Saturday, March 29, 2008

Eat like a Barberian...

Barberian's Steakhouse- 7 Elm St (

Ever felt like wanting to go back in waaaaay back? I'm talking times of our fore fathers, pioneer times. Well Barberian's is a place where you can definately do that. "Abringitback" was the theme here, and I swear I felt like I was back in grade 3, on a class trip to Pioneer Village.

Our quest for Toronto's greatest steakhouse found us on the doorstep of one Barberian's Steakhouse, located on the famous Elm Street. Since our dining partners live right next door, this place has been mentioned to us in many a thullard conversation. We wanted to explore a place with no frills, just good steak. And we got it alright.

Firstly, this place is old school. A small, dim-lit place, takes you back in time. It's got that musty, dingy, creaky wooden floor-type atmosphere. Which is fine, since we're here for steaks and not much else. But the place is a bit outdated. But maybe that's the kind of feeling they are trying to portray. Who knows. Let's eat first then talk.

So this place is so small, even though they have 3 rooms, the acoustics were killing us. I felt like I was on 'shrooms, hearing 18 different conversations going on at once. The people dining beside became our new friends, since we were literally right up in their grill, and vice versa. Not to mention our table was angled right in the path that connected the two rooms...which made for multiple entrances by all the waiters and staff. Oh well, if you like an intimate dinner, Barberian's is for you. However when I say intimate, I mean with everyone else in the restaurant, not the person(s) you're with. We found ourselves literally yelling at each other, which kinda sucked.

Now as I mentioned earlier, this place is stuck in the 1800's. Just as a side-nugget: Barberian's Steakhouse was founded in 1959, and the owner, Harry Barberian, decided to use his restaurant to pay homage to Canada's heritage, thus an extensive collection of paintings, artifacts and memorabilia house the restaurant. This would explain the mass amount of muskets and rifles found on the walls, not to mention the large stuffed animal heads placed conveniently beside the muskets. Not exactly what I want to be staring at as I cut through my steak. The tables and chairs are old and creaky, with table cloths and polished silverware dating back to the olden days. Again, this may be the feel they want their customers to experience, and thus I can't really complain about it.

Okay enough with the renassaince-chic decor, let's talk about the food. Their wine list was quite extensive, and quite expensive. We chose a random bottle, and some of it ended up on the table and on the floor...Not too sure why, as I'm sure our waiter had opened millions of bottles in his day. I think some of it even spilled on one of us. Not cool. So all 4 of us decided to go with the moderate-priced 10oz New York Sirloin, priced at $38.50. Barberian's has many options when it comes to steak including the Chateaubriand for 2 @ $86.00, 24oz Porterhouse @ $53.00, and 9oz Centre Cut Sirloin @ $28.75, to mention a few. At these prices, we didn't realize we were only getting a piece of meat on a plate, nothing else. Sides- $6.00. Peppercorn Sauce- $5.00. Everyone ordered one veg, and we all sampled each one. Spinach, Asparagus, Mushrooms and Mashed Potato, were pretty basic, nothing fancy about them, just steamed maybe with a little butter. I was the only one who didn't feel for the pepper steak, thinking I would at least get some sort of demi or sauce. Well I was wrong, I got sauce alright, in the form of blood. Bl-oooooo-ood? Well mostly just the 'juices' of my steak, that clearly had not been rested enough. Proper resting time for steaks, depending on thickness and size should be approximately 5-10 minutes. Mine looked like it was straight from the grill.
So now I have a huge thicket of steak swimming in a pool of blood sauce, staring me in the face. Is it insulting to ask for Ketchups? How about Tabasco? I think I would have been frowned upon if I did, so I just stole some of my lovely girlfriend's peppercorn sauce.
The steak, I must admit, was a great piece of meat, cooked to perfection. I personally, like mine a little crispy on the outside, so I opt for Medium, almost Medium-well. Their chef grilled this bad boy to perfection, definately on-point.

After gnawing through 3/4 of my steak I needed a serious breather. I'm kind of glad it didn't come with fries or pillowy mounds of mashed po-ta-to (a la Unlce Phil), otherwise I definately wouldn't have made it past the half way mark.

We all decided to 'D' dessert, as we were thoroughly full. A glance at their dessert menu didn't give me much hankering for anything in particular, but I'm sure the traditional New York Cheesecake or Creme Brulee would have been above par.

The Rundown:

Decor: 3/5- Definately traditional, but really outdated in my mind. But if you're going for an experience, this is truely a restau-seum, where you can dine and shoot the shit about random artifacts at the same time. Not to keen about the gats strapped to the wall or the animal heads right next to them. Felt like Ace in Part II, after entering that room...Oh the humanity.

Service: 3.5/5- Nothing to complain about, aside from the spillage of the wine. Knowledgable and friendly staff is always a plus. Still Very Traffic between dining rooms.

Food: 4.5/5- Great, steaks were cooked to perfection, but still wish I got some free gravy/jus/sauce. Although, many would argue a real steak should be eaten plain...I still would have like to see some horseradish or something. Their meat selection was impecable, and are choosing the right cuts of meat for their customers. Excellent marbling within the Sirloin, could have easily passed for a Striploin, to the untrained eye.

Price: 3.5/5- Meal for 4, including one bottle of wine, tax and tip, no dessert: $380. Prices were decent, you can't really get a good steak for less than $40, but as for value, meh. I should get a side of vegetables when I'm ordering a $40 piece of meat. Come on I can get a bunch of asparagus at No Frills for $1.99, and you want to charge me $5.00 for 10 pieces...That's toite. And I would have liked an option of sauce too...because the reality is meat is just meat. I'm not saying douse it with HP or A1, but some pan gravy costs nothing, it comes from the meat! You win-sum, you lose-sum, I guess.

Overall: 4 STARS out of 5

Barberian's Steakhouse has a lot of character. They know how to do steaks. And they do it proper. This place is old-school, which kinda gives it it's charm. Maybe we are all too caught up with the nuances of Kelsey's and (ugh) Moxies or (barf) Milestones, and we need more places that just take you back. It's good to know a place like this exists, for that once-in-a-while back to the past experience. I don't agree with some of the themes or tidbits of decor they have up on their wall, but that's just me...I'm a tough guy to please. But I don't really know anyone who'd like to stare at moosehead (not the beer) while they devour their cow, unless your name is Willy or Cletis and you live in a trailer park, or anytown, USA, for that matter.

Still, it's good to be a barberian once in a while, or Barbeera, as we like to call it. Sorry Jason. (reference: Jason LaBarbera, LA Kings)

Definately bring your appetite...And you wallet...

1 comment:

Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

excellent post bro. mad jokes spread out over this one. beauty.

uncle phil, take a bi-b-b-bi-bite-bite out of crime.

anytown, USA...y'all come back real........