For when you want that perfect romantic dinner or are looking for the ideal place to celebrate in a formal setting. I have always perceived French cuisine as being fancier, and like many others come to “La Crocodile” with a romanticized impression. Though walking in, most wasn’t as I had imagined. The lights were brighter, the decor was simpler, and everyone seated was a lot louder. There was no candle light dining with soft whispers and gentle embraces. And there was a lot more children present at tables than expected. The space was either seated with laughing families and coupled up seniors, or groups of loud speaking asian youths. Though the volume did die down as parties left, and 8:30pm became 9pm.
Things were a well maintained level of classy and classic. The windows were wide open with blinds that left left the crowns of heads exposed. These were visible for those on the sidewalk outside. As mentioned, I imagined things more candle lit, a dark setting that required flash for pictures. Instead it was very homey with a Christmas flare. Yellow amber lights, evergreen wreaths, and touches made with deep red poinsettias. Miniature Christmas bushes were lean and strung up with lights and baubles in red and gold. A wooden grandfather clock with golden accents sat regal in the corner. And in the centre of the room, a dark brown wine cabinet used to store bottles and dining accessories. Cutlery in drawers and pre folded napkins on shelves. Our four seater table was in the middle of a heavily trafficked area. Being at the intersection before the washroom hall was unappealing. Though the only alternative offered was a small two top booth in the corner. We didn’t like the idea of being so close to the would be table beside us, and wanted the extra space with room for four. Rightfully so, as much was going on at our table: lit tea lights, a festive mini pine tree with cones and fake snow, three menus, a multitude of appropriate dinner ware and side plates, and reusable napkins folded into a cone-like towers. The menu was all words, no pictures and brief descriptions. This included descriptions bolded in French with English text underneath.
Our server was a professional, she introduced herself by name, and was able to answer our questions and give her suggestions. My guest deemed this the best service he has ever had.
To drink I ordered a “Grasshopper”, all for my love of mint. Each of the two cocktails I had were made with creme de menthe, white creme de cacao and cream. It was smooth and chocolatey in all the right ways. It became the needed break from all the rich flavours found in the food. With this drink I got the best of getting a buzz with the enjoyable taste of ice cream. I would go back just for this drink alone.
As per common French practice, we were given complimentary bread in both multigrain and white, and all the squares of butter we needed to accompany them.
We were delighted with a few complimentary amuse bouche, presented sporadically throughout our luxurious meal. This smokey crab cake was steaming right from the oven. The scent of it made its way to the table before the actual circular seafood pie did. This was a blended mix of Dungeness crab, tomato, and saffron. It was very creamy, and you really got the curry flavour from the saffron present in each bite. The crab was whipped to the consistency of custard. The pastry crust was fairly oily, as seen from the residue it left on the Dollie below. This was a unique combination, to have the sweet pastry crust meeting this savoury meat filling. A light and great start to the meal ahead. I enjoyed just the one, as two in its richness was too many.
Wild mushroom soup scented with truffle oil and paired with a Parmesan crostini. Hot and fresh this soup was definitely made to order. It wasn’t overly salty, a balanced earthly flavour fused into a smooth and rich consistency. You really got the essence of mushroom in each spoonful.
We were presented with a side plate of deep fried potato strings. It was declared as a treat from the chef. Our server affectionately referred to them as “diet” fries. In that eating ten strings were equivalent to one normal fry. They were as fun to eat as they were easy to eat, like hickory sticks. Though mid way you couldn’t help but long for beer as its drinking accompaniment.
Grilled beef tenderloin served in a peppercorn sauce. Despite the stunning presentation there was way too much peppercorn. It hid the taste of the beef, even after scrapping all the excess off the 10oz chuck. The meat was cooked to a perfect pink, it was tender and easily cut into with a knife. What I didn’t enjoy was the grainy texture of a potato I expected to be smooth.
I indulged in the Chef’s five course tasting menu for $75. Considering an appetizer averaged $18 and an entree went from $30 to 45, this five course was money well spent.
