A panoramic restaurant with sweeping vistas recently opened on the 51st floor of the Manulife Center at 55 Bloor Street West, AP. AP is short for Antonio Park, a Montreal chef with a highly successful Japanese restaurant in the Westmount area of the city. It was rated the 19th best restaurant in Canada’s Top 100 in 2016. I remember, I did not agree with the rating or reviews it was getting. For me, the restaurant was hit or miss and unfortunately I feel the same way about his latest endeavor.
The rooftop setting, accessed by a private elevator on the second floor of the Manulife center, is hidden down a narrow hallway. There is a reception desk to greet you which was unmanned the night we went. The elevator plays extremely loud music while it whisks you up. A note to the decorator, you need to change the shoddy carpet in the elevator. The first impression was good. |A 360-degree view of north and south Toronto. I would request a south view when making the reservation. The room has a contemporary feel, plush bouquets, and an Asian-style floating glass sculpture in the center of the room, but the coveted seats are along the windows. Beautiful furnishings and rich dusty rose and blue fabrics are used, with blond woods. The bar is in the back and there are private dining spaces off the main dining room. They are planning on renovating the two terraces as the tiles seem lifted and uneven. These will be preferred seating in the warm weather months.
Chef Park teamed up with restauranteur extraordinaire Hanif Harji, of the Scale Hospitality Group. He knows a thing or two about running a successful establishment. The chef spotlights Japanese/Peruvian food. Interestingly, the chef was born to Korean parents in Argentina, grew up in Paraguay and Brazil, and studied in Japan for a few years.
Although the food was beautifully presented, the taste was mediocre honestly. The Park Slaw was our favorite dish, made with carrots, daikon, papaya, onion, mango, cucumber, coriander, and roasted nuts in a Japanese plum dressing. It was a gorgeous presentation and would have benefited from being removed from an ice-cold fridge earlier. The Hokkaido scallop ceviche in a green chili and yuzu dressing was ordinary tasting. The $47 seafood roll made from lobster, snow crab, bluefin tuna, ora king salmon, hamachi, cucumber, and spicy mayo sounded good in theory but was adequate at best. The scallops in a brown butter sauce had no discernible brown butter sauce taste and were too salty to eat. Our wonderful server Jessica removed that from the bill, which was admirable. The kimchee fried rice with a soy-cured egg was another ‘meh’ dish.
The restaurant tries to impress with exotic ingredients, but if you know good sushi you expect better rice, not ice-cold seafood and fish, and proper seasoning. When you have restaurants like Sushi Saito, Yasu, Shousin, and Sushi Kaji, as well as the now departed Skippa, you have high expectations. Now I know this is not a traditional Japanese-style restaurant but I was not impressed with the unexceptional food.
Where they do get bonus points is the beautiful dishware, silverware, and glassware. They change the dishware and silverware with each course. Service was on the slow side but I am sure that is easy to improve on. The drink program was good with a large selection of spirits, an impressive selection of sake, and some interesting craft cocktails. There was no dedicated sommelier for their drinks or wine selection.
Our dessert by pastry chef Richelle Tablang was made in-house. It was a tart lemon custard topped with a meringue and blueberry sorbet.
The food had dramatic presentations but uninspiring taste. It was reminiscent of his Montreal restaurant. Hopefully, in-house chef Ted Corralo can improve upon the vibrancy and harmony of the flavours.
The restaurant is extremely expensive and I expect that Toronto is more interested in the culinary experience than the sky-high dining.