Cheri surprised me on our anniversary with this long-awaited restaurant to try. As we were going towards the lakefront I guessed our destination fairly quick.
Entering the Westin Harbour Castle hotel we saw no signs to help is navigate to Toula. Maybe we did not pay enough attention? At any rate, we resorted to asking for help from a pleasant hotel lobby staff. The “scenic” elevator whizzed us up to the 38th floor non-stop while showing off the night city skyline in the process through the glass wall. A worthy way to prepare for an exciting meal indeed!
We were welcomed by a grand piano and a multitude of real candles to accent the Christmas decoration. Dazzling city lights outside added to the festive mood. After the coat check, we were seated, feeling completely posh. Coming there before 7pm was a good idea – our seats were of a better variety for sure. We would have hated to be staring at the pitch dark lake on the other side of the 360 degree interior circle.
This interior circle is smartly split where the tables are only on the outer, lower part while the waiters and staff stay a few steps up overlooking us. Scenic views for everyone.
We were surprised by the choice of music. Fairly loud, but “chill out” variety. It did not fit the ambiance well in our opinion. Despite the volume, these compositions made us feel a bit sleepy besides a couple jazzy pieces with saxophone bits.
It was fun to stare out of the window and contemplate how little some people think of their privacy. Definitely a personal choice of owners, but these well lid condo windows for Lakeshore buildings left nothing to imagination. But staring around stopped as the food made its way to our tables.
A simple yet significant detail: bread. For a restaurant considered to be in a $$$$ category, having stale bread is inexcusable. A warm and crusty fresh made baguette should really be a no-brainer. It definitely was overlooked at Toula. Our bread was, simply put, not good. It did come with butter, carrots, celery and dijon mustard making up for the shortcoming a bit.
We asked for Toula salad. We usually ask for a dish in the restaurant’s name thinking it is a fair bet to get something the place is proud of. We also ordered a risotto and a lobster plate.
Our salad was not that great to be honest. It missed some vinaigrette or a sauce dressing - perhaps the lemon that the description promised. There was a bitter taste carried in by endive. The palm harts were great though and Emmental cheese gave the plate a nice finish. There was also corn and avocado to add some sweet, smoothness. I would not call this a signature dish, unless it get that hint of something exciting.
The Tagliolini Con Salsa Di Astice lobster plate was one of the more expensive items on the menu. It was topped off by a sizable chunk of lobster and tastefully arranged on the plate. We paired it with a glass of Sangiovese which turned out to be a good combination. The dish was heavy and smooth, but nothing exciting. Cannot say it was worth the money, but the presence of lobster definitely upped the price tag on it.
The other main dish was Risotto "CasaNova". Ma Cheri definitely enjoyed it although I would have found it a bit on a plain side. It was light and undercooked for al dente. Chardonnay we got was not a really good match of the dish – a lighter red might have been a better choice. Overall, this risotto was a safe choice. It promised black truffle, rosemary and provolone - all present.
When it came to order dessert, our waiter warned us that the lava cake is freshly made and takes about 20 minutes to prepare. We decided to "check out their facilities" as Cheri likes to put it. We both took the time to go round the floor as our cake was made. To our disappointment, the washrooms were a floor down both physically and in style. The rooms were older décor and somewhat run down.
Our lava cake arrived in less than 20. It had smooth texture and warm melted chocolate filling inside. There was a side of berry jam and some fresh cut strawberries with the sweet note congratulating us on our occasion. The chef could use some spelling help (misspelled “anniversary”), but we felt special regardless.
dark, old Italian-style Syrah set in its ways.