With a mismatched, non-linear timeline and an unhealthy dose of quips and carnage, one must ask whether I unwittingly took inspiration from Quentin Tarantino’s quintessential style when formulating our Toronto Special series. Having lined up another international adventure for this summer – (one that will see a food voyage spanning Dubai, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia), it made sense to stay true to this apparent use of the Tarantino formula – (not by killing off everyone who dined with me and their dog too), but by ending our Toronto series with a review of where it began.
On the first day of our voyage across Ontario, our motley crew had stumbled off a lego-brick American Airlines plane after an exhausting and stressful transfer through Philadelphia, which involved being interrogated about who we were, (an obvious answer given the names printed on our passports), where we were going, (another obvious answer given the destination printed on our tickets), and the atmospheric conditions of Jupiter at the time of our conception. Such an overzealous level of security was to be expected of course, but we were certainly relieved to be in the slightly friendlier territory of Canada. We were also rather hungry, thanks to the assortment of plasticiser and PVA glue that American Airlines utilises as in-flight food, and so, after consulting the International Food Map, we embarked on a lazy trip to Crave Grill House, a highly popular halal steakhouse within the Greater Toronto Area. All the meat served here is halal.
With the exchange rate firmly in my favour, I glanced over the menu with glee, and just as I was about to order a 55-course meal to make up for the Homebase-inspired airline food, Timone reminded me that I still had a week’s worth of expenses to account for. “Fine” I replied. “Have it your way”, “I won’t make myself homeless in Toronto”. Instead, I “responsibly” looked for a single course of the largest steak that Crave Grill House had to offer, which happened to be a rather manageable 12oz ribeye. The steak itself was of a reasonable quality, and remained fairly soft, tender, and moist, despite being cooked to medium-well instead of my medium-rare order. (Some problems transcend continents it would seem). It was however, cooked a little unevenly, rendering some parts tougher and drier than others, and this was perhaps the only major flaw. The steak was otherwise well seasoned and flavoursome, whilst the accompanying peppercorn sauce provided a strong, aromatic after-kick, delivered alongside its pleasantly thick consistency. The accompanying fries were also of a reasonably good quality, with a thick helping of potato encased within a soft, yet crispy skin.
12oz Ribeye steak
As I reached the midway mark of my steak, Scooby Doo began talking about the “delicious lava cake” he ate a few days ago, prompting me to order Crave’s own molten lava cake to alleviate my petty jealousy. The cake was served piping hot, and came with a helping of hot cherry compote, whipped cream and cool vanilla ice cream. As I slayed the steam-breathing cake with my steel spoon, a thick, hot, and mildly rich chocolate sauce oozed from its innards. Meshing together with the hot cherry compote, it created an incredibly rich blend of cherry and chocolate, whose contrasting waves of tartness and sweetness swelled in the mouth, complementing the soft chocolate cake. Together, this hot mess contrasted sharply with the cold vanilla ice cream, and created a satisfying balance. However, the ice cream itself was a little stiff, and should have been thawed a little longer before being served.
Molten lava cake
Value For Money: 3.5/5
My 12oz ribeye steak cost $26, (around £13) whilst the lava cake cost $6 (around £3), amounting to a total bill of $32 (around £16). Generally, starters range from $4-$12 (£2-£6), mains from $11-$26 (£5.50-£13), and desserts cost between $4-$6, (£2-£3), making Crave Grill House a rather inexpensive affair. The quality of the food – though not exceptional, is reasonable enough to warrant a recommendation, as are the portion sizes.
As I’ve noted throughout our Toronto series, service across Toronto as a whole is absolutely phenomenal, and Crave Grill House is no exception. Staff members were incredibly friendly and welcoming, and service was prompt and efficient, leaving very little to fault at all.
To create a picture of Crave Grill House’s decor, (since I failed to take an actual picture), one must simply ask you to cast your mind back to any good old American TV show from the 80’s or 90’s. The entire restaurant is covered in wooden panelling and light green walls, with an attractive wooden ceiling fixture taking centre stage overhead. Combined with its assortment of wooden furniture and fabric and leather booths, the restaurant carries a very archetypal American-Italian feel. It’s the kind of restaurant where one can imagine little Timmy celebrating his fifth birthday in one booth, whilst Fat Tony has his fingers broken in another. Rest assured, there are no mafia associations here, (and we apologise for the stereotype), but the set-up does create a certain sense of familiarity. The restaurant is a ten-minute drive away from Pearson International Airport, and located in one of Toronto’s many “retail / restaurant parks”, and as such, parking spaces are abundant.
The relatively open dining space and the generous dosage of wood helps to create a very homely ambience within Crave Grill House, which is well-suited to the setting of a casual meal with friends or family. There’s wasn’t much excitement in the air when we visited, but having travelled for around twelve hours or so, we more then welcomed the calm and collected atmosphere that they had to offer.
If one were to disregard the American-Italian inspiration and the family-friendly environment, one would still find a single theme that runs throughout each and every aspect of Crave Grill House’s business – humble simplicity. There’s nothing extravagant or exceptional about Crave Grill House in terms of their food, their decor, or their atmosphere, and yet, they still manage to leave a lasting impression of warmth and satisfaction. They are, quite simply, a simple eatery, and whilst I had a much more exciting steak experience at Black Ox Bistro, I’m at least a little bit disappointed that I didn’t try more items from their menu, or get a chance to visit them again. Crave Grill House is well worth a consideration if you’re after a casual, no-frills meal, and given their close proximity to Pearson International Airport, they’re a good place to start your Toronto food journey – at a time when you’re still disorientated from jet lag, and trying to wipe the nocturnal dribble off from your face.
Crave Grill House
Address: 25 Woodbine Downs Boulevard #5, Toronto, ON M9W 6N5, Canada
Telephone: +1 416-213-1977