So, for some reason Nellie was all worried that’d not officially celebrated my birthday this year. Birthdays are a big deal to her, and she had a pretty awesome one this year. Meanwhile, I kind of don’t care about birthdays, and anyway we spent my birthday in Amsterdam, so I don’t feel as if I got robbed somehow. Nonetheless, she was determined to impose at least a minor celebration on me. She asked me to pick out a place for a good dinner. I chose Bestellen.

First though: a drink. Or two. We stopped at Loire, another first-time visit for us, for a little wine. We were actually really impressed with the menu; if we didn’t already have reservations elsewhere we’d have stayed for dinner. But we did, so we didn’t, and instead ordered some charcuterie and a little wine: sparkling rosé and Chablis for Nellie, and Sancerre, Vouvray, and a white Côtes du Rhône. We summoned an Uber car and made plans to return to Loire for dinner some night.

We pulled up to Bestellen right on time, and liked it immediately: laid-back vibe, friendly greetings, good music (Radiohead, Dan Auerbach, Oasis, early Dylan, etc.) and a giant painting of meat on the wall. That’s right: a meat mural.

We settled in to our table and our server Chris began leading us through the evening. We started with cocktails:

  • Nellie: The Scarlet (white wine, elderflower liquor, cucumber, mint, lemon)
  • Dan: The Hunter (Buffalo Trace bourbon, cherry heering, moonshine cherry)

With those gone the first course arrived:

  • Nellie: heirloom tomatoes and watermelon (with purple basil, garlic chips, and chili oil; paired with a a white whine that neither of us can remember)
  • Dan: seared scallops (in parsley root puree, lobster mushrooms, and brown butter; paired with a Muscadet)

Then, the main event: we shared the 32oz côte de bœuf (accompanied by string beans, lentils, shallots, and mint, as well as ontario corn, crispy shallots, and tarragon) which came with two huge bones full of roasted marrow.

Hard to believe we were both vegetarian not so long ago.

Anyway, at Chris’ recommendation we’d decided to pair this with a 2002 Nichols “Whispering Pines” Pinot Noir. Much like the Sea Smoke Pinot we’d had in Arizona, we discovered that an older vintage of tougher, coastal-California could stand up to a hunk of meat like this one. It was a splurge, but it was worth it.

We opted to take much of the steak home, partly so that we could enjoy it again the following day, and partly to leave room for dessert: sticky toffee pudding. Nellie got a glass of Bugey-Cerdon bubbly to go with it; I ordered the barrel-aged Negroni.

We also ordered a menu item we’d only ever seen on Stone Road Grille‘s menu before:a six-pack of beer for the kitchen. Being where we were (on College, but with more of an Ossington feel) it was a sixer of PBR, but the guys in the kitchen gave us a happy wave as they downed their cans.

On my actual birthday we toured Amsterdam, tried some fantastic beer places, and met a crazy/eccentric American ex-Senator, and I thought that made for a pretty goddamn good way to celebrate. But last night was pretty good too.

I couldn't C5 things on the menu that I wanted

Last night five of us (it should’ve been six but one of our party took one — a kid’s fever, specifically — for the team) had dinner at C5. We had booked dinner with the intention of participating in the Crosstown Kitchens event Stop For Food, but when we arrived we were disappointed to find that, unlike Winterlicious, there was no choice in the courses. Since the lone price fixe menu option didn’t impress, the five of us opted for the regular menu. So much for going easy on the pocketbook.

The food we ordered from the regular menu was good, not great. The buffalo mozzarella amuse-bouche was excellent. My pork belly and calamari starter was decent…really, I’ve had better pork belly and the calamari may as well have been left out. My venison was quite good, and the other touches — sweet potato puree, beets, etc. — were delicious. Our wine — a Morgan Pinot Noir — was excellent. Nothing on the dessert list appealed so I passed. Nellie enjoyed her meal less than I did. I got the sense that our other dinner companions were up and down as well, and no one seemed blown away. I feel like what I had wasn’t the best that C5 had to offer, especially given that Toronto Life just ranked it the 10th best restaurant in the city, but compared to a recent visit to Nota Bene or yet another return trip to Canoe (which TorLife ranked #1 this year) it just doesn’t stack up.

However, in such pleasant company, the evening was still more than enjoyable. And the space, it should be noted, is spectacular. I would happily come here for drinks, especially if my other option in the immediate neighbourhood is Lobby.