This past weekend marked the beginning of Summerlicious 2014! In the past I have often been critical of Summerlicious restaurants as I feel that not all restaurants handle the influx of customers well, which hurts the consistency of their food and hurts the overall dinning experience. Nonetheless Summerlicious is a great event for people looking to try restaurants that they otherwise would not be able to, whether that be due to price, exposure or simply not knowing whats good on the menu.
Spanning two weeks in the month of July (4-20th) over 200 restaurants will participant in Summerlicious and provide 3-course price fixed menus for patrons who visit. Lunches will be fixed at either $15, $20 or $25 while dinners will range from either $25, $35 or $45. If you haven't yet made a reservation, do it soon, as many restaurants have had their bookings filled tight since last week. But enough of the chit chat, lets talk about some food!
Fred's Not Here is located at 321 King St W. (Right across the street from TIFF/Bell Lightbox!) and specialize in steaks and seafood. During my visit we ordered off the Summerlicious dinner menu. A fellow beef eater had suggested the restaurant and after looking at their offerings I eagerly agreed.
For appetizers we started with Fred's self-proclaimed "Famous" Lobster & Crab Soup. The dish certainly built anticipation as we quickly saw these buttery domes fill the servers table and make their way around the restaurant. The soup itself was exquisite. Intensely flavourful and creamy but not overwhelminly heavy. The flavour of the shellfish is front and center, lifted by the creamy base. My only qualm with the dish was that one of my friend's pastry did not cook all the way through. Fantastic start nonetheless and definitely the best dish of the night. Sadly Fred's strong start to the meal did not last.
The second appetizer was the Wood Grilled Calamari & Chorizo Sausage with Arugula. Unlike the first appetizer this one was poorly executed. Unevenly cooked squid; some parts were overcooked while others were undercooked and a lack of proper seasoning (seriously where was the salt?) plagued the calamari. The plainly sliced chorizo on the other hand had an abundance of flavour. It had a slight bitterness that went well with argula and offset the sweet mustard based sauce beneath. Despite this, the lack of seasoning would foreshadow more execution problems down the line.
The first entree of the night was the Wood Grilled “California Cut” New York Strip Steak
with Sautéed Garlic Mushrooms, Duck Fat Frites & Vegetables. I'm just going to get this out of the way now and say the steak was NOT SEASONED. Now if you thought I ranted about this enough when I was talking about the calamari than you should prepare yourself. There is nothing, I mean NOTHING more blood boiling than seeing someone ruin a steak without properly seasoning it. The only dressing up a good piece of beef needs is an adequate amount of salt. This is a rookie mistake and seeing it from a restaurant that considers itself a steakhouse makes it even more ludicrous. Not only that, but a large portion of the outside of our steaks were burnt, which lead to an overwhelming carbon taste with. I've made better steaks at home with inferior cuts of meat. To make matters worse even the fries were not salted enough and we had to liberally apply it ourselves at the dinner table. Now people will tell me that the latter part regarding the fries was not a big deal, but anyone who knows good fries will tell you that the reason you season right after frying is so the residual heat from the fries dissolves the salt. By the time we realized the fries needed salt at the table there was no residual heat.
Praise a higher power that the Roasted Prime Rib of Beef with Celeriac, Yukon Gold Mash & Vegetables was good. The meat was seasoned well, although the black pepper crust was a little overwhelming for my taste. Doneness wise it was a perfect medium rare and the accompanying gravy tasted great without overpowering the meat. I also thoroughly enjoyed the mash and thought that the green beans (the same ones featured with the steak) were cooked to a perfect doneness; tender but still holding a crisp snap. Now this wasn't all smooth sailing as my cut of meat was not trimmed properly. There was a tough piece of tendon that could not be cut with a knife running along one side of the prime rib.
Next we had the Fresh Fruit Ice. This was probably the most forgettable dish of the night, decent enough without any weaknesses but nothing to make it memorable. Similar to the sorbet, the Daily Selection Cheesecake (which in our case was creme brule cheesecake) was not memorable either, so much so that I even forgot to take a picture of it.
Overall my visit to Fred's Not Here was mired with disappointment. I know I often tell people to not be overly critical on Summerlicious outings; but improperly cooked food and multiple lapses in seasoning are not
acceptable from any establishment. The food at Fred's Not Here simply didn't make the cut on my first visit of Summerlicious 2014, I guess Fred really wasn't there that night.