March 18, 2014
It is true that the food is really good, but is Tuck Shop the perfect restaurant? The short answer is no. However, the positives outweigh the negatives, and it's a restaurant that shows passion and deserves respect.
The dining room is cozy. Three tables are placed by the front windows, and behind them is a round table for four. A banquette graces the side wall. The floors, tables, and chairs are all made of wood, and cloth napkins that are refolded when customers visit the facilities are a nice touch.
The kitchen, at the back of the restaurant behind a bar, is open. Another bar along the side, which is decorated with subway tiles, provides some additional seating.
The background music can be a bit confused. Think Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, and reggae all in a row. The lighting is low, but not so much so that you can't see your food. The room is too loud when full, but it's not the worst I've run across, either.
Overall the decor is simple and very neutral. It's a good backdrop for the food, which tends to be colorful and presented on big plates.
Tuck Shop uses quality ingredients and care is taken with the plates. Lots of vegetables are used, but the food is generally hearty. Portions are large. Main dishes are perhaps too large, in fact. The menu is posted daily on the restaurant's Twitter account.
During our recent visit, the starters were borscht, market salad, beef tartare, fish tacos, stuffed calamari, and duck salad. Main dishes were a choice of three different cuts of meat with french fries and chimichurri sauce, braised short rib, magret de canard, Boston cod, Faroe island salmon, and braised pork ravioli. Desserts included cheesecake, apple pie, and brownies.
I chose the salad to start, and it was the unexpected and clear highlight of the entire meal. It contained plenty of goodies, including brussel sprout leaves, lettuce, greens, sprouts, small cubes of golden and red beets, toasted pepitas, pomegranate seeds, thinly shaved carrot, herbed soft cheese swirled on the side of the bowl, and thinly sliced green apple. It was lightly dressed and delicious. I loved it! It is large for a starter and would make a lovely light meal.
My dining partner chose the beef tartare and was also extremely satisfied. The tartare had an excellent balance of flavors and included porcini aioli, chips, remoulade, and crostini.
For the main dish I had salmon. It came with carrot puree, cabbage, potato, soft boiled egg, bacon, maple-mustard sauce, pickled beets, dill, and shredded carrot. The plate contained a lot of elements, some of them unnecessary, and the portion was too large. However, I did particularly enjoy the pickled beet, and the potato was cooked well. The salmon had a nice crispy skin but was slightly overcooked. The bacon was diced too finely and was a bit tough, but it added nice flavor. My salad and main dish were plated very similarly.
My dining companion chose the braised short rib with grainy mustard smashed potato, rapini, and braising jus. He gave it a thumbs up, but again the portion was quite large in the context of a multi-course meal.
We were too full for dessert, but decided to share a 60g cheese plate, priced at $10. We chose Gré de Champs and Britannia. They came with grilled bread, along with some elements that had also been present in my salad: thinly sliced apple, toasted pepitas, and pomegranate seeds.
The cheeses we didn't choose were the Pied de Vent and Riopelle. All four cheeses would have been served on the 120g plate. I appreciated the inclusion of local cheeses, but all of these are fairly common ones, so a sense of discovery was missing. That, combined with the fact that the other elements on the plate were repeated from an earlier course, left me a bit disappointed.
The biggest wow factor of our meal was at the beginning. I wish I had ordered two starters instead of a starter and a main course since many of the starters looked very interesting and weren't as large as the main courses.
Respect for ingredients and care for the plates is worth a lot, even if some dishes have too much going on and some ingredients are repeated across the menu. As long as you're up for a large amount of food and a loudly buzzing atmosphere, Tuck Shop is a good place to have dinner.
4662 Notre Dame West
Parking: Street (plenty of free parking very close by)
Dress: Casual or smart casual.
Price: Allow $80 - $100 per person for 3 courses, including tax and tip.
Highlights: Stellar salad. Pristine ingredients. Care taken on each plate.