D-GANZ ( 815 St. Clair West, at Atlas, 416-410-1812) Complete dinners for $25 per person (brunches $17), including all taxes, tip and a glass of house red. Average main $12. Open Tuesday to Friday 4:30 to 10 pm, Saturday 10 am to 10 pm; brunch Sunday 10 am to 3 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Licensed. Access: five steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
With a culinary CV that includes stints in the kitchens of the venerable Tulip and the Junction's Purple Onion steakhouses, it's no surprise that Steve Lei knows steak.
Lei left the Onion seven months ago and, with the assistance of his wife Vicki, launched D-Ganz on St. Clair's Latino strip. It's an odd little spot, only 24 seats and straight out of the early 90s with its pressed copper bar, light fixtures made from plumbing pipe and a glass garage door doubling as a front window that opens to a curbside patio once the weather climbs into double digits. In short: Ferro on the cheap.
But compared to Lei's previous gigs, D-Ganz is downright swanky. The other big difference between then and now is that, unlike the cooks at Tulip and Purple Onion who fry their steaks on a griddle, Lei grills his budget-minded beef on a char-broiler.
And instead of huge half-inch-thick slabs of meat, Lei's cuts, which may appear smaller though they're the same weight, are three times thicker, allowing him to grill them to order rather than fry them till cooked.
So, the joint's a bit dated and the guy can cook a steak. Who can't? But learn that Lei sells an expertly executed 10-ounce AAA sirloin dinner including dessert and coffee for all of $10.95 and join the slavering queue.
We have the room to ourselves this wintery Tuesday night and, not having noticed the rather large banner hanging across the restaurant's front advertising the steak special, we order from the regular menu instead: a 12-ounce Turf á la Fungi strip loin ($17.95), the double pork chop ($13.95) and a 10-ounce sirloin ($12.95).
Right off the top, our neighbourly server points out that the pork chops are on special tonight ($9.95) and that the sirloin comes as part of the opening meal deal. No arguments here!
As expected, the Turf comes topped with button mushrooms, the strip loin smoky from the grill, its seared outer flesh giving way to a rare red centre. The sirloin's even tastier and just as juicy. Both get sided with a generous scoop of perfectly lumpy old-school mashed potatoes (no chi-chi truffled mash these), a grilled slice of Italian eggplant and half a charred red pepper. Garlic bread, too.
The pork chops are another story. I'm dreaming of sinking my teeth into a substantial hunk of pig only to find two thin slices of pork cut across the bone.
Equally disappointing, the Greek salad I've upgraded to replace the spuds 'n' veggies for an extra loonie is a sad mix of refrigerator iceberg, unripe pink tomato and canned black olives, all lightly dressed with bland cubed feta.
Regardless, we're stuffed and we've forgotten that the $10.95 sirloin includes dessert and coffee. And while the java's simply okay, the brought-in apple crumble is far better than it should be at these prices, nicely warmed in an oven as opposed to nuked in the microwave and big enough for the three of us to polish off.
Hell, we'd be happy with a day-old doughnut at this point. Then they had to go and ruin everything by slipping the Gipsy Kings onto the CD player.
But not even the Bamboleo bellowers can stop us from checking out D-Ganz's weekend brunch. Knowing we're in for a lot of artery-clogging grub, we sensibly start with a small Caesar salad ($3.95). Far from authentic no anchovies in this baby it's still a superior take, an avalanche of lettuce mixed with real bacon, garlic croutons and freshly shaved Parmesan in a mild, creamy dressing.
Since the $10.95 sirloin special is only available after 4, we opt for the 10-ounce and eggs ($14.95). The same great steak, it's a bit of a letdown and obviously more expensive.
The D-Ganz Breakfast two eggs any style, peameal, plain grilled potato and a very eggy slice of French toast seems a fairly standard greasy spoon fry-up. It's no Jim's Best Western, but the house version of the pepper and onion omelette (both $7.95 with coffee) is a dead ringer for those served at the Tulip and the Onion.
D-Ganz might not be the most sophisticated restaurant in town. Only two wines are available by the glass red and white ($5.50) and the dated decor's kitsch. But when a skilfully grilled 10-ounce sirloin with all the trimmings, including decent dessert, goes for $10.95, who cares if the server sports a ponytail?
On a related note, the Purple Onion's Sunny Sun informs NOW that although his atmospheric luncheonette on Keele closed for good last Sunday, the Onion will rise again in suitable diner digs on Dundas west of Keele in the Junction in the next few weeks.