Restaurant Review: A chicken worthy of Omar Sharif at The Civic
The new Broadview Hotel’s main floor eatery does meat and fish very well — now let’s up the service side
The dining room at the Civic
Years ago, I had a newspaper assignment to write about a Michelin starred chef on the Cote d’Azur.
The chef was Jacques Maximin of Chantecler in Nice. He talked a lot about what he most loved to cook and the customers he most loved to cook for.
It was a shock when Maximin first told me that above all else he adored being asked for a plain roast chicken.
His favourite customer was the actor Omar Sharif who only ever asked for a roast chicken. Occasionally Maximin would slip a few truffle slices under the skin, but mostly he kept it simple.
He used to say that only the most simple of executions showed the mettle of a chef — and the quality of the ingredients. This of course is the true heart of French cooking — not, as some believe, obfuscating matters with sauce, but rather exposing the elegance of perfect ingredients.
Hence my search for a perfect roast chicken.
So I was excited to discover roast chicken on the menu at the Civic, the new snazzy resto on the ground floor of the lovingly restored Broadview Hotel. And yes, it is the roast chicken of my dreams. Moist, tender, savoury, lovely skin. Perhaps brined? Omar Sharif would be happy. The bird comes with charmingly sautéed lettuce, hen of the woods mushrooms and a light porcini thyme jus.
The rest of the menu is more workmanlike. Nothing wrong, but nothing to call attention to. Crispy sweetbreads are nicely browned and tender, but the dish is unexciting.
Same for mushroom toast topped with a poached duck egg.
The lobster main sounds irresistible. A French classic: lobster a l’Americaine is done in a creamed tomato sauce, in theory kept light. This rendition is not. Its sidebar celery root salad needs something acidic to rescue it from the slough of blandness. Our other francophilic entrée, duck confit, is better.
The best dessert is Eton mess, a classic riff on English trifle, cranberry and pear preserve layered with orange-scented broken meringue and clotted cream. Less exciting is lemon chiffon pie, a tad heavy.
It’s all good, but mostly merely competent. They cook meats and fish well. Maybe we’re a little sour because the main dining room is an elegant remake of the building’s Victorian origins, but they sat us in the side room at a table with a perfect view of the (distractingly) bright kitchen every time its door opened.
Or maybe it was the pro forma service — hurried waitstaff who never met our eyes, runners who put items down in front of the wrong person at our table — the things that don’t matter when dinner is cheap. But when dinner for two hits $150, we want better.
So would Jacques Maximin.
The Civic, 106 Broadview Avenue, 416-362-8439