There’s nothing quite like a dinner and a show.  Or, at least that’s what it felt like.  John and I went to Hy’s Steakhouse to visit their posh Toronto location in the financial district for their Tableside Service experience.  There’s no extra fee for diners to request this and it’s been a staple at their restaurants all across Canada for years.

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So why is a spotlight being shone on it now?  Chris Meyer, the general manager, explained that when the restaurant opened in 1955, word-of-mouth was the strongest component in promoting the Hy’s brand and bringing new diners in to try the menu.   And now, they’re trying to harness the same far-reaching potential that social media outlets have.  I’d have to agree with this sentiment.  Nothing like embracing new media to rejuvenate a brand and introduce diners to Hy’s, its food and dining experience.

Let me first humbly say that Tableside Service is no small feat.  It’s one thing for wait-staff to provide stellar service and bring dishes to your table, but quite another to up the ante and have them responsible for cooking the meals in front of you as well. No pressure, of course. But seriously, that in itself, demands respect. I tip my hat to all those who served me that evening with such graciousness.  It’s rather remarkable to see all of them in some sort of synchronized dance: one gliding over to top up glasses without asking, another side-stepping to pull out your chair for you as you get up. But here’s the thing– this ‘live’ and ‘interactive’ performance is done elegantly– but more importantly, results in delicious tasting food.
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Hy’s famed Cheese Toast was brought to the table to get our appetites going. No, it’s not pretentious but simply tasty, comfort food. A blend of cheddar, swiss, Parmesan, and Monterey Jack is placed on a french loaf slice and placed under the salamander until slightly burnished and bronzed. I like how it wasn’t greasy and that I could probably devour 10 more slices without blinking– and for those of you secretly wondering– yes, it’d make the perfect drunk food– not that I’d know anything about that…

Next on the bill of fare were the caesar and spinach salads. For the caesar, you could smell the fresh citrus permeating the air, and added to it–the sharp anchovies, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and egg yolks.  After a bout of vigorous whisking, it was poured over salad greens and croutons.  The warm spinach salad included a tableside sauteed with caramelized onions, mushroom, bacon and brandy then set ablaze to let the flavours meld. The sauce was poured over the greens and finished with a sprinkling of hard-cooked egg tidbits. Both well executed, but I definitely favoured the caesar over the warm salad.  There’s an addictive quality to that tangy, creamy sauce and the texture of those crunchy croutons that keeps you coming back for another bite.

Then came the Chateaubriand, the star of the evening. All of Hy’s beef comes from a farm in High River, Alberta.  They’re dry-aged for 28 days then wet-aged finished.  The hefty piece that arrived on our table was carved into thick slices tableside, while the Steak Diane sauce was prepared in front of us.  That meant it was round two of fiery-fun as mushrooms, Dijon mustard and veal stock were flambeed with brandy.  And the taste of this filet? Unctuously tender, but lacking in flavour– probably because it was a lean cut.  Typically, a ribeye or sirloin would pack more ‘beef-y’ flavour because it’s marbled with fat.  And we all know fat is flavour.  I think that’s why two sauces were offered to complement the meat with; in addition to the Steak Diane sauce, there was also a velvety bearnaise that carried a floral herbaceousness from the fresh tarragon used.  Acting as the supporting actors, there was a medley of steamed vegetables and potatoes in red wine jus on our plate. There was so much meat to conquer and devour!

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Dessert was the last spectacle to be observed under the restaurant’s tall ceilings, vine etched railings, rich mahogany woods and gilded mirrors. They served their rendition of a cherish New Orleans classic to us: the Bananas Foster. Halved bananas lapped up brown sugar, butter and orange juice on a saute pan.  Dark Bacardi rum was added– and you guessed it– flambeed till the alcohol evaporated.  Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it’s a rather simple, homey dessert– but unlike its southern counterpart, the syrup was much lighter and more prominent in citrus-y orange notes.

For dessert: Bananas Foster with halved bananas, brown sugar, butter and orange juice cooked on a saute pan with dark Bacardi rum

For dessert: Bananas Foster with halved bananas, brown sugar, butter and orange juice cooked on a saute pan with dark Bacardi rum

 

If you’ve never experienced Tableside Service, I recommend giving it a try here at Hy’s for a special or celebratory occasion. Despite all the wait-staff on hand, they were never intrusive.  Everyone was immensely friendly and well-informed of the restaurant’s history and dishes they proudly served.

The Toronto location for Hy’s Steakhouse is centrally located at 101-120 Adelaide Street West. For more information including hours and reservations click here.

Photos by John Tan

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