ELEVEN (11 Jarvis, at Front, 416-981-1919). Complete brunches for $35 per person, including all taxes, tip and a breakfast cocktail. Average main $16. Open for brunch Saturday 10 am to 3 pm, Sunday 10 am to 4 pm; dinner Monday to Saturday 5 to 11 pm. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NN
Funny how a seemingly successful restaurant can suddenly go out of business.
That was the case last December when Brad Moore’s upscale Indo fusion spot Xacutti on College was unexpectedly shuttered. Even more surprising was his almost immediate launch a month later of Eleven, in the short-lived Ninth Gate across from the St. Lawrence Market.
I never got what others saw in Xacutti, finding it more of a fashionable late-night watering hole and a popular weekend brunch destination than the cutting-edge kitchen to which Moore (Monsoon, Rivoli) aspired. But, open of mind and empty of stomach, I’m willing to give the chef another shot, starting with Sunday brunch.
By day, the modish room’s a delight, with wrap-around windows that not only allow the winter sun to warm the space but offer tourist-worthy views of the cityscape, too.
Quickly seated, we’re soon downing premium Illy coffees ($3) and laying waste to a basket of Moore’s superb baked goods ($13): flaky house-baked cardamom-scented buttermilk biscuits, a toasted croissant spread with Nutella, fabulously crusty cinnamon doughnuts and a gingerbread muffin dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Sadly, it’s downhill from here.
I note that Eleven’s website mentions Breakfast Margaritas and order one.
Our very competent all-in-black server doesn’t seem to know what I’m talking about and hesitantly offers, “I’ll see what I can do.” Oh, that she hadn’t.
You’d expect that an eatery with a prominent bar featuring a large graphic reading “LIQUOR” would know how to mix a cocktail. Not Eleven. My margarita amounts to a martini glass full of pink grapefruit juice straight out of a carton, spiked with tequila. One sip and I pass. An amateurish passion fruit caipirinha (both $9.75) is equally vile.
How can you fuck up an egg? Somehow, Eleven manages to do just that with its Subcontinental take on eggs Benedict ($17), a halved croissant layered with overly salty smoked salmon, two poached eggs and a fluorescent-yellow hollandaise worsened by curry powder that hasn’t properly cooked into the sauce. After two bites, you get the idea, and it’s not a good one.
Giant Apple Cinnamon Soufflé Pancake ($13) looks promising but turns out to be a doughy flapjack the size of a frisbee and isn’t worth the 15 minutes’ notice the kitchen needs to make it.
Waffles with chicken in curried gravy ($14) sure sound good, don’t they? Too bad there’s too much waffle – overcooked, dry (lots of them) – and not enough quite-tasty-really fowl (three smallish chunks).
Bombay Scrambled Eggs ($11) also fails to impress. Plated in a bowl fashioned from a papadum, they’re unnecessarily redolent of caraway and come sided with mesclun ordinaire, half a slice of multigrain toast, a teaspoon of tomato chutney and supposedly spicy home fries.
One of the highlights of Xacutti’s brunch, these spuds are little more than filler here.
Does anyone notice that virtually everything except Eleven’s exceptional yet pricey bread basket goes unfinished?