Casa Madera is a new high energy dining concept from the Noble 33 Hospitality and Lifestyle Group out of the States. They have establishments in Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Scottsdale and Las Vegas with New York, London and Miami soon to follow. This is their first expansion outside of the United States. They have deep pockets so they put a lot of money into this 180 seat stunner, located at 550 Wellington Street, adjacent to the 1 Hotel. 

The restaurant offers a fully transportive experience from the moment you step into the door. Pioneered by entrepreneurs Tosh Berman and Mikey Tanha, Noble 33 has a brand philosophy that creates one of a kind restaurants focusing on innovation, great service, lively ambiance and stunning design. 

Toronto’s property whose name translates to “wood house” has a chic, tropical vibe, with lots of blond wood, natural materials, neutral beach tones, hanging foliage and dim lighting. There are 4 main seating areas. The bar is set in the middle. There is also a private room that seats 22-30 people depending on how you configure the room. The wood dining tables are repurposed from about to die city trees. 

It is an immersive theatrical experience that continues throughout the night, from an electric cello to a guitar player who travels the room playing along to the music. There are also scantily dressed women who go around with incense and dance rousingly. I’m not sure if I enjoyed incense in the air, nevertheless it was interesting. 

Olivier Le Clavez, a Mexican/ French executive chef was in the kitchen and created a Mediterranean/ Mexican themed menu using French techniques. Our server Roberts suggested some signature dishes, and some were hits while others were misses. The menu is large which always scares me. How can you excel in so many items? The chef reimagines traditional Mexican cuisine with a modern approach, pairing locally sourced ingredients, adds bold flavors and an array of options to try and please every palate, There are a number of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free choices.

The standouts for us were the Chile Pulpo, a grilled octopus atop a sweet corn purée, with chives, marcona almonds, and Chile de arbol. The tender octopus was perfectly cooked and the sauce was an agreeable balance of sweet and spicy. Not as successful was the heirloom tomato salad with watermelon, red onion, cilantro pesto and black truffle burrata. The tomatoes were on the pulpy side and the burrata did not have truffles but just a sprinkle of truffle oil. The ceviche blanco done vegan with beets instead of fish was colourful but not memorable. We tried 3 tacos from the Taqueria section, the duck which was dry and stringy, the shrimp with avocado tomatillo and jalapeño cabbage was better but on the salty side, but the best of the three was the Arrachera, a wagyu skirt steak, in a Caribbean jerk marinade, with cilantro, pineapple, red onion and avocado crema. The mains were an improvement. The Dover sole in a caper brown butter sauce with chilli de arbol, and lemon brûlée was quite good as was the pollo asado, a half jidori chicken, with herbs, tomatoes, and fresh peppers on top of a tasty Mediterranean rice salad. There was a focus of seafood and raw bar on the menu but also 5 beef centric dishes.

Dishes and cutlery were changed after each course, and service was very attentive, which is not easy in a restaurant of this size. 

I highly recommend the impressive beverage program, and the cocktails are very ambitious. Drinks are categorized as different elements, earth, wind, water and fire. Some cocktails have theatrical presentations and are finished tableside,There are also some inventive non alcoholic and low proof selections. 

There are some striking dessert options. My favorite was the Blanca Y Limon , a lemon cake, with strawberry sauce, fresh strawberries and mint relish, lemon coulis and strawberry ice cream served in an edible white chocolate bowl. We also enjoyed the Brown Butter Tarta, a brown butter tart, with feuilletine crunch, caramel sauce, blueberry gelee and brown butter ice cream. The presentation was  garnished artistically. Not as successful but nevertheless beautiful was the Basil Custard Tart, a strawberry basil tart, oat crumble, with crushed candied walnuts, strawberry balsamic sorbet, and basil walnut ice cream. It looked like a sponge and it tasted like a sponge. The desserts ranged in price from $20-125. Yes, that was no typo, there is a Christal (Champagne) infused cake with black truffle ice cream, for those who want to impress their guests. Dinner is not inexpensive either and cocktails run around $25. 

My impressions from the visit were mixed. But I had fun, and I think this is the kind of place you might want to enjoy with a group of friends. It really is an exuberant and immersive experience. It’s more of a feast for the senses, with live entertainment and plenty of dramatic flourishes. It was more of a visual joy and the food, although not terrible, was secondary for me.

Happy dining,

Shanea

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