In the last couple of months, J has become friends with one of the wait staff at Centro. Trevor has been insisting that we come in one night to check it out; that we were missing out on a great dinner; that we’d be well taken care of. After a few weeks, we decided we had nothing to lose (except the ability to fit into our pants, apparently) and made a date to check it out.
We walked into the high-ceilinged, heavily-mirrored dining room and were appropriately agog. The room manages to be at once cozy and grandiose. We were shown to a corner table with tall banquette seating with a great view of the dining room. We watched the waiters practically dance around the tables, expertly serving their well-attired clientele. Trevor greeted us, took our drink orders and told us to sit back and relax. Since we’d be having the chef’s tasting menu, all decisions were out of our hands which was just fine by us. My only request was no olives, please. (I have a well-documented hatred of them. I have tried them a few times and I just. Can’t. Do it.) Three hours and seven courses later, we walked out two happy and very full customers.
Two separate starters arrived at our table to begin: piping hot arancini stuffed with pesto risotto and buffala mozzarella, sitting on tomato chutney and a beautiful charcuterie plate with boar salami, guanciale, prosciutto, pate, rye crostini and pickled vegetables. Both plates were stunning to look at and had our mouths watering for more. Following the opening dishes were colourful plates of pickled beets topped with that same creamy buffala mozzarella, pesto and light, crunchy bread tuiles. Light and refreshing, this was a great follow-up to the heavier course before it.
Two courses down, five to go. (Not that we knew how many courses were headed our way. Just that we were going to eat. And eat. And eat.) Next up was perhaps the most delicious scallop dish I have ever had. A single seared scallop in a Meyer lemon sauce, topped with capers and brioche crumbs. Incredible. The sweetness of the scallop was offset – but not overwhelmed – by the briny capers, sharp lemon sauce and the crunch from the bread all came together in a few perfect bites.
The fourth plate? Oh my. This was a gorgeous, rich braised short rib and maple-glazed sweetbreads with crispy leeks, a sunchoke purée and a red wine gastrique. Rich, unctuous, sweet…heaven on a plate. The sweetbreads were absolutely delectable – even J, who was a bit dubious initially, absolutely loved them. They were nice and crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, just as they should be. Folks, if you want to try something a little different, I can’t recommend these enough. Chef Symon Abad knows how to handle ‘em.
Around this point in the meal – about an hour and a half in – I am thanking all sorts of gods and monsters for not having worn a belt. No one plate was huge, but they were starting to add up. The short rib was wonderfully fatty (not overly, though) and rich. I was thinking that there couldn’t be much more. Like, maybe dessert next? J suggested that there might be pasta on the way, but I just didn’t think that was going to happen. That is, until bowls and seafood forks arrived. Okay. So this was not dessert coming up. No, in fact, it was a lovely pasta course (score one for J!) of squid ink fazzoletti (“handkerchief” in Italian) served with crab, mussels, clams and shrimp in roasted garlic and red pepper sauce. Yes, you read that right. An impressive dish on an impressive evening.
“Okay, that’s got to be it, right? We’ve had meat, pasta, seafood…that’s gotta be it.” I exclaimed. Trevor and another waiter came and cleared away everything but our glasses from the table and I figured that could only mean one thing: dessert.
Trevor: “Okay, folks! Just a main and a dessert to go!” *laughs and walks away*
J: “Did he just say a main?”
Me: “Nahhh, he’s gotta be kidding! I mean, we have no cutlery, no side plates, and he laughed! I’m sure he was just kidding.”
Ten minutes later, forks and sharp knives were placed in front of us. Dear god. Trevor was nearly giddy as he placed veal tenderloin and calf’s liver on potato rosti, red cabbage and pearl onions in front of us as our eyes widened. “Your mains!” he proclaimed. As full as I was, there was simply no way I was not going to try this. The tenderloin was seared on the outside, juicy and just a little pink on the inside. Excellent. I could have eaten four pounds of the potato rosti it was so good. Unfortunately, I’d pretty much hit my wall. I could not have eaten another bite of this rich, tasty plate. J fared better than I but still couldn’t finish. We didn’t want to waste anything so we had what remained packed up.
We paid a quick visit to the chef and his brigade to thank them for a fantastic meal. It was nice to, you know, stand up. Maybe we should’ve gone for a walk around the block between courses!
And what arrived for the seventh and final course of the evening? Two different dishes: a lovely, light, layered cake with rhubarb filling and a plate with freshly-made mini-donuts dipped in maple sugar and served with squash-maple purée and crème fraiche ice cream. Oh my. A fabulous way to end an extraordinary meal. We sat, mildly dazed, sipping ginger tea for a little while, watching the staff clean up for the night, contemplating the past three hours of food extravaganza. A beautiful meal in a beautiful place. The pedigree of chef that’s come through Centro is of the highest quality (Marc Thuet, Michael Bonacini, Chris McDonald…it goes on) and chef Abad upholds the restaurant’s stellar reputation.