This Thursday Rosewater had a bar night. Our host was very kind to call us in the morning and warn us of the potentially “excessive noise” we may experience. So we moved our reservation to 7:30 as the bar deal was meant to expire at 8. It was still very noisy.
As we entered a historical neo-renaissance Consumers Gas Building with real gas burning lights
outside, we faced a crowd of fifty or so. They were very cheerful and clearly enjoying the bar deal going on (while listening to Top 20 music). Our goal for the evening was a dinner, so we had to plow ourselves through. Surprisingly (or not, considering the warning we were given), there was almost nobody in the dining area. At that point, we had time to look around and assess the environment. The hall was grandiose - hardwood floor, tall ceiling, glass mezzanine, wooden framed windows topped off with lights. The modern furniture was very contrasting in style and feel, quite frankly, we thought it clashes with the historic elements: a towering wine rack in the middle, as well as abnormally tall sofa seats to the sides blocking part of the window; empty, dull walls apart from the two opposing ones which were decorated with an oversized Japanese-inspired paintings depicting birds and trees. We noticed the absence of tablecloth which Cheri thought downplayed the upscale feel of Rosewater. The combination of the carrying noise from the bar area, the plain walls, the vintage elements and dull lighting created an unwelcome association in our minds - that of a train station cafeteria.
Sergio, our waiter, was definitely a bright spot in all of this. He was attentive and forthcoming - answering our questions about the place and the menu. We settled our food choices with a recommended Tuna Tartare and an intriguing Lobster Ravioli. We also asked for their cast Iron Pan Fried Salmon with risotto. We decided to share each of these dishes. Unfortunately, Rosewater did not have a wine sommelier that evening, but Sergio tried to navigate us through the wine list - with his Italian favorites.
A basket of unique breads and whipped butter made its way to our table. As we enjoyed it in the dull, warm light, we lingered through the various alcohol options and their wide range of prices. Next our wine glasses made their way - a Valpolicella '10 from Veneto and an Ontarian Pinot Grigio '11. We couldn't help but notice how this top 20 music can be nicely replaced with a live jazz band, a worthwhile addition to enhance the ambiance.
Considering Rosewater was not overly busy, the food made its way to us in about fifteen minutes. The presentation was impeccable for our Tuna Tartare! It came on rectangular plate arranged with squiggles of hot sauce and a side of root crisps. The deep dish with Lobster Ravioli was saucy, as the ravioli swam in a shallow broth, but the truffle-lobster smell was mouth-watering. The ravioli were lobster stuffed and cooked to perfection. In the broth around, there was sweet corn, delicious chunks of smoked bacon, some confit potatoes and chives as a garnish. There were also slices of onion in the mix adding to the truffle butter aroma.
The Tuna Tartare had caramelized dried shallot chunks, avocado and a spicy soy dressing. The thin crisp roots were a great way to eat this paste-like tartar avocado salad. As for the raw tuna - tender, fresh and definitely of high quality. While the crispy white Grigio was an equal, close match for the tuna, the ravioli was definitely well enjoyed with the more full bodied, opinionated Valpolicella.
As we were expecting the salmon, we asked for a local Pino Noir from Inneskillin. It was nice having a 5 minute break between these appetizers and the main dish. The wine arrived just in time to join our dish. The generous chunk of salmon was rested on a bed of beat and wild rice risotto (looking exotically purple) and grilled asparagus. It came topped with delicate corn spouts adding interesting notes, and basil leaves adding a refreshing taste. Being seared in a cast iron skillet, the salmon had a crispier cooked outer layer. The dish was surrounded by a lemon buttery sauce, while the salmon had a light line of pesto across the middle. It was definitely one of the most delicious main courses we tried in a long time - the risotto and asparagus gave delicious support flavors to the fish. The generous size of our portion made us glad we did not order two full course meals. We were barely able to finish what we had.
Overall, the great food is definitely worth celebrating and coming here. A multitude of famous people seem to agree. Rosewater is spectacularly popular with the world renowned celebrities visiting Toronto. A wall downstairs are covered with autographed photos.
We wandering around the old building after concluding our meal. We spotted a waterfall at the staircase, an intricate cellar and a few private dining areas. We found elements of the old interior which gave this building an interesting older spirit.