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Weslodge Saloon offers a little bit of everything - brunch, lunch, dinner, prix fixe, dessert and cocktails. This slickly designed restaurant at King and Spadina offers an open kitchen where you can watch your meal be prepared. Just look for the iconic yellow doors.
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Review: Behind the yellow door

By Alan A. Vernon, reviewed on August 23, 2012
Look for two massive, mod yellow doors and you will have found Weslodge, perhaps the poshest, most luxurious saloon Hogtown has ever known. Not only is it the perfect backdrop for a Ralph Lauren photo shoot (Purple Label, of course), replete with genuine cowhide banquettes...
Look for two massive, mod yellow doors and you will have found Weslodge, perhaps the poshest, most luxurious saloon Hogtown has ever known. Not only is it the perfect backdrop for a Ralph Lauren photo shoot (Purple Label, of course), replete with genuine cowhide banquettes and wall-to-wall dead animals, but it sets a new design benchmark for clubland's King West corridor.

Hmm, I wonder who'd dare to dream up an over-the-top idea like this during an economic downturn? Ya guessed it: nightlife kingpin Charles Khabouth (La Societe). I mean just casually utter the word "pleather", and the man would probably gag. Uhmmm, where does he get all this money? Along with partner and culinary king Hanif Harji (who helped reinvent downtown's dining experience with eateries like Blowfish, Kultura and Nyood), this team gets an A for authenticity right down to the brass rivets around every table and leather holsters slung across every server slinging intriguing drinks like a Canadian Mutt ($14) with a house tobacco tincture and maple bitters. No teeny tiny detail has been overlooked. So what possibly can go wrong? Plenty.

Even with an army of kitchen commandos, none of whom look over the age of five, much of the food is a miss. What can one say about a salt cod brandade ($12) except bran-don't. It's more than just perplexing to see such a Mediterranean mainstay be reduced to the consistency of a yogurt-like liquid, it's a travesty. Perhaps the problem is turbo-processing all the ingredients (that also include potatoes, cream, butter, garlic and shallots) in a Vitamix before being put through an Isi cream gun. But surprisingly, and as much as I hate to admit it, it's not a total write-off, saved mercifully by pickled onion and celery cress with a house made lemon vinaigrette, potato "hay", shaved truffles and Fred's grilled sourdough. Whatever this dish is, brandade it ain't.

Thankfully, a fluke ceviche ($12) fares beautifully. After being diced, the fish is blended with chives and yuzu before being molded into the shape of a stick of butter. Garnished with candied yuzu rind, cabbage cress, julienned radish and radish rounds, and finished with dill oil and gorgeous white tapioca chips, this overly-stylized creation impresses both on the plate and on the palate. Even a buffalo tartar ($15) mixed with shallots, chives, garlic and pickled mustard seeds is a pretty pleaser. And its inventive topping of egg white "pearls," cabbage cress, fried capers are a fanciful touch. But the addition of shaved foie gras imparts little if any added flavour boost, not to mention that it looks like some Kraft "parmesan" that's been sprinkled on like sawdust. A pretty transparent way to justify the price of this teensy order of raw meat.

Next we decide on a burger ($18); we figure, if the message is upscale saloon, then we'll give the kitchen a chance to redeem itself. Served much more rare and gory than the requested medium-rare, it too is on the smallish side. And though the meat is a top quality blend of Cumbrae's brisket, chuck and rib eye, with a 30 per cent fat-to-meat ratio, and ground in-house by chef Stuart Cameron (Nyood) and crew (including chef de cuisine, Kanida Chay (Origin), it's pretty bland, barely enhanced with a homemade tomatillo relish, Taleggio cheese and a house pickle. BTW, is someone charged with counting the number of "hand cut fries" on every plate? Nine? Would ten be considered excessive or too vulgar? And they're a bit mealy so the extensive process to create these precious spuds --cut, steam, cool, blanch, cool, fry - doesn't seem worth the extra effort.

But the dish that fares the worst is a fried bourbon cornish hen ($21) with creamed corn, kale and chanterelles. It sounds fantastic on paper, but this deboned bird, marinated in bourbon, wrapped in a ball in caul fat, cooked sous vide for 1.5 hours, dipped in buttermilk and deep fried is an unmitigated disaster. Breaking open its rock-like outer shell reveals an unappetizing grey-coloured ball smothered in membrane. Disgusting is the only word to describe this dish. Unless you're a zombie.

A halibut ($26) is only slightly better. Also cooked sous vide and then seared, it's dry and pretty tasteless. But its accompanying clam tomato fumet is a hit with house lardon and leeks. But then again when hasn't bacon come to the rescue. The smart thing to do here would be to serve the clams solo. Even a lemon curd parfait ($8) and a panna cotta ($8) are so caught up in some molecular gastronomical treatments that they're robbed of their natural essence that makes each such joyful desserts.

Weslodge might have the wow factor in spades, but the moral of the story girls and boys is beware of form over function. No matter how much money you throw into a restaurant, no amount guarantees a great meal. The Farmhouse Tavern is sheer proof of that. I'll bet their entire budget would have been blown on those two-storey yellow doors at Weslodge. Yet supping there is one sublime experience. Here, not so much.
Reviews are meant to describe a dining out experience at a given period in time and are the personal opinion of the writer.
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6 Comments for Weslodge Saloon

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Would you recommend?

frank lucente has not yet visited this restaurant.

