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Samuel J. Moore Restaurant at The Great Hall is no longer in business.
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Samuel J. Moore Restaurant at The Great Hall is a moderately priced casual restaurant located by Queen St W and Dufferin St in the Portugal Village area of West Toronto.
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Review: Moore's the merrier

By Alan A. Vernon, reviewed on April 11, 2013
When a building as rich in local lore and heritage escapes the wrecking ball in this condo-crazy town for more than a century, it's an achievement to be celebrated. Such is the case with The Great Hall at 1087 Queen St. West. The four story building erected in 1889 by Samuel...
When a building as rich in local lore and heritage escapes the wrecking ball in this condo-crazy town for more than a century, it's an achievement to be celebrated. Such is the case with The Great Hall at 1087 Queen St. West. The four story building erected in 1889 by Samuel J. Moore was also the home of the first west end YMCA where 1907 Boston Marathon winner Tom Longboat worked out, as did chocolate magnate and accomplished amateur wrestler Morden Neilson, of the beloved Crispy Crunch bar. Not to mention being the home to some of the earliest basketball games in the history of the sport. By the 1940s, it was the headquarters of The Polish Voice newspaper and a shelter for Polish refugees fleeing war torn Europe. Shall I go on?

Today this vintage venue is well known for its support of the local arts community, but it will soon be a dining destination too. Named after the builder, The Samuel J. Moore adds a touch of quiet refinement to an area known more for its faux boho charm. A huge glass facade warms the room with a natural light it really couldn't do without. Although a gorgeous true taupe with Parisian-style floor tiles and bistro chairs give the space a tony tavern elegance, the room still seems a bit bare and austere - nothing that a few well-chosen objets couldn't fix, starting with the walls.

The menu reads like a grocery list of good-for-you ingredients, carefully constructed with culinary cleverness by former Brockton General chef Alexandra Feswick, who delivers fresh and unfussy compositions of surprising sophistication and even more surprising, value. When do you last remember having oysters for only a buck each? Where most restaurants plate a half dozen for $18, this happy-hour special rings in $12 for a dozen Chipagane. No mignonette for these buttery beauties, but they are accompanied by an outstanding homemade piri piri sauce that has an adjoining table coughing from its intense heat finish.

A raw kale salad ($9) with gauzy thin slices of prosciutto, finely diced apples, toasted walnuts and radish may be something that Dr. Oz would prescribe for a healthy protein-packed lunch, but this polished presentation of juxtaposing flavours and textures makes this a very capital "I" Important dish. Equally as delicate is a duck carpaccio ($11) dotted with grainy mustard, pistachio cream and pickled beets.

The warm fingerling salad ($9), alas, is not only on the seriously skimpy side, with just three potatoes topped with watercress, creamy horseradish and cured trout, but it's in dire need of a little sprinkling of Maldon salt or perhaps a fig balsamic to elevate it beyond the bagel, lox & cream cheese I swear it tastes exactly like. Thankfully with a risotto, Feswick has us unexpectedly awestruck. Instead of the typical Arborio rice, chef, or shall I say nutritionist, opts for using the slightly nuttier and chewier pearl barley ($18). Topped with roasted cauliflower florets, fried sage and lardons and just enough Parmesan to establish a light creaminess, even this may be considered heart healthy: barley is a soluble fibre and its low on the glycemic index. And I believe it's only 4 points on my Weight Watchers app. P'shaw on whoever said something that's good for you can't taste great.

The waist-friendly meal proceeds with a pan-seared halibut ($23). The meaty white fish is only slightly overcooked served with buttery braised red cabbage and tracing paper-thin fennel. Yet another low-key healthy dish that could use a robust lift with some added seasoning. That minor slip up is all but forgiven upon the arrival of a burger ($18). The hand-chopped sirloin and bone marrow, done medium rare, thank you very much, could easily have been served raw as a steak tartare, but to miss this beautiful blend under its canopy of pillowy brioche with Stilton would be simply unthinkable. Served with first-rate frites and a homemade fennel catsup, this is the dish that word-of-mouth will make famous. Shhh, don't tell anyone.

A side of beets three ways ($7) features a spectacular puree, even if does resemble Gerber's baby food, a few toothsome wedges and a few wilted chips. While a side of parsnips ($7) could use more roasting to achieve a bit more crispness. But as before, one minor miss is followed by another stellar surprise, this time in the dessert ($8), a light and airy, ribbon-like pastry that defies categorization: is it a cookie or a churros? Served with a little bowl of decadent dipping chocolate, no other word can describe this but wow.

While not perfect, The Samuel J. Moore is well on its way to being a neighbourhood mainstay. Heck, happy hour deals alone should cram them in. Also worthy of note is the warm, polished and professional service, not to mention the hours of operation: out of 168 hours in a week, it's open for 143, some days as late as 4am. Thanks to The Samuel J. Moore, it's not just lukewarm pizza and sloppy pho for late-night munchies anymore.
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.

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