Last Friday five of us headed to the Danforth to see what the widely mentioned The Local Co. had to offer. First of all, the name invites confusion. I understand that the locavore movement has a bunch of cachet rife for the cashing-in-on but most people will drop the “company” part of the name from their google search and read about The Local on Roncesvalles which is either “a rundown hang out for wannabe hipsters and aging bar waifs…” or “easily the funkiest pub on the Roncesvalles strip.” To clarify: I’m writing about The Local Company at 511 Danforth Avenue.
The service while decent, needs some work. We were greeted warmly, our coats were taken, and we were promptly seated. I know this is one of those that’s-just-the-it-is things but personally I think that restaurants should do more to clarify that when patrons (perhaps distracted from the competition by the act of sitting down and greeting each other) opt for “still water” they really want the five dollar bottle and not perfectly safe tap water. Not our server’s fault because I’m sure it is a matter of restaurant policy but this city is full of restaurants at the same or higher price level (Harbord Room and The Black Hoof come to mind) where tap water arrives without diners having to jump this hurdle.
The most troubling service glitch involved our cocktail orders. The waiter was gracious and friendly about giving us time to sort through the excellent list of cocktails. I thought I was pretty clear about ordering my Manhattan “up in a cocktail glass” but it arrived in what appeared to be the bastard child of said glass and a lowball. If a restaurant chooses not to stock cocktail glasses behind the bar (and yes the stem does serve a purpose) they should say so when a patron specifically mentions it in his order. More problematic was the forty-five minutes that it took for one of my dining companions to receive her cocktail. The waiter apologised and joked about how the strawberries were being held up by the kitchen and that is appreciated but as one of my friends said the cocktail wasn’t nearly as useful after we were halfway into the first course and had started on the wine. When it became apparent that the fruit was going to be such a long time coming our waiter should have offered my friend the opportunity to change or cancel her order.
To start we shared three appetisers. The woolwich goat cheese and caramalised onion dip was rich, sweet and just thick enough for ideal spreading on the provided pita triangles. This dip was definitely more intriguing than its description boils down to (goat cheese dip and pita). A surprise winner as far as I’m concerned.
The potato rosti topped with house-smoked rainbow trout and herbed sour cream was alright. The trout was excellently smoked but the rosti had gone a little soggy by the time it got to us. Incidentally, I was unable to convince my tablemates that rosti is one of the all-time best bachelor meals. They say the idea of a gentleman left to his devices, grating a potato is entirely unrealistic. I disagree.
The best of the three was the house pate with baguette and cornichons. The pate had a firm texture and slightly-sour, slightly-smoky taste reminiscent of really good kielbasa. The cornichons had just enough spicy heat to set them apart from the usual. Best of all, the portion size was very generous.
Of the four friends I had dinner with three of them ordered the same veal cheeks with mushroom risotto that I did. In order to cover more of the menu this might be the last time I share suggestions gleaned from Twitter (thanks to @foodie411 and @DaLocalChef) prior to ordering. The veal was exceptionally tender, with an excellently-seasoned red wine sauce and amazingly creamy but still toothsome risotto. Even the garnish of diced carrots and parsnips seemed to fit perfectly.
My only original friend (she of the strawberry cocktail) ordered the mackerel with new potatoes, kale and sausage. Our waiter offered a very professional disclaimer about mackerel’s oiliness and assertive flavour but my friend was glad that she wasn’t swayed and entirely enjoyed the dish.
The ambiance is far from intimate because of the space’s dual role as a lounge. This split personality and the lcoation on the Danforth also means that on weekends table didn’t start to fill in until we were leaving around nine. The food was good enough to overcome my (relatively minor) complaints about the up-and-down service. It was a pleasure to meet the chef (who knew from twitter that we were coming) and we appreciated his graciousness in coming out with the main course to introduce himself. Apparently the apple gallete is quite good so I’ll have to find a time to get back to the Danforth when I’ll have room for dessert.