Sunday, December 19, 2010

TRC Does Cucci

I don't make it outside of the heart of Toronto too often.  It takes special people to get me to come visit them in the burbs.  So, when my special friends suggested we do dinner at Cucci in Oakville I said, "done" (I am so seriously eloquent).

Now, for those of you who know Oakville, you know people in Oakville have money.  Lots of it.  A restaurant the likes of Cucci fits in very well.  I'm told when Cucci first opened it was panned for being too elitist (as in, "You want to make a reservation?  Who are you?  Oh, nobody?  Sorry, we're full.").  Thank GAWD they had their anal pickle extracted ... we got a reservation!

Situated at the edge of a residential neighbourhood, the restaurant's space is welcoming and upscale without being too pretentious.  It was bustling as we walked in and were greeted by the hostess, the manager and the singing pianist, crooning something decidedly un-Toronto.  The room was filled with terrible blonde dye jobs, zillions of over-sequined tops, and ill-fitting suits.  Do I sound bitchy yet?  I totally sound bitchy, don't I.  Whatevs.

The menu is very well designed and reads as their tagline states: modern Italian cuisine.  There are a number of selections without being overwhelming, the ingredients are all pronounceable without being too pedestrian, and the price points are within reason ... I was excited.

The first course arrives and we all stuck to the classic: Caesar salad.  It looked promising but sadly lacked flavour.  Garlic was barely discernible, the lettuce had started to wilt, and the crouton was so over-toasted it flew across the table as you tried to break into it.  *sigh* ... maybe the wild mushrooms on toast would be better?  Nope.  In concept it was right.  In execution, it tasted just of cream and I sorely missed proper seasoning and the promise of truffle.  On the plus side the black trumpet mushrooms were a nice touch (underutilized) and well cooked.  NB: forgive the pics ... I stupidly forgot my camera and so these are courtesy of my brother's Blackberry.
Cucci Caesar 
Wild Mushrooms on Toast
As our mains arrived, I again got my hopes up.  The plates looked great.  In writing, the dishes sounded delightful.  In real life?  So-so.  The lobster in my spaghetti, although an ample serving of it, was overcooked and the dish was once again light on seasoning and missed the brightness of the lemon.  The scallop risotto was more like al dente rice than creamy risotto.  While the scallops were cooked perfectly, something in the dish had not been washed properly so had a gritty bite (it could also have from the crab if not shelled carefully).  The salmon was more positive and had a lovely mild flavour and cooked to perfection without drying it out.  The rabbit tagliatelle was possibly the winner of all the dishes and while enjoyable and the rabbit nicely braised, lacked somewhat in depth of flavour (despite the olives - which were a nice touch).  The beef was the only dish I did not try ... I'm not sure why, since it was offered to me.  My friend did finish the entire dish and it looked like it was cooked well.  Plus, they get points for the Amarone jus.
Spaghetti with Lobster
Steak with Amarone Jus
Diver Scallops with King Crab and Pea Risotto
Salmon with Mussels
The service was pleasant and attentive, though in my opinion we waited a bit too long to order and also for the bill (Who just keeps coming around giving you more water when the table is clearly done?  Bring. The. Bill.).  For 6 people with 2 bottles of wine and no dessert our bill came to a modest $400 (excluding tip).  Totally reasonable.

So here's my verdict.  If you are looking for somewhere to go in Oakville, don't write this place off.  If on the other hand location is not an issue, there are many other places I'd recommend over Cucci.  My gut tells me the restaurant has a talented chef, but that their line cooks are somewhat green and failing to perfectly execute on their chef's vision.  Maybe we hit it on a bit of an off night.  But with over 10,000 restaurants in the GTA to choose from, can anyone afford to have off nights?

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