I was recently invited by Mary Luz Mejia to join a group of other Toronto food bloggers and writers to check out the new menu at Bloom Restaurant in the bustling Bloor West Village. We would be treated to four courses, a choice of speciality cocktails and wines provided by Malivoire Wines and specially selected to pair with each course.
Bloom has been open since November 2004, and recently had a change in kitchen stewardship, with the arrival of Cuban Executive Chef, Pedro Quintanilla. Chef Quintanilla worked at some of Havana's top restaurants, cooked for Fidel Castro as well as a stint at the French embassy in Havana. After emigrating to Toronto in the early 90's, he worked as a chef in the kitchens at Xango and Latitude, before being recruited by Bacardi as a personal chef. In 2004, Chef took over the kitchen at Focaccia before moving to their sister restaurant, Bloom, this April.
We started the evening with cocktails and an amuse of cassava frites, served with a mojo aioli. I chose the prosecco and raspberry juice concoction called the Blooming Buds, but I hear the Bloom Mojito was good as well. The cocktail was light and sweet with a characteristic raspberry tang and reminded me of an Italian soda. I loved the frites on their own. They were nicely seasoned with a perfectly crisp exterior and fluffy, creamy interior. I've never been an aioli fan, so preferred the frite without it.
Rossy and I decided we'd each order one of the two choices on offer per course and split them between us. The chicken liver and foie gras tureen with asparagus was a hit of pure liver flavour that went very well with the pickle and sweet onions. The sustainable halibut ceviche, cured in lime juice, habanero and cilantro was lovely on its own, but I actually think they should ditch the yam. The sweetness of the vegetable overpowers the delicate acid flavours and the texture provides no contrast. Though I was in the minority, I preferred the fish dish (sans the yam) with the 2009 Pinot Gris. I just feel the sweetness of the wine, with its hint of acid at the back worked better with the acids in the ceviche, as opposed to competing with the extreme richness of the tureen.
Next up were the mains of sesame crusted ahi tuna fillet with smashed crispy baby potatoes, tofu-wasabi dressing, and roasted mixed veg; and pan seared flank steak with garlic mashed potatoes, chimichurri sauce and ginger glazed carrot. While the tuna was well prepared and I enjoyed the inventiveness and crunch the wasabi peas in the dish (and I do love me some wasabi), the flank steak was the clear winner. It was simply prepared, perfectly seasoned and tender and the chimichurri added a nice spicy depth to the dish. And it definitely went better with the 2007 Pinot Noir. It was weird, but when I had the wine with the tuna, it seemed to give the wine an odd sesame note.
Rounding out the dinner were two desserts: a Cuban style dulce de leche and thyme flan, and churros with a Mexican chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. I'm pretty particular about my flan, with an unwavering devotion to the chocolate version served at Torito. I like my flan silky, and the Cuban style is definitely more eggy and dense than I like. The churros, however... oh the churros. These ones are now giving my other faves, from Frida Restaurant, a serious run for their money. They had the texture of a perfect french fry - crunch crisp on the outside and tender and fluffy on the inside. And the sauce had a nice bit of spice in the deep dark chocolate that definitely got my attention. Too bad I didn't get my full share, Rossy! :p Straight up delicious. The dessert course was paired with Malivoire's 2008 Icewine Riesling. Sadly, the syrupy sweet wine did nothing to sway my opinion of ice wines, even against the dark, spiced chocolate.
Thanks to Mary Luz and Sizzling Communications, Bloom co-owner Franca Iuele, Chef Quintanilla, Lifford Wine Agency's Nick Keukenmeester and Malivoire for a lovely dinner. Also thanks to Chef for providing us with recipes for his ceviche and his chimichurri (see below). Bloom is located at 2315 Bloor Street West in Toronto and are open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday from 5:00 pm to close. If you'd like to sample Chef Quintanilla's new menu for yourself, you can call 416.767.1315 to make a reservation.
Chef Pedro's Ceviche
- 2 lb white-fleshed skinless fish fillets, such as halibut
- 1 lb shrimp, peeled and cleaned
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 small clove garlic, chopped very fine
- 1 or 2 fresh habanero peppers
- 1 tsp chopped parsley
- 1 tsp chopped cilantro
- 1 medium onion, chopped fine (1/2 cup)
Cut the fish into strips 1-½" long by ¼" wide. Soak the strips in lightly salted water for 1 hour to tenderize. Drain well.
Put the fish in a bowl and fold in the lime juice carefully. Add the salt, garlic and habanero peppers and refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes.
Just before serving, mix in the parsley, cilantro and onion. Serve in chilled martini glasses.
Chef Pedro's Chimichurri Sauce
Chimichurri is an Argentinian sauce that can be used both as a sauce or a marinade for meat, poultry or fish. It is very easy to make, uses simple ingredients and can be also used as a pesto.
- 1 C (packed) fresh Italian parsley
- ½ C olive oil
- ¼ C (packed) fresh cilantro (optional)
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled ½ tsp salt
Puree all ingredients in a food processor. Transfer to bowl. It can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.