I turned 25 years old this week and Erica my loverly room mate took me out to celebrate at Cowbell Restaurant. Parkdale (our hood) is not exactly known for its culinary mystique. But things are changing as The Local and Cowbell have started what we hope is the movement of fine cuisine to a part of the city famous for its roti shops.
We were the first to arrive which made us feel special (read: rich). Erica and I sat in the restaurant assuming it was ours for the taking. The concept of Cowbell is “we like meat.” The chef sources all of his meat from local farms, purchases these cattle and then uses the entire animal to create dishes for his patrons. The menu changes daily and is located on two large chalk boards. I noted, ‘They save a ton of money on printing menus this way.” Erica retorted, “Conversely they are blowing wads of cash on chalk.” True say.
Erica started with the Butchers Plate which featured cow tongue and aioli, a crustini topped with liver and blood and a deliciously sweet short rib. I ordered the Chacuterie plate which featured two mustards, pickled beets and gherkin, crustini, two salami’s made from a wild assortment of God’s creatures, rabbit liver pate, rabbit pastrami and thinly sliced pork lardon.
Erica ordered Red Angus Beef Roasted Vegetable with Egg and Vanilla which was well executed. I ordered “handmade gnocchi with northern woods mushrooms,” and once it arrived at my plate I was a bit perplexed. When one normally orders a gnocchi dish featuring hand picked wood mushrooms you expect there to be a butter or cream based sauce. Instead my plate was a confused mess of roasted brussel sprouts, parsnip and sweet potato with a tomato based sauce. The acid in the tomato sauce made the entire dish confusing as I tried to sort through the mess of vegetables I was able to find a few “mushrooms from the northern woods.” My impression of this dish was a bit of chaos and I didn’t “walk away from the bowl,” feeling as though I had eaten a mushroom whether it be from the northern woods or not.
We finished the meal with two desserts. Erica’s was a Quebecois treat (and great success) Maple Pudding Chomeur, enjoyed with a cup of hot tea. I ordered a latte and smoked bacon chocolate rillette. My dessert was also a noble and creative idea which was poorly executed. I was given three cow shaped sugar cookies and a small dish meant to look like French Pork Riellette (pork fat slathered on the top). Instead they had created a grand illusion by topping this treat with white chocolate. Once I spooned through I found a rich icing like chocolate filling. After about two spoon full’s I couldn’t eat anymore as there was an excessive amount of bacon in the dessert. I felt like I was eating chocolate icing with a half cup of chopped breakfast bacon.
Cowbell was a bit of a disappointing experiment. Erica’s last words, “I would only go back for my dessert.”
#68 restaurant reviewed in Ontario since moving to Toronto in 2010.