Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Lakeview Restaurant

I can't say that I'm a Lakeview virgin. The 24 hour long lit lights have called to me more than a few days and nights. The sign hanging outside the haunt at 1132 Dundas has always been a warming greeting. The handshake says, come in, I'm the Lakeview, I'm here for you. It's the handshake of a friend. I can't go in without a premature sense of nostalgia. I haven't been in Toronto long enough to feel nostalgia. I probably haven't been alive long enough to feel a sense of nostalgia. But I get this funny feeling at the Lakeview, like I know that in 20 years when I'm living in a fancy condo on Manhattan island, sipping a microfoam cocktail while my attractive manservant arranges my comic books via a complex system based on art style and era of prominence and my holographic cat purrs at my feet, I will think of the Lakeview with a sigh. Why? Why.
With neighbors like Porchetta, the Black Hoof, and with the entire gastronomical fulmination of the Ossington strip to the South, it does seem easily dwarfed, easily derided. My eating roots are very simple, and I have great appreciation for what the Lakeview is doing by tidying up the concept of the diner. I like their polished and affordable classics, and their pop culture hinted menu.

Personally, I always try to sit in 'the magical murder booth'.

Thus for review #50, a year after starting this blog, here's some new thoughts on an old favourite.
Even though the Lakeview is a diner, it's no greasy spoon. They've always had a lot of fun spins on healthy classics. Their eggs are great. Still, tonight leaned quickly towards the indulgent. I dreadfully declare that our appetizer of deep fried mac'n cheese balls (6.00) set the tone for the night. I don't really know what I was expecting from this! They were decent, they hit the grease/pasta craving bullseye. They struck left of the cheese spot, though. What cheese sauce was gluing this super soft mac together had been absorbed, its flavour reduced by an unholy heat. I made myself food like this in first year uni. Still, when eaten with hands, lumps torn off, crust crisp and oily, dunked in a bbq more spiced and less sweet than ketchup, I was pleased. They are exactly what you can expect (and the ketchupBBQcatsup is a winner).

I am a little ashamed to admit how much I ate. We ate? I guess! One other trait of the Lakeview which is probably not oft lauded due to few Toronto artists writing about food (that I know!), is that they have big tables and a turnaround that means you won't get scowled at for whipping your 11"x14" sketch pad out and bustin' out drawings for a couple lazy hours. Lindsay and I were doodling as we ate, and we took our sweet time. The meal stretched out over a few hours, and at some point during this span of time immemorial, entrees arrived, and they were lovely.
I had some serious skepticism about the fishwich (10.00) because it is a self described as 'crispy filet'. Filet of what? Upon asking I am told it is basa, which I like. Basa holds up nicely to the fryer, it's got body. Not the most flavourful fish, but still enjoyably. It's sizeable! Two fried sticks top one another between a bun which is distinctly not steamed (as advertised). The bun is extremely airy, with a light crust that is as thin as skin. I don't really like steamed bus, and this is fine with me. The tartar is a killer, and I'm in love with its heavy herb and lemon. Dill, I think. The batter is light, layered and very fresh, the beer surprisingly noticeable. With it came a side of salad, which was a bland mixture of greens, refreshingly sweet but nothing to go on about.
While I did not try this terrifying, appealing thing Lindsay ordered, I have to say it was a mountain. Le plateau burger (14.50 or 17.50 for a double) is a thing which incorporates havarti, fried egg, bacon and comes with a size of poutine. It heaps high. I love egg on a burger, but even more so if it's over easy and runs into everything, gooing up the mixture into some mess of glory. I did have some of that poutine. It was not hot enough, and the fries should have been crisper, even under the curds and gravy. The gravy has a hint of bisto to it, hovering a step away from being gelatinous, but full of flavour. The curds were perfect- ripe, firm, fresh, flavourful.
Close to 11pm, after our filling dinners had settled and made room for one more thing to choose from the packed Lakeview menu, we got a dessert. There are things in this world that sound too good because they ARE too good- like the chocolate caramel walnut cheesecake (5.50) which was too rich and too sweet and too weighty.Don't get me wrong, it was good. It was just predictably tooth-aching. The cake was peppered with flecks of vanilla, and the cheese was not too cheesy of cloying- just right. At some points it was just like eating a toffee, there was so much caramel. If only there had been a nudge of contrast! And that, I suppose, is why cheesecake is traditionally had with fruit.
Gentrification comes and goes, neighborhoods change. They ebb. Will Ossington stay this hot and wild? If so, for how long? I think the Lakeview will have a firm foothold in the food loving latenight crowd no matter what. There's ALWAYS the 4$ Ceasar!

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