Richmond Station is like the best of the British gastropubs — cozy, friendly, and the food is robust and honest, without gewgaws and highfalutin constructions and garnishes.">

Table Talk: Joanne Kates reviews Richmond Station


Published:

Chef/co-owner Carl Heinrich impresses with Richmond Station (Image: Cheol Joon Baek)

Richmond Station is like the best of the British gastropubs — cozy, friendly, and the food is robust and honest, without gewgaws and highfalutin constructions and garnishes.

It’s normal, not food as architecture or artwork. And unlike at most of our hot new places, the people in charge actually seem to care about their guests’ comfort — they take reservations, the chairs have backs, you don’t have to sit with strangers and there’s no Arctic draft in the dining room.

There are actually two dining rooms. I prefer the back room (and, yes, you can request it when you reserve) for its bright, cheerful proximity to the open kitchen. I find the front room long, narrow, high-ceilinged and less warm. Though its black-and-white pics of the Toronto subway being built in the early 1940s are mesmerizing.

The menu is short and simple, thanks to the restraint of the chef/owners Carl Heinrich and Ryan Donovan, both ex-Marben. The restaurant’s visual grace notes — as well as the first few months’ rent — came from chef Heinrich’s $100,000 in prize money from winning Top Chef Canada. Methinks that, unlike previous winners, this guy has already made back his capital — and more. Because it could take a week to get a reservation, and deservedly so.

The chefs do marvels with things as bland and ordinary as quinoa. Their quinoa salad, topped with crisped carrot shreds, has shaved marinated fennel, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, squash cubes and a red wine vinaigrette so assertive that quinoa becomes exciting — no small feat. Their lobster bisque is short on cream, long on flavour, and the anise oil, foam and crispy croutons on top add value.

Among the short list of mains there’s the usual snazzy burger. But I counsel forsaking their burgers and charcuterie, however lovely, for the road less travelled. Their wild boar ragu is small bits of very tender boar in fab tomato sauce, chili spiked, with small mushrooms and barely cooked small cubes of celeriac, and al dente celery and al dente house-made orecchiette with melted cheese on top. This is the comfort food of my dreams, as is Bourbon Street halibut. This is a small, perfect piece of halibut with chicken “oysters” (the little nugget of meat on the chicken’s back, browned nicely), zucchini and potatoes in creamed Cajun sauce.

The desserts are as inventive as the mains, but dearest to me is their riff on Reese’s Pieces: a cloud of peanut butter mousse with graham cracker floor and chocolate ganache roof, a side of drunken raisins in whisky and a little bit of frou-frou on top — crisp, candied shavings of celery!

With all this good taste, it comes as a surprise when the waiter mumbles and then stacks the plates. My mother said never to stack at the table. And surely not at such a gracious table as this one.

Richmond Station, 1 Richmond St. W., $80 Dinner for two

Joanne Kates trained at the Ecole Cordon Bleu de Cuisine in Paris. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the New York Times, Maclean’s and Chatelaine, and she was the Globe and Mail’s restaurant critic for 38 years.

Edit Module

Follow us on Twitter @PostCity for more on what to eat, where to shop and what to do in Toronto.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

You may also like...

Restaurant Review: The upscale Greek at Mamakas wows the palate off our critic

Restaurant Review: The upscale Greek at Mamakas wows the palate off our critic

Mamakas is a bit atypical for the Ossington strip. The food is modernized trad Greek, and it’s very fine, more Byblos than Danforth.
Posted 16 hours ago
Restaurant Update: Shameful Tiki Room, Kiu, Loka coming, Awestruck today and Rock Lobster Leslieville for sale

Restaurant Update: Shameful Tiki Room, Kiu, Loka coming, Awestruck today and Rock Lobster Leslieville for sale

Considering it's the last full week of August, there was plenty of restaurant news in Toronto to digest. We found out that we'll be getting a little more Loka, tiki and Japanese this year and possibly a little less Rock Lobster. As well, Toronto is ankle-deep in cold pressed juice. See below for details on an ideal way to cap off the summer: by heading to Mississauga for some of the area's best food trucks.
Posted 3 days ago
On route to Toronto Diner en Blanc lost its way

On route to Toronto Diner en Blanc lost its way

Diner en Blanc popped up in Toronto last night. Now in its fifth year, the annual white party was bigger than ever with a reported 2,300 people in attendance.
Posted 3 days ago
Kiu, a restaurant from the owners of Ramen Isshin, to open in Markham this fall

Kiu, a restaurant from the owners of Ramen Isshin, to open in Markham this fall

Downtown Markham is getting a new 140-seat restaurant this October. Kiu, which means “joyous rain”, is a spinoff of the well-loved Cabbagetown izakaya Kingyo and is the latest venture by Koji Zenimaru and Jason Matsubara of Ramen Isshin.
Posted 4 days ago
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleEdit Module