My family lived near Bloor West Village in Toronto during my late high school years. While I was too young at the time to fully appreciate the range of great restaurants and shops in the ‘hood, I do remember really liking the area and thinking that I could see myself living there as an adult.
Fast-forward a decade (okay, a bit more than that…), and I find myself a homeowner in the opposite end of the city. Between time constraints, traffic and the fact there are so many amazing food and shopping options between my house and Etobicoke, I rarely find myself in Bloor West Village anymore. So I jumped at the chance to attend a media preview dinner recently at Bloom Restaurant, to check out their new chef, spring menu, and of course my old stomping grounds.
Chef Pedro Quintanilla took over the kitchen at Bloom in April, after cooking at sister restaurant Focaccia downtown since 2004. Quintanilla grew up in Cuba, and began his cooking career in some of Havana’s best restaurants. He also spent time as chef at the French embassy in Cuba. Moving to Toronto in the early 1990s, he had the opportunity to be part of Toronto’s growing Latin cuisine boom, working in several notable kitchens.
While the dishes at Bloom under Quintanilla feature some definite Latin influences, he’s clearly drawing on his experience with Italian, French and other cuisines as well—spring dishes include charcuterie, beef carpaccio and duck confit.
One of the benefits of Jenny and I sometimes attending these tasting events together is that when there are choices on the preview menu, we get to taste them all by alternating dishes between us. This was the case at Bloom. While I chose the spring terrine of chicken liver and foie gras paired with fresh asparagus and battered onion rings to start (pictured above), Jenny opted for the ceviche (below).
We’re both huge ceviche fans, and Bloom’s didn’t disappoint, with a good balance of citrus, heat and herbs. And Bloom’s seafood is sustainable, a growing trend among Toronto restaurants that’s encouraging to see. If anything, I would have liked to see a bit more fish on the plate. But both of us really enjoyed the terrine, definitely French in its flavouring rather than Latin, with a great texture, smooth but not so much that it lost the rustic charm of the dish.
For mains, we shared a sesame-crusted ahi tuna fillet served with potatoes, tofu-wasabi dressing, roasted vegetables and a few wasabi peas scattered on the plate (above), as well as pan-seared flank steak with garlic-smashed potatoes, chimichurri sauce and ginger-glazed carrots (below). The tuna was cooked perfectly, and I thought the dressing drizzled over top had great flavour and went well with the crunch of the sesame seed crust. Of the two mains, though, the flank steak was the standout. While the steak itself was cooked just a touch too long (a common issue with flank steak), it was still fairly tender. And the chimichurri it was served with was outstanding. Chimichurri is essentially Latin pesto, and as simple as that is, too often restaurants serve chimichurri that lacks an intense herb flavour or that has the wrong balance of oil to greens. Quintanilla’s chimichurri was amazingly fresh, paired well with the steak, and got an extra kick from the garlic potatoes.
Dessert was Cuban flan, an egg custard topped with dulce de leche and thyme, as well as churros served with warm chocolate sauce and ice cream. Talking to other media reps dining at Bloom, it seemed like everyone was split on dessert. Some preferred the churros, which were light and crisp and went well with the cinnamon and chipotle-spiced sauce. Jenny and I were both in the other camp, preferring the flan. While similar to a crème caramel, Bloom’s version was denser, with more of an eggy texture that Quintanilla said was the way it was done in Cuba (almost like soft scrambled eggs packed into a mold). I can see that not being to everyone’s taste, but it made the dish memorable for us.
Bloom Restaurant’s Cuban Flan.
Overall, Bloom strikes me as more of a neighbourhood restaurant than a destination dining spot (at least until chef Quintanilla injects more of the menu with Cuban influence), but it’s great to know of adining spot I can count on for a good meal next time I find myself in Bloor West Village.