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InterContinental Toronto
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Bosk Restaurant is a premium upscale restaurant located by Adelaide St and University Ave in the Financial District area of Downtown Toronto.
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Review: Shangri-la di dah

By Alan A. Vernon, reviewed on October 18, 2012

The Shangri-La has been catching a lot of buzz of late, mainly due to Momofuku mania. But the cult-like enthusiasm for David Chang's three-story food show that opened just a few weeks ago is about all the excitement you'll find at this ritzy downtown address because the...

The Shangri-La has been catching a lot of buzz of late, mainly due to Momofuku mania. But the cult-like enthusiasm for David Chang's three-story food show that opened just a few weeks ago is about all the excitement you'll find at this ritzy downtown address because the hotel's own dining room, Bosk, is just one big yawn short of a snoozefest.

Chef Jean-Paul Lourdes, a biochemist and former perfume developer, may very well be one of the most famous chefs you've never heard of. Unlike the rockstar Chang, Lourdes is so elusive, he shuns getting his photograph taken. That might work to your advantage if you're a vampire, but after this meal, Lourdes might need all the glaring light of publicity he can get.

That's not to say that chef doesn't have a pretty impressive resume, having worked as a sous chef at three-star Michelin restaurants Pierre Gagnaire in Paris, Les Masions de Bricourt in Cancale, France, and Kikunoi in Kyoto, Japan before joining the international five-star luxury hotel chain as a corporate chef de cuisine. And with so much of his life lived in Asia, Lourdes would seem the perfect fit for this kaiseki kind of experience, as Shangri-La describes it, "the culinary art form that focuses on enhancing the flavour of the freshest seasonal ingredients." It also means balancing all the components of a dish like taste, texture, appearance and colour (thank you Wikipedia). And the local aspect usually figures into the equation to ensure that each dish is as fresh as can be. So is it enough that Lourdes works directly with farmers and purveyors globally?

With his stellar pedigree we have great expectations. The actual menu itself is the size of a large placemat, printed and shipped from Korea, that costs about $30 a pop. That's more than most restaurants spend on a table setting for four. Impressed we are; yet as the description of each dish rolls off the tongue like a haiku poem, their taste and presentation lack the same heft and craftsmanship of the printed menu. And in a bland room with neither focal point nor character, with absolutely nothing to draw your eyes away, maybe except for a chandelier that emits the same unflattering light as a 7-Eleven at midnight, these pricey plates better be mind-blowing.

It's not enough that the formal, white-coated waiters buzzing about are top-tier calibre – by far Bosk's best asset. That, and a Shangri-La brioche served with the fluffiest garlic aioli that’s the best thing, well, since sliced bread. But that's where the wow stops. Meals are presented in courses: Two for $76; three for $94; a tasting menu for $185 ($110 for vegetarian). No matter how you forensically account for it, the individual prices of these dishes are off-the-chart. Think about it: an appetizer and a main for $76? That would make the starter, say, about $25 and the main about $50? Unfortunately, you'll need GPS to locate the food.

A roast suckling pig sits in a very sophisticated walnut oil consommé, crowned with a brilliant hand crafted pork rind bathed in malt vinegar and some African marigolds strewn about for added visual impact. But the lilliputian portion of pig really renders this just an overly complicated soup with a bite or two of some pretty tough pork. Our luck can only improve with a dish titled "The Journey of a Single Langoustine." I mean it sounds so poetic and/or pompous, how bad can it possibly be? Again, this first course boils down to another broth poured over a lobster custard with ice cream. But for all the technique it underscores it really doesn't amount to more than a lobster bisque with some odd textural elements.

So far utter disappointment. Will second courses fare any better? Certainly not a very unkosher lamb shoulder with ewes milk and acidulated artichoke. It's composition is as sloppy as a teenager’s bedroom. And what was chef thinking by adding a shmear of ewes milk cream cheese that looks like it belongs on a bagel with lox. The meat is similarly tough and chewy, and how come the skin is so unappealingly flaccid? Your neighbourhood pub does a much better lamb and at least has the good sense to add a mix of frozen peas and carrots for a splash of colour.

The only dish that doesn't completely disappoint is a kampachi with a shellfish custard, Paris mushrooms and pommes Maxim. It is tasty, if a trifle overcooked, but why such a reliance on the beige colour palette to showcase chef's employment of molecular techniques?Thankfully in the 11th hour, these overly precious methods demonstrate some real vision with the third course: dessert. A meyer lemon kept in its natural form is perhaps as intriguing as how they get the caramel into a Caramilk bar. Cooked over a period of five days, it’s scooped out and then cooked over and over, adding in various fruits, oozing with a lemon curd all the while keeping the entire lemon whole. With a rind as thin as rice paper and intense, perfumey flavours, this is one for the history books. So is a beautiful chorizo brushed French toast. It may not be as ingenious as that lemon-thingy, but let's just say it’s as spectacular a cheese plate that's ever been presented, with thinly sliced Gruyere, aged grapes and, the piece de resistance, bruleed parmesan curd topped with onion sugar. This is the kind of mastery this kitchen should be delivering with every course.

So what went wrong? Is it because Lourdes is not in the house on the night we dine? (Apparently he was out of town with his wife.) We try to contact Jean Paul to get some answers to help explain this near fiasco of a meal, but he never returns the call. Guess he's not only camera shy. I have a feeling that the elusive Lourdes might end up on the same journey as his langoustines.

As this review goes to press we learn that chef Lourdes has left Bosk and apparently returned to Asia.

Reviews are meant to describe a dining out experience at a given period in time and are the personal opinion of the writer.
All meals are paid for, including all taxes and gratuities. All reservations are made under assumed names. Menu items, prices and individuals mentioned in this review may not be up to date. Dine.TO encourages its users to share their feedback.

2 Comments for Bosk Restaurant

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By Sandra Taraboul...

Sandra Taraboulos made a comment about Bosk Restaurant

I absolutely agree with your impressions. We ordered 3 different wines for the wine list, and none of them were available. We ended up having a wine we did not know... My waygu also was cold and chewy... and the portions were very small... The four of us left the restaurant very disappointed.
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By Ray Williams

Ray Williams made a comment about Bosk Restaurant

I suspect my bar appetizers ended being a decent precursor of what to expect. Very little very, pricey and very much full of nothing. I love the comment that you would need a GPS to find the food on the plate.
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