Just over a year ago, I went to lunch at O&B Canteen---an Oliver & Bonacini restaurant---in Toronto. On Thursday I basically went there again: I went to Tempo.
Tempo has to have been built in Canteen's image. The dining room seems to have used the exact same template---casual chic with urbane whimsy in the form of a fancy cafeteria style---to make a family-friendly space with Big City Feel that makes for a good catch-all vibe in a hotel. It's a nice space---I liked the look of Canteen, so I like the look of Tempo.
I'm greeted effusively when I enter, looking for my two companions. The host leads me through the restaurant, making pleasant small talk along the way. He has a coiled tube earpiece. It makes me feel like I'm being led to meet the president.
My friends are at the bar having had a beer and a cocktail. A server brings our drinks with us and deposits us at one of the tables that make up the dining room portion of the vast space. It's the first night of Burger Week, so Stephan falls into line and gets the Tempo burger ($15) with a spinach salad. Mark orders the soup of the day ($5) and the Tempo plate ($15) off of the lighter fare menu. I get the cod ($19).
Mark likes the soup, a small slanted bowl full of tender vegetables. Our incredibly friendly server---a highlight of our experience---brings a bread basket at the same time. It features fried rice paper, an interesting but unfortunately tasteless option.
Our entrée plates are a little bit fussy, proteins piled on one end of a long plate, and bowls with side dishes balanced on the other. Mark's plate has a jar of olives and a bowl of bread on it. It's an awkward pile of dishes for servers to balance with no real payoff for the customer.
The burger is huge, a plump sirloin patty topped with smoked applewood cheddar, fried onions, candied bacon and lettuce. A tempura pickle sits on top of the bun. It's a good burger, though a little on the dry side. The toppings all work well together; the candied bacon is especially delicious. The pickle is the best part.
The spinach salad is also tasty. The addition of julienned cucumber and pickled mangos gives it some personality.
Mark is underwhelmed by his choice. The Tempo plate is a pretty simple meat and cheese plate, which reeled him in with mention of grilled haloumi. Unfortunately the cheese is cold, seemingly plucked straight from the fridge and plated. The jar of olives is the main focus of the plate.
My cod is bland. While the generous portion of fish is cooked nicely, with a great sear on it, it is vastly under-seasoned. It sits on a bed of overcooked peas and roasted apples. The apples bring some sweetness to the dish, but are quickly gone. A potato haddock mash has a nice buttery flavour, but a nuclear, tongue-burning heat and dried out, chewy top edges hint at a reheat.
We decide to get dessert. Stephan has chocolate chip ice cream ($5), Mark has the apple crumble ($6) and I have a tiny coconut cream pie ($6). It's a long wait, but ultimately worth it. The coconut cream pie is very creamy, not too sweet. The crumble is adorably plated, golden and crisp in a cast-iron pan. The ice cream is ice cream.
At the end of the meal we're not unhappy, but we're not blown away either. Basically, Tempo's OK, but could also pick it up a bit.
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