MEATING (2411 Yonge, at Broadway, 416-487-8609) Complete dinners for $90 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $33. Open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday 5 pm to midnight. Closed Sunday and Monday. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
The moose head sculpted in clear acrylic presiding over the well-heeled clientele at MEATing should be the first clue that the latest conceptual cantina from the folks behind Cfood is a steakhouse with a twist.
After several weeks of eating veggie burgers, this card-carrying carnivore has the understandable urge to sink his teeth into some bloody red meat. And MEATing, with its plastic-coated card divided into tame (14-ounce USDA bone-in Kansas City-cut strip loin, $47), game (elk strip loin, $33) and organic (Scottish salmon, $20), appears to answer my primordial craving. Why, shrimp cocktail ($12) is even on the menu!
The room's just as ironically retro. Decked out in a look torn straight from the pages of Wallpaper magazine circa 97 faux butcher block Formica-topped tables rung with knockoff chromed wire-mesh Bertoia chairs, chandeliers overhead fashioned from antlers the 50-seat space resounds to the dulling thud of a house comp that was last the definition of cool in the late 20th century.
We begin with shot glasses of quite lovely foam-festooned lobster bisque and wimpy French-style onion soup topped with a diminutive potato crouton ($2 each, $6 bowl). For $13, we figure that another starter of grilled lamb skewers dressed with frazzled leek and minty yogurt should be enough to share between the three of us. Technically, it is exactly two tiny but tasty cubes each.
Even more disappointing is a miniature loaf of marshmallowesque Wonder bread sided with good olive oil, crushed garlic and grated Parmesan. The first order's on the house, but refills cost four bucks. Pass.
Game for game, we follow with a slightly fatty tenderloin of wild boar ($30). Six inches long, less than 2 thick and tasting like a pork chop, it's the only thing on the large rectangular plate.
A second loin kangaroo ($33) finds all of eight rare slices of the former Skippy on another. In contrast, a perfectly executed 10-ounce bison rib-eye ($27) seems a steal. All come sided with meek garlic aoli, spicy barbecue sauce that recalls coagulated Kraft and a mix of wasabi and freshly grated horseradish that's the only remotely green thing on our table.
Sides are á la carte: slender tempura-battered red onion rings, slightly undercooked frites (both $4) and a fabulously eggy carrot and sweet potato brûlée crowned with caramelized brown sugar that could pass as dessert ($6).
And since we aren't offered any of the MacArthur's Park-style chocolate cake complete with "sweet green icing flowing down" we spot on the bar or anything else, for that matter it does.
On our way out and $200 lighter less than 75 minutes after arriving, I ask my guests a pair of globe-trotting foodies who've just returned from a two-week vacation checking out Barcelona's avant garde dining scene how they'd rate MEATing and, more crucially, if they'd ever return.
"Three Ns," comes their reply. "But only if the 'rents are paying. "