GOLDFISH (372 Bloor West, at Walmer, 416-513-0077) Complete brunches for $22 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $10. Open for lunch Wednesday to Sunday 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, for dinner Tuesday to Sunday 5:30 to 9:30 pm. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 10:30 am to 3 pm. Closed Monday. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NN Rating: NN
The wind gusts at 80 klicks per hour the day we go to Goldfish, and finds its way inside through a tiny gap in the floor-to-ceiling window pane. Few other tables are occupied on a Saturday morning, so we move deeper inside. Still, the small inset fish tanks and geometric paintings in soft pastels fail to take the chill off the minimalist room. The server tries, taking our coats and warmly admitting it's only her second day on the job.
This Japanese fusion restaurant opened to rave reviews in 1999, but has recently changed hands. Starting with the dim sum sampling ($6), we detect trouble.
The vegetable spring roll drips grease, the dough of the beef mini-dumpling is tough, and the minced steamed shrimp falls out of a soggy spinach-rice dough wrapper. Considering how easy it is to find excellent dim sum for far less, it's difficult not to feel had here.
The Sumo Burger on a Diet ($10) is intriguingly described as lean ground beef marinated in teriyaki glaze with mango-miso mayonnaise. For all the colourful hype, it's impossibly bland. Its attractive narrow rectangular plate lets the shamefully stale bun's crumbs scatter, and they soon blanket my guest's lap.
Given the choice, we opt for fries over salad, but the deep-fryer fails again, delivering limp spuds.
The same staleness applies to eggs Benedict with smoked salmon on a croissant, topped with truffle hollandaise ($10). Not only is the croissant chokingly dry, but the eggs are overcooked - a smear of hollandaise fails to offer any much-needed throat lube - and the dish is served with tough, undercooked grilled asparagus.
Ten-dollar brunch dishes deserve more attention to such simple, correctible details. In a city of endless multicultural cuisine, style is never enough.