Grilled dighy scallop a top a warm asparagus salad and a moist rice cake, all nestled in a butternut squash sauce. Despite the listing of what sounds like individual elements, these were all complimentary flavours, representing their great variety of textures. I was delighted to have two scallops before me, as it is standard to have just the one large scallop per tasting portion. The rice cake, I liked the least. It didn’t add anything to the plate with its overly mustard tone. The crisp fried onions were a nice touch, something dry and light to play off tender asparagus tips. I was happy to have only asparagus tips, as they are the most tender. These were firm in a deep green. The butter nut sauce got along with everything and was really what tied it all together.
Pan seared sturgeon filet, lobster bruschetta, and cauliflower purée, all nestled in an American sauce. This came being no where near what I expected visually, but delicious none the less. The bruschetta turned out to be a skewer of lobster and coloured peppers. The sauce would be better described as a soup. And the purée offered chunks in its mix. Our server came by to check in on our take of the food and offered insightful tidbits on the menu. The fish was caught locally, seasoned peppery and cooked to a gentle flaky consistency. The cauliflower purée resembled and tasted like mashed potatoes. And the alfalfa sprouts gave a certain freshness, cutting into the overly salty nature of the poached lobster. The over salting of the lobster was a shame, I wanted to get that butter taste, to be able to enjoy the sweetness in the lobster meat.
Grilled beef tenderloin topped with a duck medallion in a chanterelle rosemary jus; accompanied by a serving of fingerling potatoes. I was impressed by the great selection of perfectly cooked vegetables that also came with this. Asparagus and baby carrots cut length wise, whole cherry tomatoes, mushrooms sectioned into quarters, and slivers of radishes. The meaty melding of duck and beef was accented by the slightly sour jus. You just can’t beat the luxury in having two meats in one entree.
The cantaloupe sorbet with a splash of port was meant as a palette cleanser. A bridge between the heaviness of the savoury dinner behind you to the lightness of sweeten dessert in front. Our server was kind enough to offer a complimentary serving to my guest as well (who didn’t order the Chef’s tasting menu). I wish I had more than one scoop, and I wish this was the main dessert, it was that good. A ball so light and refreshing that it helped to digest my meal. The boiled down port was a great accent, taking this simple sorbet to the next level. And as full as my guest was he was still able to get this down no problem.
A coffee Irish cream tartelette, with salted caramel ice cream and crispy rice covered in chocolate nougat. As decadent as this look, it was not overly sweet. It is one of those desserts you savour by holding your spoon upside down against your tongue. The cream was whipped fresh and the plate was scrapped clean. The ice cream heightened the taste of the tart by perfectly balancing salty with sweet. It was great in small batches, any more would overwhelm everything else. This was a dish truly deserving of being at the end of this fantastic five course meal.
This was so much food, too much food. I was glad I opted out of the additional pan seated foie gras course for $15 more. And in retrospect, feel silly for asking if this would be enough food for me. I was full after two and a half courses, this was not just a “tasting” as the menu suggested. I honestly expected a stop by “McDonalds” after dinner, however was delightfully mistaken. I opted to pack the entree up after a few bites, in order to make room for the desserts after.
The bill came with complimentary chocolates. Crocodiles in milk and dark. We were too full, but the chocolates were too special to leave behind.
Would I come back? – Yes. This meal was not as expensive as I expected. I have spent $35 on bone marrow, bone marrow that available for $15 here. Our floor staff really went out of their way to make our night memorable. My guest went to the washroom, and in his absences a random server in white apron and gold crocodile pin, took it upon herself to refold his napkin. This was taken off his seat, and re established as a triangle before it was settled back on to the table before him. This was as nice of a touch as spoons and forks being replaced and reset after each serving. And our night ended with our server thanking us for making them our destination, acknowledging we could of chosen anywhere to dine tonight, and yet we chose them.
Would I recommend it? – Yes. The food was exemplary, the portions were filling, and the staff were on point. If I could change one thing it would be the decor. In my French restaurants I want dim lights, flickering candles, classical music, and the smell of butter wafting through the air. Don’t deny your cravings.