Located in Bloordale with no obvious signage, you could easily walk past the Emerson (@EmersonToronto) without ever knowing it was there. That would be a terrible mistake since the food here is excellent!
The interior of the Emerson has a hipster (there are bicycles on the wall!) and grungy bar feel to it. The space is significantly larger than it looks from the outside as it stretches quite a ways down. There’s plenty of seating in the casual restaurant but I imagine it can still get pretty busy on weekend evenings so I’d still make a reservation.
Our group of seven (plus a baby) dropped by on a Saturday at 5:30pm for dinner. We wanted to get there right at opening since we didn’t want to keep the baby from its bedtime. Despite its bar-ish feel, they seem to be pretty accommodating to families and even had a high chair set up for us.
When we asked our server for some appetizer recommendations, he highly recommended the Fried Sweetbreads – with frisee & honey mustard ($12). The lightly battered sweetbreads, which sat on top of a slice of grilled bread, paired nicely with the slightly bitter frisee and sweet honey mustard dressing. There’s definitely a reason why this dish comes highly recommended.
The second appetizer we ordered was the Seared Scallops – with arugula, orange & fennel ($12). We all really enjoyed the perfectly seared scallops and found it to be a very light and appetizing way to start off the meal…especially given the heavy-nature of the entrees.
Having heard some great things about the Emerson Burger – with Beemster cheese sauce ($13), I couldn’t pass it up. With a knife sticking out of the enormous burger, I have to admit that tackling this burger was a little intimidating. It’s a large burger that’s definitely difficult to get your mouth around!
The patty itself was well-seasoned and incredibly juicy. The Beemster cheese sauce, while delicious, made the burger really messy to eat. It didn’t help that the soft bun didn’t hold up too well against the juicy patty and drippy cheese. Needless to say, I was one hot mess. But it was SO worth it.
One thing to note is that the burger doesn’t come with any sides. So if you like fries with your burger, you’ll have to order them separately.
Mike decided to go with the Spicy Lamb Shank – with gnocchi ($17). The lamb was fall-off-the-bone tender and the hearty sauce was delicious. We were just hoping for more of a kick. The sauce was surprisingly mild and not very spicy as advertised.
The Emerson features a special every night of the week. Since we were here on a Saturday, the daily special was Beef Wellington ($25). Our server was really selling it to us. After he told us that it’s one of the best things they offer, four of the seven people in our party ordered it.
He wasn’t kidding – everyone was thoroughly impressed with the beef wellington. I normally stay away from beef wellington since it’s often dry and just not very exciting. But when it’s done well like the Emerson’s, it can be a pleasure to eat. Encased in a flakey and buttery puff pastry, the meat was cooked to a beautiful medium-rare, retaining all of its delicious juices. Covered in a flavourful creamy sauce, this is a must-order if you drop by on a Saturday.
As the entrees here don’t include sides, the Emerson offers five sides priced at $5 each or $20 for all of them. We shared all of them: Frites – thyme, salt, mayonnaise, Shaved Cauliflower Coleslaw, Brussel Sprouts – with pancetta & asiago, Butternut Squash Gratin and Sauteed Broccolini (which was the daily side).
They were all quite enjoyable but my personal favourites were the butternut squash gratin and the addictive frites.
Even though we were stuffed, we decided to share a couple desserts since there were seven of us – enough for a bite or two each. The first dessert I dug into was the Crème Brûlée. I found the custard to be a little too sweet and the caramelized top a bit too thick – not a particularly memorable dessert.
The other dessert we shared was the Ice Box Cake. It was a sundae-like dessert which consisted of layers of whipped cream with chunks of cake (or what seemed like Oreo chunks) mixed into it. The whipped cream gave it a light and airy feel to it and was definitely my preference between the two desserts – a tasty way to end the meal!
Overall, we had a fantastic dinner at the Emerson. I’ll leave you with one tip: drop by on a Saturday evening to take advantage of their beef wellington special!
At a glance:
• Located in Bloordale (Bloor and Lansdowne)
• Large space with plenty of seating
• No obvious signage on the outside (easily missed)
• Baby-friendly (at least earlier in the evening before it gets too busy)
• Don’t let the grungy bar-feel fool you – the food is delicious!
• The Beef Wellington was the highlight of the meal (only offered on Saturdays)
Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 4 stars
• Service: 4 stars
• Atmosphere: 3 stars