1564 Queen Street West
Head chef: Mark Cutrara
Date visited: Wednesday August 12, 2009
Appetizers $10-20; mains $20-40
Hailed as one of Toronto Life's best new restaurants of 2008, I've been pining for one of Cutrara's carnivorous creations for a long while. Once again I was set up for a Stop for Food prix fixe disappointment, but unlike Harbord Room my back-up plan to be okay with ordering off the regular menu didn't turn out.
Cowbell did offer a prix fixe but only a $50 option -- no lower priced $35 one like I was hoping for. If Jessica and I were hungrier we may have been able to accomplish the small charcuterie, Red Angus beef steak and creme brulee on offer between the two of us; but it didn't seem to whet our appetites enough. In fact, the entire daily chalkboard menu didn't really have anything super appealing, plus it was really difficult to read from where we were sitting.
Jess and I finally settled on sharing the large charcuterie board ($25) and a salad appetizer featuring Arctic char ($13). The charcuterie had some interesting things -- elk with chocolate, elk with blueberries, house-made mortadella -- but nothing really memorable. It was then I decided I'm over charcuterie plates. After a few bites, the fattiness and greasiness was overwhelming, mushing all the flavours into one indistinct blur.
Our salad was probably the best but it was hardly a salad and it wasn't the one we ordered. There was only one server for the whole room, who wasn't that attentive, so we shrugged it off and tried what was in front of us -- a sausage and goat cheese wrapped in a fig leaf ($12 -- with some lightly dressed greens on side; presumbly the salad part). Both were fantastic but the goat cheese was a stand-out. It was unexpectedly spicy, and there was some sort of grain rolled inside as well that gave an unusual contrast to the creamy soft cheese.
We really liked our cheap $6/glass Italian red wine.
On whole, it was a let down. I think the experience may have been better if I tried a real main, but like I said, the daily menu didn't showcase anything to my interest.
I'm not sure how much longer Cowbell will be around. There were only a few other people when we went (8 p.m. on a Wednesday night) and did get a bit buzzier when we were leaving at 9:30; but it's in a middle-of-nowhere low-income neighbourhood and seems like a long way to go (Roncesvalles) for a hit-or-miss menu.
Rating (out of 5 stars): *