The Octagon is not trendy, exciting or new by any means. It is, however, a purveyor of well executed cuts of meat and seafood, and a place where you'll find stellar service and a killer wine list. Consistent, accessible and approachable, The Octagon has been in business for decades, and there's an obvious reason for it. What it lacks in excitement, it more than makes up for in what we came for — meat.
Located in Thornhill, just north of Steeles on Yonge street, the restaurant is hard to miss, especially as it lives up to its geometric name. The entire building is a house of crazy eights, in and out, with oak and cherry woods positioned in between stunning panes of stained glass. This is definitely the type of place you would take Dorothy Manthooth out for a nice seafood dinner and never call her again.
Channeling the steak house vibe, we tucked in for some overpriced cocktails, a spicy Bloody Caesar ($12) and the kitschy classic Long Island Iced Tea ($11). Both did the trick, but probably weren't worth the expense given the wine on offer. An in house complimentary pickle tray helped take a bite out of cocktails, and the basket of buttery garlic bread was a nice touch.
The Caesar salad for two ($29) was prepared table side in a large well-seasoned wooden bowl; you could tell this was going to be a serious salad. A half dozen ramekins containing all the various ingredients (raw egg, anchovies, parmesan cheese, red wine vinegar, lemons, croutons, bacon bits, Worcestershire sauce, tabasco sauce, pepper, garlic) are all portioned out to ensure consistent results. It's quite a process, but entertaining to watch as well.
The servers creating the salads make it look like artwork. Our waiter this evening has worked at the Octagon for close to 20 years, and the proof is in the pudding: this is easily one of the best Caesar salads I've ever had. Portions are huge, and the creaminess of the dressing doesn't disguise the standout ingredients. Like a well-arranged piece of music, the salad soars with every bite and every component complementing the next.
The bacon wrapped scallops ($16.95) were tender, salty and pleasantly plump. At about the size of a baby's fist, you would expect some level of chewiness, but they literally break apart in your mouth, seeping the buttery-lemon juices into your mouth.
Steaks are served in every size and cut; we both opted for the Cadillac of the bunch, an eight ounce Filet Mignon ($39.95, or $51.95 for the super-thick 12 ounce option). Cooked to a perfect medium rare-rare, I was in meat heaven. Aged a lovingly 45 days and charcoal broiled, the steak here confirms the old suspicion that you'd definitely be misguided ordering the chicken.
The steaks are served simply enough, only a few mushrooms and a sad piece of parsley compete on this platter. But, there really is no competition. The steak is just so glorious it needs nothing to accompany it. Unlike other upscale steakhouses, The Octagon does offer a side at no charge, so our steaks were quickly followed by a baked potato and circular home fries that were mostly ignored.
We rounded out our meal with a fabulous liquid dessert, Spanish Coffee ($10.95). Once again the server made a theatrical appearance at our table, this time with an open flame. George lovingly prepared our coffees with great flair and precision. No third degree burns here.
I kept expecting Ron Burgundy to pop out and serenade us with some Jazz flute, but aside from that, this stereotypical steakhouse lives up to all its hype. A little weathered, a little dated, but it`s still a classic restaurant that steak lovers will return to, again and again.