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    Friday, October 30, 2009

    Review: Pata Negra


    Trust chefs. They know where to eat and plenty eat at The Black Hoof. Food critics too: on my inaugural visit, I glanced over to see Corey Mintz, beloved Toronto Star columnist, delving into a pile of glorious steaming meat.

    Since the secret of The Black Hoof is already out, I should state the obvious should any of my beloved readers wish to go: the sign on the red awning humbly reads Charcuterie, but this place is much, much more.

    Named in the great tradition of Spanish hams, the eating experience combines modular, unconventional, bite-sized treats with the minimalism and merriment of a bar.




    We arrived at 6:30 on a Friday night. In spite of hearing horror stories of endless lineups, we were ushered quickly to our seats.

    The staff alternated between three or four servers, all of whom were were charming, polite, and unpretentious.

    I hate pretentiousness in fine dining above all else: ask me about the blog post I was supposed to write about Madeline's during Summerlicious. Meh.

    I ordered a delicious cider and my companion had a something bitter. I had starved myself (somewhat) intentionally by eating fruits and pureed vegetable soup for breakfast and lunch. By dinnertime, my appetite was voraciously carnivorous.

    We opted for the standing menu options: meat & cheese. We selected the large charcuterie plate ($23 large, $14 small), a small cheese plate ($24 large, $15 small), olives ($4), and bread ($4 for large, $2 for small.) The kitchen made an error and brought us the large cheese plate which suited us just fine.

    Our waitress explained that the cured meats were arranged from mildest to strongest in flavour on the wooden board so you don’t dull your tastebuds by overpowering the subtlety of the softer flavours.

    We started with the jowl, then duck prociutto, followed by the foie gras. It was heavenly. The foie gras was simply amazing. It makes my mouth water just to think about it. Venison bresaola then pheasant rillette with dried cranberries and tarragon. Then came pork liver salami, and horse.

    I was expecting drama and controversy from the horse meat, but it just tasted delicious. I actually found most of the flavours to be subtle and fresh-tasting.

    Accompanying the meats were assorted pickled vegetables – broccoflower, roasted peppers, and eggplant.

    Each of the cheeses which were all from Quebec comes with a confiture pairing, the mildest with a nut butter.

    Montenegro paired with quince jelly, Bleu Benedictin with slices of pear, Robiola met elderberry jam: sweet, pungent, heavenly. If any of this sounds foreign or intimidating, it needn’t: all the cheeses we tasted were very mild, except for the blue cheese.

    Luscious, luscious food, I achieved complete satisfaction- but not without the Chocolate bread pudding with bacon ($7)! Maybe I was meat immune, but it tasted mostly like chocolate and, once again, delicious.


    I’ve read reviews on Chowhound (surprise, surprise) that balked at the value of the food, but I vehemently disagree. Given the quality and perfection of our meal, I thought the prices were reasonable.

    For me and my companion, the bill came to $63 including a couple of beers and dessert. Our bellies were happily stuffed and our taste buds tingling. Next time I hope to try scallops in bone marrow sauce, the raw horsemeat sandwich and the famous foie gras PB & J.

    Rating: 5/5



    The Black Hoof
    938 Dundas St. W.
    Toront
    416.551.8854



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    2 comments:

    Food With said...

    Nice review, Jess. The Hoof truly is a magical experience.

    I was recently struck by a craving for charcuterie on a Tuesday when the Hoof is closed and ended up at Harbord Room. It was great in its own way but a strong reminder that the best charcuterie in Toronto can be had at one place.

    In terms of mains, as well as the ones you've mentioned I would recommend the testina on lentils, tongue sandwich, or stuffed pig's snount on cabbage. Not sure if/when these will make it back on the menu but they were all excellent.

    I'd also recommend giving one of Jen Agg's cocktails a shot next time. They manage to be old school and inventive at the same time.

    -David,
    www.foodwithlegs.com

    Jess Bennett said...

    Hi David,

    Thanks for your honest response. I was actually recently in Ottawa at another well-regarded Charcuterie (Murray Street - post pending) and had a similar experience to yours at the Harbord Room.

    Thank you for the suggestions on the mains. I will definitely move beyond the charcuterie for my next visit.

    And the cocktails too! Thanks for your suggestion. I can't wait for my next visit.

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