Saturday, November 1, 2014Light Snow 1°C
Restaurants

TOCA Restaurant

Posted by Derek Flack / Profiled on April 18, 2013 / review policy

TOCA Restaurant Ritz CarltonTOCA is the destination restaurant at the still new-feeling Ritz-Carlton Toronto. When making a visit here, it is absolutely necessary to tell everyone that you're going to the Ritz. But don't say it like it's a big deal; it's important that you be nonchalant about it — otherwise you'll lose all the cachet that goes along with dining at the Ritz. With that bit of douchebaggery out of the way, I can confess that TOCA isn't actually over-the-top fancy or exclusive. Far from a bad thing, this just means that the room feels both upscale and comfortable, a good combination.

To some extent, it needs to be this way. Because one of the primary functions of the restaurant is to serve hotel guests, it's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So there's no white tablecloths here. What you will find, however, is an in-house cheese cave and wine cellar, which add a certain dignified element to the restaurant. More on the former later.

TOCA Restaurant Ritz CarltonUnder head chef Gihen Zitouni TOCA shows off obvious Mediterranean influences, which were on display with the first dish I tried, the Black Rice Risotto with Seared Sea Scallops ($39). Like the decor, it's plated with elegance but resists fussiness. The scallops are well-browned and pair well with the creamy rice (which tastes far better than it looks), while the chanterelle mushrooms provide a welcome divergence in texture from the other elements on the plate. If there's a complaint to be made it's with the dollops of aioli that dot the risotto. While they up the overall creaminess of the dish, the garlic is subdued, which makes it a bit too mayo-like for my liking.

TOCA Restaurant Ritz CarltonOrdered alongside the scallops, the Potato "Tiza" (6pc. $12 / 9pc. $14) are little squares stuffed with braised veal, spicy tomato jam and the same aioli found in the risotto. Alas, the ratio of aioli to the other ingredients is tipped too far in the former's favour, which makes the dish somewhat one-dimensional and leads to an aioli overload when paired with the risotto.

TOCA Restaurant Ritz CarltonI round out the savoury portion of lunch with the Tunisian Fricassee Sandwich Bites ($4 each), which feature albacore tuna, harissa and kalamata olives. This is a complex little sandwich with a subtle amount of bite and a good thing to order if you're not looking to eat something too heavy at lunchtime. Caveat emptor: the taste of olives will linger long after you're done with your meal.

TOCA Restaurant Ritz CarltonAlthough I'm not big on dessert, the Planet Chocolate ($11) is something of a showstopper. The table side presentation is fun, as the server pours hot chocolate sauce over a white chocolate sphere, which melts to reveal even more chocolate on the inside. It would all be too much chocolate for this salt-first palate, but the dessert comes into its own when paired with a 2007 Pillitteri Cabernet Sauvignon ice wine ($18, 1oz.), which despite its own sweetness, tames the chocolate explosion in my mouth.

Speaking of wine, the list has its fair share blockbusters (the vertical of Opus One in the wine cellar would fit this description), but is actually targeted very much toward the by-the-glass drinker, with approximately 50 options to choose from. That's surely a good thing, because one of the highlights of my meal was the cheese tasting. Guests can explore the in-house cheese cave before selecting what they want, an experience I'd recommend. Even if the room is on the small side, it's fun to get in there and poke around (so to speak).

TOCA Restaurant Ritz CarltonOnce you've got a few in mind, the servers are happy to help you find an appropriate wine pairing. Of the cheeses I tried out, the best is surely the 10 year old "le silo" cheddar from Quebec ($7 for one selection, $18 for three). While sharp, it's far less so than one might imagine, which matches it well to the "Tres Picos" Garnacha from Campo de Borja ($20 6oz., 2010) that I enjoy alongside.

TOCA might not be the fanciest hotel restaurant you'll kind find in Toronto, but I maintain that this is actually a good thing. From the Mediterranean-inspired menu to the ample by-the-glass wine offerings, it's a great place to head for a power lunch or to hit up when you want an elevated meal in an environment that's upscale but comfortable. If you're looking to wow a few friends, however, try out the chef's table in the kitchen. Located mere steps away from the action, it's spectacle dining at its best.

