profiles. This is the latter, as is noted in the announcement on our homepage which leads into the full article. We're currently working on a way to make this distinction more explicit.
Ken / November 2, 2012 at 11:13 am
@Derek, I think it's often common to footnote when a meal has been comped at a restaurant, or to explicit state when a writer has been invited to the restaurant. Definitely changes the perception of the meal, when it's a "profile" vs a blind review.

That being said, I did very much enjoy Erin's writing - refreshingly lighthearted.
Ashley / November 2, 2012 at 11:54 am
As a woman, I very much enjoyed the bathroom review. Food looks/sounds great too!
Jer / November 2, 2012 at 12:02 pm
Definitely needs to be a clearer distinction if your are "invited" and not paying as other posters said.. especially with a twitter lead in like this:

TO's got a new upscale steakhouse/seafood place. Check out our meal @MichaelOnSimcoe.
G / November 2, 2012 at 01:06 pm
I'm really surprised by this review. I ate at Michael's last week for a business dinner with a group of 10 people. We all thought the experience was mediocre and overpriced. We had the black cod (bland) and the lobster ravioli (too salty) and the $64 porterhouse, which comes alone on a bare plate. Sides (as noted in the review) and even sauces, are extra. Even a bit of garnish would have helped the presentation. And on top of all that, we found the atmosphere to be cold and sterile and the women's toilets were just confusing and weird. I guess it's worth the trip if you want to brag to all your friends about the expensive steak you just ate, otherwise, skip it.
Party Pooper / November 2, 2012 at 09:38 pm
if it's not blogto telling us how bad mayor Ford is, it's them telling us how great comped food is at an overpriced restaurant. I'm getting tired of this... get a grip.
blah / November 3, 2012 at 07:15 am
There is literally nothing on this page indicating that this is a commercial. BlogTO is officially nothing but losers bashing on suburbanites and writers too poor to write an unbiased article. Lame.
nnn / November 3, 2012 at 11:50 am
This looks like a set from American Psycho.
Derek replying to a comment from blah / November 3, 2012 at 01:21 pm
Calm down. Get outside. Enjoy the sun.
McRib replying to a comment from blah / November 4, 2012 at 11:23 am
its official folks!
John replying to a comment from nnn / November 6, 2012 at 06:56 am
Oddly enough...this used to be Monsoon Restaurant...where a dining scene from the Movie Americam Psycho was actually filmed!
Kat / November 6, 2012 at 11:25 am
you guys should all stick to mcdonalds because clearly you do not appreciate good food
Jeff / November 8, 2012 at 01:20 pm
All of the Restaurants we have seen on this blog have been great! Follow @LetsEatToronto for Toronto's Best Restaurants, Deals and Promotions!
CK / January 26, 2014 at 09:31 am
Best steak house in Toronto. Great atmosphere.
Claude / January 26, 2014 at 05:50 pm
Best Steak I ever had.. definite the place to go
Dragan Grgic / January 26, 2014 at 06:03 pm
great service amazing steaks-did I say amazing steaks
Nikola Rukaj / January 26, 2014 at 06:06 pm
Exceptional steak-down to perfection
Arjeta Gecaj / January 26, 2014 at 06:10 pm
a WOW on the steak department
PAUL SONG / January 26, 2014 at 06:14 pm
this restaurant can teach steak restaurants a thing or two
on how to do a perfect steak
Anthony Chimbuya / January 26, 2014 at 06:16 pm
steak king of toronto
Andrew Stansbury / January 26, 2014 at 06:35 pm
service wine and the steak was amazing
not to mention valet parking
PJ Fisher / January 26, 2014 at 08:47 pm
Total attention to the food and service....1st class in every department...
Best steaks in TO.....
Emily / July 31, 2014 at 12:22 pm
5 of us went for dinner… not 1 of us would go back. If you want awesome Italian/Contemporary dishes go to Nota Bene chef David Lee a block and a half away. Awesome steaks for the same price…Ruths Chris a block north east…Jacobs 3 minutes west on Richmond….or if you are into classic steak house nothing can beat the vibe and clientele at Barbarians. Please note above…2014 comments are all short "best steak ever comments'….restaurants that are not doing well will often get their staff to log in and write a quick review in an attempt to boost business. If you are in the downtown core go anywhere other than this disappointing basement mess of a menu establishment.

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