The Fifth Cafe
The Fifth Cafe, the newest addition to the Fifth Complex on Richmond, is smack dab in the middle of the Club district, but man, what a bore. Dressed up like a campy Parisian train station it feels like a Timothy's.
Faux French antiques flock the walls while a jumble of Toulouse-Lautrec style fonts serve as upholstery fabric on the chairs. The big navy wingback chairs are comfortable though, and newspapers hang on rods, like in a library, which is a nice touch. Best is the staff - friendly, attentive, and enthusiastic, no wonder they have a steady flow of black-clad corporate types streaming through the door to get their midday meal.
I follow suit, literally, and order the tomato and bocconcini wrap ($7.75), the braised beef sandwich ($8.90), and the Asian chicken salad ($7.74). The tomato and bocconcini wrap is as stated, plus a trace of pesto, in a white flour tortilla. It could use sweetness and acid, like a balsamic reduction, to fortify the milky cheese and cherry tomatoes.
The braised beef comes on an Ace brioche bun, with hot BBQ braised beef and caramelized onion, of which, in my sandwich anyway, there was little. It's probably best, since sweet onions on top of sweet beef doesn't create a very dynamic flavour profile - a slaw or tart pickle would have provided the needed zingy crunch instead.
I ended up putting the tiny cup of sunomono-like pickle (carrot, cucumber, onion and daikon in vinegar) that came on the side of each sandwich inside the last bite. It wasn't a perfect fit-more like a MacGyver move- but it made due in a pinch.
Despite eating in, the salad came in a Chinese-style takeout box. Predominantly angel hair rice noodles, it had bits of chicken, broccoli, nuts (it said almonds but I was sure of peanuts) in a rice vinegar and sesame dressing. Buckwheat soba noodles would have given the dressing something to hold onto, and an earthiness to the over abundant high notes of vinegar and orange. My complaint then of the food across the board (a complaint easily fixable) is one of balance- or lack there of.
To finish I ordered an Americano ($2.35 single, $2.85 double), a peanut crumble cookie ($1.78) and a chocolate croissant ($2.43). The coffee, made with Rufino espresso beans, carried the token chocolately flavour and was without bitterness, but lacked crema.
I saw others jaunt off happily with their coffee in hand so it could have just been mine. The cookie and croissant however, are not worth mention. Teas are from Higgins and Burke ($2.10), and they have a selection of pops and Pellegrino.
Clearly, the customer base is the downtown work set (hours run from 7:30-5:30, Monday to Friday, and there is the convenience of pre-ordering online) but I just can't believe office workers eat this kind of drab lunch day in and day out, no matter how nice the manager and counter help are. I guess it just goes to show that a smile goes a long way in this town.
Photos by Jesse Milns