FOCACCIA (17 Hayden, at Yonge, 416-323-0179) Complete dinners for $50 per person ($25 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and an $8 glass of wine. Average main: $24/$14. Open for lunch Monday to Friday 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and for dinner Tuesday to Saturday 6 to 10 pm . Closed Sunday and holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, 18 steps to washrooms on second floor. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
When focaccia owner bill iuele announced last fall that chef Sam Gassira was leaving his popular midtown spot to front a joint venture, Bloom, some were puzzled by his choice of replacement. New chef Pedro Quintanilla - known for his solid work at Latitude and the late Xango - is no slouch, but could he fill Sam's considerable size 10s? After a very relaxed lunch the other day, I come to a mixed conclusion. Gassira casts a long shadow, but once the inevitable early-days kinks get rectified, Quintanilla is well on his way to establishing his own identity.
You'll see it if you get past the tried 'n' true Surf 'n' Turf ($22) and pedestrian Cal-Ital pasta dishes - "What's rotini?" asks a customer at the next table. Quintanilla's Cuban mains, though competent, rarely soar to Gassira heights.
A sensational salad of julienned beets and carrot comes tossed with toasted pumpkin seed and a marvellously tangy lime vinaigrette ($7). But a gratin of salt cod and sweet potato served with petite toasts ($7/$10 at dinner with additional roasted pepper salad) recalls lunch-counter turkey à la king.
My guest, gardening guru Marjorie Harris - who was fabulous before most of you were born - positively swoons over her delicately flavoured pan-seared pork tenderloin and pseudo-Caesar side of romaine hearts in luscious roasted-garlic cream ($16/$20 at dinner with cassava chips).
However, I leave my so-so tuna fillet ($20/$24), strewn with an underpowered pepper sofrito, unfinished despite its tasty tag team of grilled spring asparagus and zucchini.
We conclude our pleasant midday nosh with Chocolate Roulade ($6/$8), a respectable alternating roll of flourless chocolate cake and chocolate mouse dolloped with whipped cream and a clever purée of fresh coconut.
Good but not great, the Bloom is clearly off Focaccia.