Crush Crashes

CRUSH (455 King West, at Spadina, 416-977-1234) A bright, spacious room with a pricey but casual French lineup gets undone.

CRUSH (455 King West, at Spadina, 416-977-1234) A bright, spacious room with a pricey but casual French lineup gets undone by acoustics that turn its loft aesthetic into sheer torture. Complete dinners for $85 per person ($50 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open for lunch Monday to Friday 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, and for dinner Monday to Saturday 5 to 11 pm. Closed Sunday. Licensed. Access: 12 steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NN

Rating: NN

i’m baffled. and frankly, i wish Crush were baffled, too.It’s a pretty New York-style loft in a warehouse conversion, with sandblasted limestone brick and bare hardwood floors, but once Crush gets crushed with customers, the severe limitations of its acoustics — there are none! — become obvious.

So much so that a nearby table full of shrieking birthday partiers, complete with helium balloons and streamers, can’t be heard over the din.

If I’d wanted to have an expensive meal in an eatery with the noise level of a sports bar, I’d do Rodney’s.

To say there’s a buzz about Crush is an understatement. It’s as if tout Toronto has followed the celebrity chef du jour south from Bloor. Understandably, some of Tamaru’s current Crush menu mirrors much of what he started at Rouge: petite slices of pink duck in mahogany sauce bigarade ($26), a tiny slab of foie gras terrine with contrasting toasts and boozy jelly ($14), dainty roasted lamb with caramelized endive ($28).

Everywhere, the room is in constant motion. A dozen kitchen staff bustle about the open kitchen, Tamaru at their centre, while six or so designated but always polite servers — “Sorry, I’m bread” — keep the energy high.

At lunch it’s not as frantic. But as the restaurant fills, conversation grows louder, ricocheting against the room’s hard surfaces.

There, we drop serious cash for a very ordinary nosh (shout-out to my peeps!): a spoonful of celeriac slaw surrounded by lightly brined prosciutto (celery root remoulade with Bayonne ham), a puzzling poached egg plopped on mesclun next to a mushroom or two (both $7), and something called Taro’s Daily Fish ($16), today two somewhat dry fillets (salmon and fluke) served with a thin wedge of room-cool Pommes Dauphine (plain potato pancake).

Bistro-correct, Tamaru’s Steak-frites ($19 lunch/$20 dinner) sees nine small ruby-centred slices of unusually tender hanger steak splayed next to a mound of good frites. The spuds need salt, but the single hole in the salt shaker is plugged.

At least they don’t do all that peppermill nonsense.

Remembering dessert at dinner — a warm rustic apricot tart ($7) Martha Stewart could toss-off blindfolded (I have photos) — we opt for a chocolate truffle ($2), first-rate decaf cappuccino ($3.75) and the last of a delightful Aussie red (97 Olmos Reward, $11 glass/$55 bottle).

We note the glass-to-bottle ratio. Most restaurants pour four 6-ounce glasses per bottle, but Crush — a self-described wine bar no less — pours 5-ounce glasses, squeezing an extra one out of every bottle.

Advantage: Rouge.

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