Monday, July 23, 2012

Frank Restaurant @ AGO
317 Dundas Street West
Toronto, Ontario Canada
Phone: +1(416) 979 6688

TYPE OF RESTAURANT: Contemporary Comfort Cuisine
ATTIRE: Business Casual
PRICES: $20 Lunch / $45 Dinner Prefixe (for the duration of Summerlicious)
PAYMENT OPTIONS: Cash, Mastercard, Visa, Debit/POS

            Lunch: Tuesday-Friday, 11:30AM - 2:30PM
            Dinner: Tuesday-Saturday, 5:30PM - 10:00PM
            Brunch: Saturday-Sunday, 11:00AM - 3PM

RESERVATIONS? yes available via Open Table; Walk-ins welcome but reservations strongly recommended
HANDICAP ACCESSIBLE? Yes, fully available
VEGETARIAN? Yes (menu depending)
VEGAN? Kinda. 
GLUTEN FREE? Possibly (menu depending)


Quality of Food: 5/5 
Service: 4.5/5
Originality: 4.5/5
Atmosphere: 5/5

I couldn't let the Summerlicious season go without trying at least one more restaurant from the 180 participating establishments in the GTA. This time around, it was my friend Kasia's 25th birthday and due to conflicting schedules, we had to opt for a celebratory quarter century lunch. After reviewing dozens of Summerlicious restaurants and menus, reservations at Frank were made.

Now I haven't heard much about this place except that one of their sous chefs, Elizabeth Rivasplata was a contestant on Top Chef Canada Season 2 which was just aired back in February/March. Let's just say I wasn't really a fan of her and I'm sure others who agree, she was very abrasive and wasn't much of a team player. After watching the season, I told myself I would never eat at the AGO because of her. Yeah... About that, I totally didn't realize it until after I made the reservation and am I ever glad I did. I'm not even sure if she even works @ Frank anymore since I couldn't find her anywhere on Frank's culinary management page on their website. 

Anyways, as we walked over to Dundas street on a beautiful sunny afternoon, we walked into a very chic, contemporary and extremely busy restaurant. The crowd was a mixture of business people on lunch, art gallery perusers (identified by their AGO badge on their clothing which I'm assuming gets them back into the art gallery) and people coming in directly from the street. A line was formed at the hostess booth and one by one, parties of hungry customers were either shown to their tables or were notified of an extremely long wait time without the presence of a reservation. Semi grinning, I walk up to the hostess to tell her of my reservation when to my left, there is this short elderly woman who totally butts in front of me and tells the hostess of her reservation!!! WTF?! That kinda rubbed me the wrong way, but I can't yell at old people, who makes a reservation for 1 anyways?!? (that was Kasia's chime in) 

As we were escorted to our seats, I observe the very busy dining room that was given a ton of natural light from the overhead transom windows. I took a gander into the kitchen as we walked by it and it was bustling but very calm and organized. Props to whoever was running the pass that day. We get seated at a table for two in one of the side dining rooms  that had bright red coloured walls and various paintings on the walls. I got seated facing the red wall which made me utterly ravenous (even more so since it was a later lunch) 

About 8 minutes passed as we viewed the menu and still no server in sight, we were slightly getting agitated and I began making slow service notes in my head. Suddenly, our waitress appeared cheery and full of useful information about the menu. She instantly high lighted what was still available on the drink menu as Frank menu (and apparently drink menu) is very seasonal which tells me how fresh their product is and how much they value local sustainability of ingredients. She even recommended some of her personal favourites and what has been popular with her other customers which tells me that she is very attentive to what people order as well as trying items off the menu herself. I love hearing that staff at restaurants get fed family style meals before services because it means they get first hand experience of what the food tastes like which gives them a better appreciation and understanding of what they are serving. This Summerlicious menu in particular, was very Spanish influenced as you will see below.

Watermelon Salad
King Mushroom Salad
After a slow start to our meal, I renounced the bad service card and we were off to starters before we knew it. For myself, I went with the watermelon salad, heirloom radish, queso fresco, basil and radish sprouts and minted-lemon vinaigrette. Kasia started with the grilled king oyster mushrooms with marinated asparagus cucumber salad, chive and chervil vinaigrette. First bite verdict: Amazing. there was a perfect balance of sweet from the watermelon, salty from the queso fresco, sour from the vinaigrette and texture and aromatics from the radish and sprouts. Definately far superior to the watermelon and feta salad Gio and I had at Windsor Epicure a couple of last year (link to the blog page here). Kasia's Mushroom salad was tasty but we both agreed that the mushrooms were a little off, it had an aroma that I couldn't explain better than that it had a taste of Chinatown (fishy tasting) and it wasn't a good taste to linger on your palette. As she got further in, she did mention that the stalks of the mushroom were much better than the cap (perhaps poor preparation of the mushrooms?). Regardless, watermelon salad was the clear winner for both of us in the starter section.

Steak Coca 

Saffron Honey Roasted Chicken
Next up, mains. Kasia went for the steak coca: spiced grilled steak on house-made grilled flatbread with charred corn salsa, ricotta salata and piquillo peppers. It was a very tasty dish, steak was cooked to a perfect medium with no juices oozing out profusely which means they rested their meat correctly allowing the juices back into the steak instead of on the plate (a huge pet peeve of mine at steak houses), and the charred corn salsa gave it a nice contrast of sweetness. Flatbread was a little tough on the bottom from it being toasted on the grill but I can always appreciate when they make the extra effort to make it from scratch. I opted for the saffron honey roasted chicken with golden raisins & capers served with patatas bravas. The star of this dish was clearly the chicken, the flavour profile was off the charts! The waitress added that she was very jealous everytime she serves this dish because at staff meals a dish using the marinade would be made but not the actual chicken and it was also delicious. She also mentioned that the chicken was marinaded for about 3 days for the flavours to set in and it was clearly obvious that it worked wonders! My palette went for a ride with everybite of tender, juicy fall off the bone chicken with sweet notes of honey and golden raisins contrasted by the saltiness capers and perfected with the subtle hint of saffron.

Get your hands away from my CHURRO YO!
Onto the grand finale: dessert. The decision here was a no brainer and Kasia and I were both unanimous in our decision, CHURROS!!! For those who do not know what a churros are they are essentially tube shaped deep fried fritter donuts that are often rolled in cinnamon sugar and are absolutely HUGE in Spanish cuisine. These wonderful fried sticks of heaven were served with dark chocolate and caramel dipping sauces. Kasia had two simple words can describe this dessert: "SOOOOOOOOOOO GOOOOOD!", and I whole-heartedly agreed. The churros were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside and it was absolutely just delightful with every dip into the dark chocolate and caramel sauces. I felt like a kid again eating Dunkaroo's or something except 1000X tastier. We were done before the waitress came back to ask how the dessert was! 

In conclusion, our experience at Frank was quite pleasant and enjoyable. Frank @ AGO really captured the essence of what Summerlicious is all about: showcasing some your finest creations from the kitchen to have customers coming back for more! I think I can speak for Kasia when I say Frank did exactly that and I would recommend this fine establishment to anyone who is looking for some well prepared, delicious food to go with some fine art! 


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