We were fortunate to be invited to the most talked about food events in the city this month. Dinner With A View kicked off this week with an invitation to media to be the first to experience this dining event with Chef Rene Rodrigues, Top Chef Canada winner and Iron Chef Winner – apparently he is one of the very few who beat Bobby Flay.
The concept had us intrigued. Torontonians are very open to unique experiences as confirmed by one of hosts as the spring event is already 90% sold. We crave that wow factor and the initial renderings had many of us gasping in lust. But let’s be clear, it’s a splurge as the bookings state a minimum of four people under one dome. Under the highway. Reservations break down as $149 for the dome and $99 per person for the three-course “surprise” dinner that must be booked online. No walk-ins of course, for logistical reasons. But there are three dinner seatings each night. Yes, you have the choice of meat, fish, or vegetarian. The price does not include beverages. Signature cocktails are $18 each with three selections on the menu.
So, what should you expect?
TIMING: Be prompt. With a two hour service window (and the three seating times each night) this may be one of their challenges as some people will be caught in traffic or decide to casually drift in.
CLIMATE: Dress accordingly to the weather. This is Toronto and it is still Spring. Although each dome is shield from the wind and the zipped in entrance keeps the cooler night air out, it still gets chilly. There are a couple of small heaters located inside the bubble as well as blankets for each guest. About an hour into our time we all had to put our coats back on.
THE DOMES: The wow factor is definitely there. Make sure your phones are charged up. There are 30 domes in total lining the space. They are beautiful collectively and individually. The other dinner guests and I commented about how they’d be great for backyards. Each dome is unique with themes reflecting the Earth’s different regions. A Casper Glow Light is a modern touch and the only lighting you have inside the dome. Meant to have a calming effect but can be adjusted to the intensity of glow you need. Our dome was the closest to the CN Tower and offered an overview of the rest of the domes…but was the furthest from the kitchen and the washrooms. BTW you may not want to wear heels. The ground is covered in gravel. Remember you’re outdoors under the concrete urban environment. But within the domes are area rugs.
DINNER: Chef Rene Rodrigues creates a menu that is meant to be a surprise. So, we’ll keep it at that. We do understand that the ingredients are locally sourced. The staff was attentive and sweet coming to our dome frequently to make sure we were comfortable and to top up our water and wine glasses. Our server was accommodating in also double checking with the Chef to ensure that there were no nuts on the evening’s menu as one of the person had allergies in our group.
Being the furthest from the kitchen meant challenges of getting the food to us before they cooled off. Our server had mentioned that they are kept warm in trolleys. Service was staggered from dome to dome and presentation seem to have also varied. Not sure if the plating was intentional. First course salad dish was a favourite amongst our group for its flavour profiles. There was no salt or pepper on the table presuming that Chef Rodrigues has seasoned to his liking. What about coffee and tea with dessert? We were told it could be done but it wasn’t offered up front.
Two hours will give you plenty of time to catch up between the three courses – having said that our preview dinner was the “dry run” so our time was a bit longer than what the other nights should be like. Luckily the company was great and the conversations were highly entertaining. Kudos to the staff who had to run back and forth from the kitchen and the bar — they should all be wearing Fitbits to track their steps.
LOCATION: The Bentway is a curious space the city located at the south end of Fort York and under the concrete pillars of the Gardiner Expressway. It’s where the public skate park/skating rink is located depending on the season. The entrance to this event is actually off Strachan Avenue so if you’re taking TTC best to get off the streetcar at Exhibition Place. We did the mistake of exiting at Fleet Street stop as per The Bentway’s official site’s directions and had to walk just a bit further. Parking is located to the east end of the venue. Look for the lit torches to guide you.
Logistically Dinner With A View is ambitious but team work makes the dream work, hopefully. Having an unconventional working kitchen on-site is stressful enough. No doubt that Chef Rodrigues is all in and the event is back by American Express Canada. The cost factor alone in creating such an experience is daunting. So many factors are in place that makes one realize the pressures of delivering on high expectations.
The dining experience runs March 28 to May 2 in Toronto. For more information and to grab one of the last available seatings, visit DinnerWithAView.ca.