417 Danforth Restaurant and Lounge
417 Restaurant and Lounge opened this week on the Danforth just East of Chester in what general manager Drew Burke-Gaffney boasted was a whirlwind seven weeks in the making.
In a word, the decor is slick. Impressive (I suppose) for a seven-week feat — but the dark furniture, blue lighting and wall-mounted water features contribute to an overall vibe that is way more lounge than restaurant.
The massive dining room and overlooking loft with private bar are suitable for private events, but I can only hope that they lay off the DJ booth during regular dinner service because the pounding music (inside and out) made it impossible to have a conversation without yelling across the table.
The backlit bar illuminates bottles of spirits and wines making drinks a definite focal point. The 417 Cocktail ($10) made with vodka, rose liqueur, pressed apple and lime is tasty, but it's the improbably large selection of 22 Ontario craft beers on tap that may prove to be a real draw.
The menu from Chef Kai Zyganiuk is described as emphasizing locally sourced ingredients and influenced by Mediterranean flavours, though I am having a bit of a hard time seeing it. When the Ahi Tuna Ceviche and Lime-Avacado Crema ($13) arrives topped with a grapefruit roasted almond crunch, I can't help but ask, which of those ingredients are local?
The Vine Ripened Tomato and Melon Gazpacho ($7) comes next. Served chilled, the puree of tomato and honeydew has a sweet quality that is punctuated with raw garlic notes that I'm not sure I enjoyed.
The Herb Roasted Lamb Chops and Slow Braised Shoulder ($38) is tender and well cooked. Alongside a heap of sweet purple yam mash, it's a generously sized entree.
For dessert, I try the California Air ($8) that features almond cake, candied fennel, anise streuzel and lemon and white chocolate cremeux. The presentation is beautiful and at last I see hints of the purported Mediterranean influence.
Admittedly this wasn't really my thing; the space is a little too big and impersonal, and the food was somewhat overshadowed by the flashy decor and loud music. With so much going on, it will be interesting to see if the 417 can find a way to embrace its nightlife vibe and also provide a dining experience that is worthy of being priced on par with some of Toronto's finer restaurants.
Photos by Jesse Milns