Last weekend’s Globe and Mail has Joanne Kates’s take on the Black Hoof. Like Ms. Kates, Kat and I enjoyed ourselves so much there that we took friends with us for a return visit last month and I’ve produced an update to my earlier review.
Chef Grant van Gameren gets a lot of (deserved) attention for his cooking but his partner, Jen Agg and her cocktails deserve as much praise. I admit having a prejudice against cocktails because of the super-sweet, electric blue, hyphenated “tinis” that monopolise most cards. I’m pleased to see that the closest the Hoof comes to this is having memorable nicknames for the liquid creations but in a subtle (as in “Basil Fawlty”) instead of overtly sexual (as in “Red-headed Slut”) way. I didn’t get to try them all but the table’s consensus was that the three we tried all tasted great. Best of all these cocktails are actually served in traditional highball glasses instead of the annoyingly ubiquitous cone-shaped cocktail glasses.
Between the Hoof having such a concise menu and an extra three diners to spread the choosing amongst we have now managed to try almost the entire menu.
Highlights on this iteration of the must-have charcuterie board–large this time–were the lamb tongue, the snout-to-tail terrine and, of course, the whipped duck liver mousse.
Kat and I agree that the veal tongue on brioche sandwich is amazing. Black Hoof will test your limits but rest assured that this sandwich is not a recognisable piece of cow tongue served between two pieces of bread but rather a big pile of delicious, meat shaved wafer-thin, skewered between two brioche slices. The plate features an amazing pickled celery that calmly asserts warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg that I would really like to try and reproduce at home.
“Daunting to look at, but delicious,” is how Kat describes the egg yolk on the tartare sandwich. I guess if you’re ordering a sandwich filled with raw meat an egg yolk is not a big problem. We didn’t have to deal with any qualms about consuming horse because they had run out of equine and substituted bison instead. I managed to wrestle a bite of this sandwich from Kat and don’t at all regret the growling that inspired. The spicy mayo in particular makes this a definite keeper.
The foie gras was perfectly seared and its richness was completely satisfying. I’m not sure, though, that such a minimalist presentation fits the casual vibe.
The one mis-step, in my opinion, was pairing oysters with bone marrow. I get the conceptual point that oysters are the essence of the sea (the ultimate “surf”) and bone marrow is the essence of beef (the ultimate “turf”) but placing raw oysters in the shell on top of hot marrow bones only serves to warm them above the ideal eating temperature. I wonder, why not substitute something that is meant to be served warm and would benefit from the buttery richness of the bone marrow–like maybe seared scallops?
We’ll definitely be back to try the patio when it opens.