Sunday, October 19, 2014

Gini's Restaurant


Gini's Restaurant switched ownership in July this year, and the new owner invited me to try his restaurant and give my honest opinion of the food and service. Although my meal was reimbursed later, I chose to visit the restaurant anonymously with a friend for a more authentic experience.

The location is a bit out of the way, just off the roundabout on 142 St and 107 Ave. As I stepped inside, I found the interior bathed in a soft and soothing yellow light. The decor was not very modern or upscale, but rather quite intimate and cozy with family style charm. It was very much like stepping into a quiet French restaurant from decades past. Incidentally, I noticed that most of the clientele were an older population.


The walls were decorated with French-inspired sticker art.


As I was waiting for my friend to arrive, an extremely cheerful and enthusiastic waitress came over to ask me what I wanted to drink. I asked for a drink menu, but she mentioned there wasn't one available. She explained that there was a wine list, and they could also make all kinds of cocktails. I asked if they could make a cocktail with egg white, and she seemed genuinely apologetic as she smiled and said they didn't make those. I ended up ordering a simple gin and tonic. The presentation of my drink was unimpressive, and looked like a small glass of iced water with a green straw like the ones from Starbucks. It tasted fine, but for such a small drink without even a garnish, I was surprised that the price tag was $9.75. I think it would've been smarter to order wine at a French restaurant, and I did note that the restaurant had quite an extensive wine list.


As we were perusing the menu, our waitress explained the daily specials very thoroughly and was patient and helpful in answering our questions. We ordered the table d'hote 5-course dinner for $55/person. Shortly after, a complimentary bread basket arrived with a side of butter. We each got two large buns (Portuguese style, I think), and they were served warm with a super soft and airy texture like fluffy pillows. I would've liked to finish the bread, but I knew I wouldn't be able to eat anything else if I did.


When the first course arrived, both of our jaws dropped. We had both ordered mussels, but this was more like an entree than an appetizer! We started wondering how we could get through all 5 courses. The sauce was intense and piquant with a kick of spice. My friend, being a fan of spicy foods, really enjoyed it. However, the mussels were small and slightly overcooked, so some were a bit shrivelled. Luckily the sauce made up for it.


The second course was a mixed greens salad with smoked salmon. Again, the portions did not disappoint. It was a very light and refreshing salad with a vinaigrette instead of a creamy dressing. I was already starting to get full at this point, so I left about half of the greens. This was almost an entree-sized dish as well!


The third course was a palate cleanser of mango sorbet. We breathed a sigh of relief as this gave us a chance to recover before taking on the next course. The sorbet was cool and refreshing with a strong mango fragrance. I felt it had a very calming effect.


For the entree, we were given a choice of ostrich or rabbit, but instead I opted for the filet mignon aux deux sauces for an extra charge of $5. There were two pieces of steak; one was topped with wild mushrooms while the other was topped with Madagascar peppercorns. Sides included cooked carrots, string beans, mashed potatoes, and roasted potatoes. I had asked for a rare steak, but the smaller of the two steaks was cooked to medium-rare, and so was half of the larger steak. The other half was a nice and red colour — a true rare, and that was delicious with the savoury sauce. The overcooked parts didn't matter though, because I could only manage to finish the rare half of the meat anyway!


Dessert was a choice between mixed berries and creme brulee, and I chose the latter. The custard was creamy and aromatic, but the burnt sugar topping was not very crispy. My friend ordered the mixed berries, and she was shocked at the portion size. Yes, at this point we should've expected it, but she got a HUGE bowl of fresh berries and she could barely finish half of it.


Apart from the drink, the price of this meal was very very good value. The table d'hote portions were large enough to feed two people easily, so this restaurant is great for people with big appetites. Also our waitress provided great service, and was attentive without being intrusive. Food quality was decent, but could use some brushing up. Though I think the extremely large portions more than compensate for the shortcomings in quality.

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