I believe the reviewer knows what he's talking / writing about because honestly I can't stand Cornish hen anyway you prepare it so just by having that dish on a restaurant menu makes me question the integrity of all the rest of items plus I have never heard about "'Scottish egg " EVER ! And that too sounds scary ..no thanks I will pass to more authentic dishes an restaurants then wannabe something horrible and different
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Genevi?ɬ®ve Guy Profile Picture
By Genevi?ɬ®ve...

Genevi?ɬ®ve Guy made a comment about Weslodge Saloon

Hummm... It looks like someone got up on the wrong side of the bed. It?¢?Ǩ?Ñ¢s obvious that Mr. Vernon had a preconceived idea of what his experience at Weslodge would be even before crossing the big yellow doors. I have been to the restaurant a few times since its opening and I had a fantastic experience each and every time. I love trying new restaurants and Wedlodge is definitely a breath of fresh air on King West. The d?ɬ©cor is upscale yet the atmosphere is casual, the staff is friendly and the food is delicious ?¢?Ǩ?Äú All the dishes are prepared with very fresh ingredients and great attention to detail. Some of my favourites include the scallop, buffalo tartar, and the burger served with 9 fries ;)?¢?Ǩ¬¶ I?¢?Ǩ?Ñ¢ve also tried the braised veal cheeks featured earlier this week. I hope it makes it on the menu in the Fall - It has a very comforting feel to it.
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By Carolyn Frizzle

Carolyn Frizzle made a comment about Weslodge Saloon

I was surprised at this review. I've eaten here twice and loved it. The decor AND the food. The menu is unique and doesn't disappoint. Scotch egg is a must try! Don't let this review deter you!
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Deborah Howard Patrick Profile Picture
By Deborah Howard ...

Deborah Howard Patrick made a comment about Weslodge Saloon

I was just about ready to write this place off instead of calling my friends to book it together...and I'm glad I read the comments first. For sure worth a try!
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David Feeney Profile Picture
By David Feeney

David Feeney made a comment about Weslodge Saloon

David Feeney It was difficult to get myself to the end of this "way off the mark" review, but perhaps the reviewer was simply intimidated by real cuisine, beautifully prepared and beautifully served by attentive serving staff. Curious that the reviewer feels the need to dis the decor and comment on the expense (with a not very subtle jab at silent partner Charles Khabouth) of said decor; methinks the reviewers biases are showing. It also feels that, once our reviewer has commented on the decor (Ralph Lauren, really? is that the best you've got) he has already decided not to enjoy the meal. I'm also not clear about the relevance of Weslodge opening during an economic downturn, is the reviewer feeling guilty about dining in such an atmosphere and, therefore, trying to make everyone else feel the same guilt. Look, Weslodge isn't meant to be a pub experience, but a rare gastronomic delight to be discussed well into the future. The portions are great considering the ingredients and the layering of flavors, I've never experienced anything like the Scotch Eggs or the Buffalo Tartar. The meal I enjoyed was structured to tease my taste buds with subtle innovations and slowly building to richer, more intense experience with a melt in your mouth leg of lamb. Just when you think it can't get any better the level of sophisticated food orchestration hits you with another mouth watering note. Honestly, the entire experience was fantastic, wine pairings were excellent, the cask aged "Negroni", to the cocktails, which are unbelievably fantastic. I've reread the above review a few times now. While I enjoy reading Brett Easton Ellis his books are often all surface with little content. Our reviewer, I fear, suffers from the same problem, although at least Ellis has a stronger command of the English language and his descriptions actually allow you to visualize what he is writing about. I'm not sure what our reviewer saw on his plate (it doesn't resemble the excellent I saw) or what he was tasting (those flavors and layers are still with me weeks later). But alas, you can't please everyone, but when the Film Festival rolls into down in a few weeks I'm sure they'll be gravitating to Weslodge and our reviewer will be eating crow, in a nice red wine reduction...
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Rochelle Korody Profile Picture
By Rochelle Korody

Rochelle Korody made a comment about Weslodge Saloon

This review is so far off the mark I am unsure if the writer is talking about the same Weslodge that has been impressing everyone I know and has consistently received outstanding reviews from every serious restaurant critic in the city. I can understand if the place is not to his particular taste, but comparing a modern saloon to something like Farmhouse Tavern is irrelevant and reveals the writer?¢?Ǩ?Ñ¢s negative prejudgment of restaurants that choose to spend the extra buck on design. Yes, the d?ɬ©cor is high-end but the atmosphere is far from ?¢?ǨÀúposh.?¢?Ǩ?Ñ¢ The furniture and fixtures are both slick and casual ?¢?Ǩ?Äú exactly what you?¢?Ǩ?Ñ¢d want in a modern saloon ?¢?Ǩ?Äú and a welcome change from the current trend for sparse ?¢?ǨÀúrustic-chic?¢?Ǩ?Ñ¢ interiors. Similarly, the food is sophisticated but hearty, (not sure how an 8 oz burger can be called ?¢?ǨÀúsmallish?¢?Ǩ?Ñ¢), but what is really shameful about this review is the oversight of some of the other standout items on the menu. The scotch egg, bison bavette, lobster burger... Ask anyone who?¢?Ǩ?Ñ¢s been there and they?¢?Ǩ?Ñ¢ll tell you at least three things they tried and loved. Beautiful d?ɬ©cor does not guarantee great food, no, but that's why people go to Weslodge - it has both in SPADES!
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