July 4-20 is Summerlicious in Toronto! It means that for two weeks, over 200 of “the city’s best restaurants” will have a three-course prix fixe lunch and dinner menus – and for my friend Jhona and I, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to meet up for dinner after work and catch up. It was July, the sun was out for longer hours, we were both off at 6, and we both worked in the downtown area (I am at Kensington Market, she is at St. Andrew). Since she is the more food-adventurous of the two of us, I let her pick the restaurant. In the end, she chose three and let me pick where we would go.
I immediately looked up the menus, and the one that caught my eye (and had me drooling) was La Maquette. They had a veal tenderloin and scallops over buttered vegetables dish that sounded heavenly – I have not had delicious scallops ever since I left Bacolod in 2010. Aboy’s has grilled scallops brushed with garlic butter and sprinkled with toasted garlic bits that is heavenly. I think the closest I’ve come since to being happy about seafood in Toronto is when I had the Seafood Lover’s Pasta at Kelsey’s (salmon, cod, and shrimp, sautéed in white wine). It was fantastic.
I met up with Jhona at King Station around 6.30PM, and we were really looking forward to the night out. We had not properly seen each other in months, and we had so much to talk about. We got into La Maquette at about 10 minutes to 7. First impression: nice place, if a little liable to get overlooked because of the Origin right beside it, which she and I totally did. We sat at the patio because it was still nice and sunny, and I personally didn’t think we would be there for more than an hour.
Our waiter, who was an old man, was cheery and all smiles. We were seated promptly, given water and bread, and presented with menus. It was a pretty area, with waterfalls and an outdoor sculpture of what looked like automobile shells. There was also an acoustic guitarist who was playing tunes like Girl from Ipanema and Here Comes The Sun.
For me, the first inkling that something was wrong was the bread. It was good, but cold and a little on the dry side. Like it had been sliced many, many hours earlier, placed in the baskets, and wrapped with napkins. Which, to be honest, was probably what had been done. I didn’t really mind because bread is bread, and it helped take the edge off my hunger. I was ravenous.
For a starter, I chose the soup of the day. It was a butternut squash soup, which I admit to picking partly because it reminded me of a thing I had very often as a young girl growing up in Bacolod: ginataang kalabasa (squash soup simmered in coconut milk with malignly leaves and prawns). I do not regret the choice: it was delicious. Warm, tasty, and smooth, I had hopes that the wonderful soup was a precursor to two more beautiful dishes.
Then came the main dish. I chose the veal tenderloin and a duet of grilled scallops, served with a light mustard cream sauce and Ontario market vegetables. Still on the high that the butternut squash soup gave me, I had such great hopes for the veal and scallops. What happened next was horrible. Jhona and I had to wait over 45 minutes to get our mains. Forty. Five. Minutes. I was so hungry at this point that my stomach was making whale noises. Nobody else in our section was getting their food, either, so we figured there was something happening in the kitchen. However, when our waiter brought our plates in, there was no apology. He simply plunked the plates in front of us and left – like nothing was wrong, like 45 minutes of waiting was normal. I was getting really upset.
And the food. The food was such a disappointment. If I was made to wait 45 minutes for my food, I figured it had to be something spectacular. Nope. The veal tenderloin wasn’t bad, and it wasn’t chewy or dry. It was alright. The scallops were particularly disappointing. They looked and tasted like they had been put on the grill to warm up, not to be grilled. They were so close to tasteless that it seemed like they were simply rinsed off and placed on the grill for a while, then plated. The vegetables were done beautifully, however, and the mustard cream sauce was tasty. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the sauce and the veggies were the tastiest things on that plate, which was, by the way, far too big for the serving. La Maquette seems to have a thing for small portions on massive plates.
After that, we had to wait another 15-20 minutes for the desserts to come out. I had chosen the pavlova with strawberry cream, but it looked more like strawberry syrup, and one or two chunks of strawberry, with a couple of blueberries thrown in for good. It had strips of Jell-o in it. It was disappointing.
The final blow that killed the experience for me came when the elderly waiter came with our bills and Jhona asked him if we could split it. He said, “You guys will pay the same, why split it? You have Visa, no?” She and I were a little confused, because we just wanted to pay separately (and get out of there as fast as we could). He kept insisting that there was no way we could split the bill – but when time came for us to pay, he had, indeed, charged us separately. He started out happy and cheery, and ended up very grumpy. It affected the entire meal because he wasn’t treating us very well. I was also bummed that Jhona and I didn’t get to walk around the area, which we were planning on doing had we not been in the restaurant for about two hours. By the time we left, the sun had gone down.
I would say that aside from the beautiful butternut squash soup, their food was nothing special. I wouldn’t come back, not with the bad experience of a 45 minute wait time between courses when you’re already hungry, and the mediocre food. While I did love the outdoor sculpture and the waterfalls, the waiter who was nowhere to be seen between courses and didn’t give an explanation as to why the food took so long soured me on the entire experience.
Overall rating: 1.5/5, would not go back again.