Bymark: Drake and the Summerlicious Menu
66 Wellington Street West Toronto, ON
Found inside TD Centre is Bymark, named after celebrity chef, Mark McEwan. I’ve been a longtime fan of Mark McEwan, well of his television programs, anyway. It’s a totally different story when his food is on a plate in real life.
We decided to order off the seasonal Summerlicious menu, a discount prix fixe menu featuring local ingredients. There weren’t any actual prices beside the items on the menu but the Summerlicious dining event has been going on every summer in Toronto for years. Dinners were no more than $45 per person. It’s a great way to lure diners into restaurants during the summer months when a backyard barbecue or picnic at the beach may seem more appealing.
Here’s a tidbit of gossip from the night, of all people, we spied Drake sitting at the front booth, flanked by two scantily clad women and guarded by a table of giant bodyguards. Yeah, Drake, upfront and center. You’d think his entourage would have requested a more private table. More interestingly, do you think he was ordering off the Summerlicious menu too? Record sales must have taken a dip.
For appies, we settled on the beef carpaccio which was plated on a gorgeous long plate, the tissue thin slices of beef, pink, seductive and juicy underneath crispy croutons and shredded endive. The haphazardly squirted globs of ranch dressing around the plate was uninspiring though. The beef was silky and sweet but fairly normal. I guess I expected some sort of mini explosion in my mouth, the textures of the crunchy bread and soft, moist beef had such potential.
I was blown away by the lobster poutine. As delicious as it was beautiful, we all shared this dish and still had trouble finishing it. The sauce was lusciously rich and creamy, laced with the most refreshing hint of coconut. The lobster meat was substantial, large hunks of it were found throughout the dish, each piece, juicy and moist and tasted perfectly cooked, tender and succulent.
When a nearly empty soup bowl with just a small heap of shredded crab and splat of tomato paste was placed before us, we almost called the waiter back to ask “Did you forget something?” We didn’t have to though, because he whipped back around with a kettle filled with the chilled zucchini soup we ordered and proceeded to pour it around the little heap of crab until the bowl was filled with a tuft of crab and micro greens peeking out the middle of the bowl like a tropical island in a sea of murky green.
Top points for presentation and plating. As for the taste, the soup was very refreshing, cool and smooth but nothing spectacular. It was less gritty than I thought it would be, there weren’t any strong bitter tastes from the zucchini either. And you all know how I feel about vegetables.
As impressed as I was by the plating and presentation of the chilled zucchini soup, my expectations shot right back down when my dish of seared scallops and BBQ duck confit was placed in front of me. I didn’t pull up my blog entry but the plating of the springy micro greens with seared scallops nestled in with mushrooms and sauce reminded me so much of the plate of scallops at Vancouver’s L’Abattoir that I did double take. I’m not even sure who ripped off who, but one thing’s for sure, there really must be more than one way to plate seared scallops and a million more ways to add more colours to a plate, especially since it’s now summertime and I ate L’Abattoir’s scallops in the dead of winter. Just like at L’Abattoir, the plate gave off a feeling of woodland rusticity.
Could Mark McEwan really be just riding the wave of his celebrity brand? I guess he really is the Canadian Gordon Ramsey.
The scallops were perfectly seared though, moist and juicy on the inside with a crispy, golden crust on each side. Scallops must be impossible to screw up in any city.
The duck confit was also juicy. I can’t say that I remember much else. I’m pretty sure I must have psyched myself out before dinner since this was my first time at a Mark McEwan restaurant. Everyone else at the table either ate Mark McEwan’s food at catered office parties or at his over priced hipster grocery store.
By the time our overcooked halibut hit the table, plated in yet another derivative fashion, I had totally demystified Mark McEwan in my mind. I’m not even sure if I’m going to watch his shows any more.
There were parts of the halibut that were rubbery, the flavours were okay, albeit subtle and ordinary.
I was pretty excited for dessert. Not just because of my intense sweet tooth but because I thought if there was anything that could redeem this meal, it was dessert.
The tart lemon slice was gorgeous and bursting with potential. Upon the first bite, I was wowed by the sweet and sour sensation of the citrus against the cool, honey ice cream. It reminded me of lemon squares from elementary school bake sales. I love nostalgia so I was won over. That green herb leaf was unnecessary though. After all, this was dessert not a savory dish. Who knew that Mark McEwan loves perching micro green leaves on everything. Is this a Toronto thing?
The nougat glace turned out to be more hard than chewy. I’m not sure why I was expecting the sweet chewiness of a Turkish Delight, it’s the only thing I associate nougat with, I suppose. The berries were refreshing and sweet though. That white hard hunk that was supposed to be nougat was questionable.
The double chocolate cake didn’t turn out so attractive in my photo but it was the most delicious out of the three desserts. I’m sure it’s because it was the closest to comfort food and the objective of the dish was to be just that: simple, classic chocolate cake, no pretension, no fancy plating. The chocolate cake was sweet, dense and rich, no surprises.
I’ll think twice before visiting another McEwan Group restaurant. Nothing about any of the dishes really stood out. To quote directly, ‘I didn’t feel like I was eating a ‘McEwan,’ quipped someone at our table as his dish was being collected. The server smirked but was amused.
The service at Bymark was courteous and speedy. Our server, even though he was initially taken aback, laughed at our West coast food snob comments on the lack of originality of each dish.
What do you think Drake ordered though and was it off the Summerlicious menu? Is “Find Your Love” playing in your head right now too?