When I profile restaurants (which is to say when my visit is comped), I tend not to comment on the service, as it doesn't make much sense to do so in a context that's not blind. I will, however, note that even among comped meals there's quite a divergence in the level of service and that the staff here were amongst the most accommodating and friendly I've encountered. Take that for what it's worth.

Discussion

14 Comments

Spinach / April 18, 2013 at 02:27 pm
user-pic
Just FYI: there is nothing wrong with the taste of olives lingering long after a meal.
BLT Craftsteak / April 18, 2013 at 03:04 pm
user-pic
This place looks like any typical hotel.. Yawn.
Fig / April 18, 2013 at 03:57 pm
user-pic
Timely review - I just booked a business lunch there. Looking forward to it.
Spinach "dip" replying to a comment from Spinach / April 18, 2013 at 04:36 pm
user-pic
Well, unless the lingering olive taste was from your Mom.
emr / April 18, 2013 at 05:04 pm
user-pic
I've been here twice...both on Christmas day for my mothers birthday which is the same day. Both experiences were quite different. But both were equally amazing. After the first time they had redecorated a little bit and the menu was a bit different, however, the atmosphere was wonderful both times. The service was also excellent. The food was delightful and well thought out. The steak I had was the best I've ever eaten and I couldn't say enough good things about the food overall. Well worth a try!
Morbo / April 18, 2013 at 06:10 pm
user-pic
Disclosing that you are reviewing a restaurant (for the sole purpose of having the meal comped), taints your review in all respects, not just in how you might be served. You think the kitchen doesn't know what's going on?
sigh / April 18, 2013 at 11:54 pm
user-pic
Read the review policy, Morbozo. Pretty clearly says it's a profile up top, not a review.
Ter / April 20, 2013 at 02:29 pm
user-pic
Zitouni ruined a trailblazing Canadiana resto with yet another Mediterranean place. Shame...
louis vuitton designer bags / April 25, 2013 at 08:22 am
user-pic
Mobile ads will be a whole new ball game for themJust normal Facebook permissions have gotten out of control. I uninstalled the whole mess today.I am not a Facebook user but this approach is pretty clever. [url=http://designerbagsreviews.webs.com/]louis vuitton designer bags[/url] louis vuitton designer bags
louis vuitton bags us / April 25, 2013 at 08:49 am
user-pic
If you’ve got an HTC First, you’ll likely have purchased the device because you want Facebook on your device, and there’s really not a whole lot you need to consider. louis vuitton bags us http://cheaplouisvuittonbagsoutletus.webs.com/ louis vuitton bags us
louis vuitton outlet / April 25, 2013 at 08:49 am
user-pic
With Facebook Messenger you get what Facebook calls “Chat Heads”, a rather awesome feature that you can learn all about in our Chat Heads First! [url=http://louisvuittonbagsforsaleoutlet.blinkweb.com/]louis vuitton outlet[/url] louis vuitton outlet
louis vuitton outlet / April 25, 2013 at 09:40 am
user-pic
Thanks for offering help though.The expandable memory and non-removable battery is an old excuse these days. louis vuitton outlet http://safelouisvuittonbagsoutlet.webs.com/ louis vuitton outlet
louis vuitton outlet / April 29, 2013 at 01:06 am
user-pic
Within this situation, you may contemplate searching for satchels to hold around shoulders to highlight your torso. louis vuitton outlet http://www.pickyourbagsonline.com/ louis vuitton outlet
2014 かごバッグ 新作 / January 27, 2014 at 08:08 pm
user-pic
Woah! I'm really loving the template/theme of this site.
It's simple, yet effective. A lot of times it's very difficult to get that
"perfect balance" between usability and visual appeal.
I must say that you've done a excellent job with this.

Also, the blog loads very fast for me on Safari.
Exceptional Blog!

Add a Comment

Search

Find a restaurant

Or use the options below to assist you in locating a restaurant in Toronto.

Search Results

Please select criteria from the dropdown menus above to start your search.

Reviews

Recent Reviews

Refine the list using the categories below:


Loading...
Other Cities: Montreal