Bardi’s Steakhouse: Toronto

Our waiter was a vision of impeccably groomed discretion as he quietly entered the dimly lit room, refilling glasses and clearing away baskets which had held a grilled garlic loaf with aged cheddar, but were now merely a receptacle for discarded crumbs.  I took another small sip of my wine, trying to be ladylike, and wondering on which tier this Cabernet Sauvignon sat from within the vast wine room.  The Arrowood 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon was a far cry from the wines we usually share, which are best described (even by the vintner) as “easy to drink”.  The Cab-Sauv was rich and woody, sitting thickly on the tongue and allowing us to taste nuances of dark chocolate, cloves, and cedar.  Having no interest or experience in the life of a sommelier, these are things that I wouldn’t generally notice, but this wine was so rich and exquisite that one really couldn’t help it.

The menu held no surprises – it was exactly what you would expect to get at a steakhouse, which is exactly why I was excited to BE at a steakhouse.  I waffled between the French Onion Soup and Shrimp Cocktail, but ended up ordering the shrimp – the wrong shrimp.  I mistakenly asked for the Shrimp Bardi’s, their take on a Scampi, when what I really wanted was this: 

My theory is that these are mini lobsters masquerading as shrimp.  And on to dinner we go!  I really enjoy a good steak, but I can also only eat so much meat and the smallest steak was an 8oz Filet.  I opted for “The Ontario” top sirloin, rare.  The waiter shook his head at me, and said – ever so quietly – “No, you want the 10oz striploin.”  I was confused.  “Wha?  Huh?  Uhhhh….”  He repeated, “Yes, you want the 10 oz striploin.  You like it rare.  You want the 10 oz striploin.”  A man with a bow tie had started to hypnotize me.  “Yes,”  I repeated.  “I want the 10 oz striploin.”  As a matter of fact, this was an exceptionally good choice.

Perfectly seasoned and beautifully charred on the outside, the meat was so tender that it could have been carved with a butter knife.  Succulent bite after bite I gently chewed, trying to prolong the Awesome Glory of Meat in my mouth.  Now this, my friends, was a flavourful steak.  The waiter offered me a pat of butter for my baked potato.  “Yes, please!”  And from the darling silver service platter, some sour cream?  “Yes, please!”  And chives?  “Yes, please!”  It was so good.  I mean, it was so very good.

Located in the Entertainment district of Toronto, on York Street (just north of Front), Bardi’s Steakhouse has a beautiful view overlooking the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.  The ambiance is classy and intimate, and an acoustic jazz version of If I Live to Tell was playing as we arrived.  Service was impeccable.  The steak was outstanding.  The price was….well, actually, the price was FREE.

Ah, here is the crux of the situation.  Mike and I may be choosy, but we are still beggars.  We are NOT the kind of people that go to Bardi’s on a weekday night.  We are not the kind of people who can afford to go to Bardi’s any night.  We were lucky enough to be invited out to a Toronto International Film Festival Gala by a client of the company Mike works for.  It was awkward having to make small talk with the groomed and lacquered wives (all of which were blond.  All of which had almost the same belted black 3/4 sleeve skirt suit on.  All of which were about 15 years older than me, and FAR MORE POLISHED) and it was irritating being dismissed by the host and other Big Business Honchos who had no time whatsoever for Mike’s non-influential Plus One.  However, for a free date night consisting of a fabulous dinner, “Dessert Extravaganza”  (it was) and premiere film screening at TIFF, I figure that a bit of social discomfort is a small price to pay.  Which is good, because otherwise everything else would have had quite a large price to pay. 

Those delectable colossal shrimp that I wanted so much?  They were $24….and only if you order them with an entree.  My steak?  A solid $49.  And it came with a baked potato.  Yes, that’s it.  Steak and a baked potato.  I could have asked for a side of mushrooms ($7) or asparagus ($11) but I felt that this was excessive enough.  The wine?  Well, it retails for slightly over $50, so I don’t want to even hazard a guess at the restaurant’s inflated sale price. 

Would I go there again?  In a heart beat, a New York Minute, or two shakes of a cat’s tail – whichever one comes first.  But would I go there any time soon?  Not until I find that tree.  You know, that special tree.  The one where money grows.  I tried to plant one last year but it turned out to be a crab apple instead.