We went to Chef Roger Mooking’s Nyood Restaurant on Queen Street West in Toronto last night. We’ve been trying to go for some time, but they usually have two seatings 6:30pm and 9:30pm – way too early and way too late! But yesterday morning JT was able to book a spot on Open Table at 8:00! I was rather excited because I’ve seen Chef Mooking on Food Network and I liked his cooking, or at least I thought I did! Also, recall I won his New Year’s Eve photo in a nutshell contest in January.
The place was hopping when we arrived, about 80% full. It was very noisy (my throat is sore this morning from having to yell). The area on Queen West (just west of Dufferin) is still a bit grunge, and they have chosen a very low key signage (in fact, I would have missed it, but JT Google Street viewed it so he knew what to look for!) I find that NYC-like anonymous signage a bit pompous. (The signage turned out to be a clear acrylic cutout on the window just to the right of the door, obviously in-obvious!)
Tightly clad young ladies greeted us (don’t get too excited, a couple of them reminded me of a sausage!) We were sat near the back along the prep kitchen half-wall (the entire kitchen is open and rather brightly lit). Our waiter was very nice — he seemed to know the food, but then again I only heard every second word because of the noise! About 30 minutes into our experience, someone turned the music up — oh goody!
The décor is contemporary with some very eclectic touches. For example, white shelves with white bound books, the unusual chandelier made from vintage construction lights and the tables which look kinda-sorta like cement but I think they are a photograph of cement laminated to wood (maybe). Overall, I liked it, JT did not.
The evening started out right, they brought our wine and the waiter allowed us to enjoy it for a bit before taking our order; we figured it would be $100+ meal so we didn’t want to rush! They are ‘sharing’ plates we were told — 3-5 per person (we should have got the hint). We were not starving and are both trying to reduce our intake, so we decided on three plates to start. Our first course was the Tuna Nicoise Tartar with a hard boiled quail’s egg. Now I like small portions, but this? There was maybe 1 oz of tuna on the plate. Tuna Nicoise tartar to me is a combination of the traditional Nicoise in the tartar, not so much, in fact, hardly any taste to the tuna at all, other than too salty! My first dislike was the texture of the tartar, they seemed to have made a ‘paste’ of it, instead of chopping the tuna into beautiful 2mm cubes – the very subtle taste was overwhelmed by the pasty texture. And there was a drizzle of Balsamic reduction, not exactly my pick for tuna, but interesting, non-the-less. Course number two was supposed to be Mozarrella Di Bufala Compana but they had changed the menu so the waiter suggested the Vegetable Antipasto because it too had Bufala Mozzarrella. This was a scant representation of grilled vegetables laid over a toasted piece of bread (not great bread) spread with chick pea purée and Buffalo Mozzarella. The Buffalo Mozzarella turned out to be a purée or a chopped version, quite weird in fact. To me, the cheese lost the subtle flavour to the texture again. Our final pick was the Malta Braised Short Ribs which they brought WAY TOO SOON (we hadn’t even finished the Vegetable Antipasto, and we’re not slow eaters!). The short ribs were cooked very well, they were very tender and literally fell apart on the fork. There was about 3 oz in the bowl. For me, it was way too sweet, I could barely eat it. The three courses impressed us so little, we decided to cut our losses and end the meal.
I was very disappointed!
Nyood: Overall rating (in my opinion): Decor 3/5, service 2.5/5, food 2/5, Value 2/5, Noise: 2/5 (Noise is a new category: 1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet)
Update August 2011: Congratulations to Chef Mooking and Everyday Exotic for the nominations for the Gemini Awards.