|Location||1198 Queen Street West|
Dandylion established its roots in the hipster haven of Queen West and has blossomed since its opening in January 2015, earning praise in Toronto Life and Canada’s 100 Best. This casual and cozy dining spot prides itself on serving a seasonal, Canadian-inspired menu that changes daily. Chef/owner Jay Carter, who worked under Susur Lee (Lee, Luckee, Fring’s, Bent) for over a decade, has created quite the buzz.
My date and I ventured there for an early dinner on a Friday evening after waiting over a month after making our reservation. I’d heard amazing things from fellow foodies. I was expecting an epic meal paired with equally epic drinks (including freshly brewed kombucha, a craft that Carter perfected in Denmark). We walked into the narrow, bar-less restaurant, which was laid out similar to Canis.
Sitting across from my date at the marble-topped table was romantic and intimate, and everything I’d hoped for after waiting an eternity to dine there. It was an otherworldly experience as we chatted over glasses of biodynamic wine and craft cider. I felt like we were inside a terrarium, with plants snaking up the exposed brick walls, the scent of melted butter wafting from the open kitchen behind us. When the lovely server interrupted our fairy-tale moment to bring a panier of freshly baked whole wheat bread with ricotta, shallot and cracked pepper, the experience kept getting better. Was this too good to be true?
At this point, we were in our own La-La-Land and hadn’t even looked at the daily menu, an extremely tight selection of “starters”, “plates” and “finish.”
As a certified chef and self-professed food fanatic, there are obvious pros and cons with a daily menu. The evolving menu keeps loyal fans coming back. However, the risk is that there’s a narrow window for perfection. You need to knock all of the dishes out of the park. Every. Single. Time.
Our starters came and were beautifully presented. I had the lettuce and radish with buttermilk dressing, which had a sprinkling of black sprouted lentils. The creamy dressing and acidity from the pickled radishes underneath complemented the lettuce perfectly. My only critique is that it was hard to actually eat it. The three massive leaves of lettuce should have been cut down to a more manageable size. I have a bone to pick with Dandylion about the trout, leek and horseradish that my guest ordered. Again, beautifully presented, but lacking in flavour. As my guest reached into his mouth to remove a pin bone he’d found in the ceviche-style dish, I felt embarrassed for Carter. It should have been removed during prep.
On to the mains: the crispy potato with turnip and spinach was very appealing. Served rösti-style, it was plated with a sprinkling of fresh spinach and dill. I cut into the galette, expecting the crispy exterior to be consistent throughout. Unfortunately, I was met by a mushy (but tasty) interior. The blanched and lightly marinated turnip was fresh and earthy. It paired solidly with the potato.
When my date’s bavette arrived, we were both taken aback by the rareness. The crust was flavourful and meat was juicy and tender, as a steak should be. But, we both agreed that the star of this plate was the small portion of caramelized shallots.
There were a few misses, but we held out hope for dessert. The menu had three options ranging from cheese with fresh fruit to a brownie with homemade ice cream. Naturally, we chose the sour cream ice cream with rhubarb to finish (since grand-maman or the Boston Pizza kids’ menu could supply us with a gooey brownie and ice cream). The off-white ice cream arrived in a perfect quenelle on top of a bright pink backdrop of stewed rhubarb. While the flavours were overly tart, it was a unique combination that refreshed our palates.
After sampling a variety of dishes, I have to disagree with Canada’s 100 Best, which named placed Dandylion at number 9 in 2017. It left us wanting to uproot this pesky garden weed; however, we would return for the bread, unpretentious service and magical ambiance.
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.