|Location||1 Austin Terrace
(at Casa Loma)
|Dinner for two with a bottle of Prosecco||$400|
There’s something majestic about being in a castle. But after dining at BlueBlood Steakhouse in Casa Loma, my face bore the same frozen expression as the gargoyles adorning the stone walls.
When I heard that Casa Loma was opening a steakhouse, it piqued my interest. The Gothic Revival-style structure, operated by Liberty Entertainment Group, has become one of Toronto’s top tourist destinations and event venues. Liberty Entertainment Group’s expanding hospitality empire includes Cibo, Spice Route, Rosewater, as well as several outposts in Miami.
BlueBlood Steakhouse, which opened its doors in fall 2017, promises an upscale dining experience in a one-of-a-kind ambiance. Think ‘heritage castle meets modern steakhouse.’ After waiting about a month for our Saturday dinner reservation, my friend and I were excited to sink our teeth into some juicy bifthèque.
The space took my breath away from the moment we entered. It was undoubtedly sleek with the right mélange of antique heirlooms and modern art pieces by Andy Warhol, Mr. Brainwash and Salvador Dali. The ambiance was like nothing I’ve ever seen. Félicitations to Nadia Di Donato, VP and creative director of Liberty Entertainment Group—the mastermind behind its unique appeal.
The service, on the other hand, was far from outstanding. The fact that we were two young women in a homogeneous crowd of baby boomers who seemed to have an endless cash flow was probably a strike against us. There was no invitation to check our coats or umbrellas, so my Burberry trench took a seat on the tufted booth.
We noticed that the vibe was eerily quiet for a Saturday night (maybe a ghost was keeping guests away?); but, it was only 7:30 p.m. A peevish server appeared and promptly handed me a tablet with an extensive cocktail and wine menu, organized by region. As I scrolled through, I quickly noticed that the bottles were all marked up by at least 50 per cent. We opted for a bottle of Prosecco because bubbles are never a bad idea.
While waiting for our drinks, we perused the menu. Executive corporate chef Michael Ewing and his team did an excellent job highlighting various cuts of beef and fresh seafood from around the world. The Wagyu options from the U.S., Japan and Australia immediately caught my attention. A six-ounce American Wagyu filet mignon was $90. The sticker shock only got worse with a $200 six-ounce A5 filet from Kagoshima, Japan. I was expecting a meal fit for a queen.
A hot minute after our Prosecco popped, the server asked if we were ready to order. We hadn’t even decided—we were too engrossed in conversation. He came back a few minutes later and his incessant urgency made me anxious.
As the centerpiece of our meal, we each chose the eight-ounce centre-cut filet from Green Bay, Prince Edward Island. We started with the Castle Kale salad and rounded out our filets with two sides: sautéed broccolini and polenta squares.
With a name like Castle Kale ($18), I was expecting a sophisticated blend of textures and flavours, but it didn’t quite live up to the expectations it set. The kale had been marinated with apple cider vinaigrette to counter the overly fibrous texture. Aged goat cheese, Royal Gala apple and spiced pecans were sprinkled sparingly throughout . It wasn’t anything I couldn’t make at home. With salad still left in the dish, the server came back again. He clearly needed a course in social etiquette because we had to politely ask him to let us savour the moment. At this point, I wanted to throw him into the dungeon.
Out-of-this-world polenta squares ($14) arrived soon after, a regal concoction deserving a crown. The gorgonzola fonduta was the perfect companion and light sprinklings of fried parmesan elevated the flavour.
The sautéed broccolini with cheddar espuma ($16) arrived, no more than four limp stalks and zero cheddar. Décevant!
Then, it was time for the moment of truth. I could smell the centre-cut filet ($65) before I even saw it—the acerbic top note of its char; the earthy bottom note of grass-fed beef that had been aged for 28 days. Upon slicing through, it was cooked to perfection. If only it had been served sizzling instead of merely warm. The three salt pairings were an interesting addition, especially the Spanish Maldon.
As the waiter was refilling my Prosecco, he knocked my phone off the table and could barely muster up an apology.
At one point during the meal, I went searching for a restroom. There was no signage, so I had to approach someone. I was haphazardly escorted to the bowels of the castle to use the same washroom as the escape room patrons. I almost tripped down the rickety stairs and wasn’t impressed with the cleanliness of the washroom. I hope this just was a temporary arrangement.
We passed on a tempting dessert list, including Castle Baked Alaska for two ($28) and crêpes ($28), but were offered a house-made salted dark chocolate. A bittersweet touch!
Since Liberty Entertainment Group signed its Casa Loma lease in 2014, they’ve been a marketing factory—churning out escape rooms, haunted house attractions and other touristy activities to help alleviate the high cost. The main failing with this is that the Liberty Group cast its net out wide instead of going deep and focusing on quality. C’est dommage, because BlueBlood has huge potential.
There are growing pains with any new restaurant, and I hope BlueBlood can massage the kinks as carefully as the Wagyu beef on its menu. It’s a one-visit wonder. Here’s my advice: go for the ambiance and spectacular art collection. Perhaps you’ll luck out with better food and service than my friend and I experienced. But your time (and cash) is better spent at Morton’s or Jacob’s & Co. Steakhouse.
Mme M. xoxo
Le rubrique de Madame Marie
1 étoile – Run. Before you get the runs.
2 étoiles – Mediocre, but nothing you couldn’t make at home.
3 étoiles – C’est bon, with some standout qualities.
4 étoiles – Many memorable qualities and excellent execution. Compliments to the chef.
5 étoiles – Formidable! Michelin Star quality. Book a reservation immediately.