1257 Hamilton St.
Signature Drink: Candy Collins
Signature Dish: Lobster Gnocchi
Dinner & drinks for two: $90
In the interests of disclosure, let me confess that I was made, recognized—outed, in fact—on my first and (several) subsequent visits to Society. Glowbal Restaurant Group’s much-lauded—albeit annoying—habit of promoting—and rotating—from within, meant that I had encountered several of the staff, including the GM, at virtually every other restaurant within the organization.
It’s a smart move, really, taking your most experienced people and transplanting them to the new baby in the family as a way to nurture growth and ensure health. It’s just a bit problematic for the humble writer who tries to enter a restaurant unannounced and undiscovered—only to be greeted like a long-lost relative.
So, the service was—in a word—superb. Was that coloured perhaps by what I do? More than likely. But to give the restaurant its fair due, the level of service was the same at every table within my sight range, on every visit. Make of that what you will.
The interior is another visual gem from leading hospitality design firm, Box Interiors (Coast, Market by Jean-Georges). Shocking pink chandeliers, behemoth table lamps and ornately-sculpted—and very high—metal privacy screens create a round-the-clock sense of twilight that disorients the eyes in the way of a sudden emergence into strong daylight after a three-hour movie. With the current dismal outdoor scene, an escape to this warm, cocooned interior is a pleasant interlude, but I wonder what will happen when the sun comes round again. On a (hopefully) warm June day, will the lure of that dimly shadowed space be so alluring?
The food, on the other hand, is the stuff that mothers glory in—at least—mothers who have a penchant for using lobster, Kobe beef and truffle oil in copious amounts.
The quirky inventiveness of the menu shows itself in small things, like the complimentary, gargantuan Kobe meatballs that arrive at every table, one per guest, in lieu of bread. Wrapped in bacon and slathered in tomato sauce, it’s the Atkins answer to the traditional basket, and a damned tasty one at that.
We sampled several starters on the first visit. Buttermilk-battered squid ($10) was smaller in size than I would have liked, but there was no faulting the individual chunks of steak—no tentacles here, thank you—that went down very well with the red pepper aioli. Mac and cheese balls ($8) with were deep-fried, crusty exteriors around warm, creamy centers, with a hint of jalapeno. Margareta pizza ($13) with buffalo mozzarella was tasty, but large enough to work as a starter for three or a main for one very hungry person.
Lunch on a second visit included a shared order of onion rings ($7) in Stanley Park beer batter. We swapped these for the fries that came with the prime rib burger ($15), a thick slab of moist meat topped with bacon, caramelized onions and sundried tomato mayo.
Dinner another night saw me trying lobster gnocchi ($18), a rich compilation of large chunks of lobster, tarragon cream and parmesan crust. My friend’s main of Kurobuta pork chop ($19) with apple sauce was a beautiful, inch-high cut of meat, perfectly brined and almost fork tender. The crust, unfortunately, had a salt-lick worthy of the Dead Sea, creating some serious pucker. A quick comment to the server resulted in comped dishes and the offer to substitute with anything else, and a second run at this plate a few days later saw a huge improvement. Chalk it up to first-month jitters.
A side of deep-fried Brussels sprouts ($6) had a crisp, clean taste, despite their sojourn in the fryer, with a tinge of lemon that cut nicely through the fat.
The “junk food” dessert platter ($18) is on the house during the month of November, when you order two entrees. This is a child’s dream meal come to life in one sweet swoop. Salted caramel corn, cotton candy (thanks to the four-thousand-dollar machine in the kitchen), cupcakes, Ding dongs, ice cream sandwiches, an Oreo milkshake, doughnut holes, warm cookies and rice crispy squares make up one of the most playful plates I have yet to see.
The cotton candy makes another appearance, in the Candy Collins ($7). This sweeten-as-you-desire Tom Collins variant includes a topping of the spun stuff that you then press down into the drink, causing instant dissolution. A tiny straw allows for periodic tastes to monitor the sugar level. When you’ve reached your goal, just lift out the remaining fluff and enjoy. It’s not a serious drink, but then, Society is not a serious place. It’s a place to have a few frolics and share some fun food. And we all could use some of that these days, no?
Caution: Hendrick’s Gin Can Incite Lust
New York mixologist and Hendrick’s brand ambassador, Charlotte Voisey, was in town recently, giving cocktail demonstrations using the classic gin. Here’s her recipe for the “Lust” Rose 75.
1 oz Hendrick's Gin
½ oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz rose-infused simple syrup
4 oz sparkling rose wine
Combine lemon juice, rose-infused syrup and Hendrick's Gin over ice and stir. Strain into a champagne flute and add rose sparkling wine. Garnish with lemon peel and a cucumber slice.
Burgundy is Back
Starting tomorrow, Marquis Wine Cellars (1034 Davie St) will be offering samples of the latest Burgundy releases every Friday during November and December. Tomorrow, try the 2006 Arnaud Ente Meursault and the Jean Yves Bizot Vosne Romanee Villes Vignes. marquis-wines.com
On Dec. 8, the Refinery (1115 Granville St) will host an evening with Cask Strength, dedicated to the joys of whiskey and food. $100 includes five-course dinner with rare whiskey pairings and a whiskey cocktail by mixologist Lauren Mote. Call 604-687-8001 for more info.
Poplar Grove Wines
On December 2, Two Chefs and a Table (305 Alexander St) will hold their next Wine Drinker Series dinner, featuring the wines of Poplar Grove Winery. $65 includes five courses with wine pairings. Call 778-233-1303 for reservations.
Food in Brief
Local Public Eatery has opened in the old Malone’s space at Cornwall and Yew. Great view, but no word on the food yet.
Attention, Cheese Shoppers: Au Petit Chavignol is currently offering $100 gift cards for $90, until Dec. 15. Forget family and get these for yourself.