Feed Me: Origin Restaurant


Hi there,

Origin Restaurant for lunch!

We’ve been eating out a lot lately, and as much as I adore baking at home, sometimes it’s quite enjoyable when I get to see what the latest food trends are in Toronto.  Take the fairly new restaurant Origin in Toronto as a prime example; having dined at Colborne Lane before with memorable tastes and sights to last me for some time, I had high hopes that this place would provide the same experience. Origin serves many dishes from around the world, but with their own interpretive spin and some molecular gastronomy snuck in to jazz up the presentation and taste.  The food is served tapas style so between two people you could order 4-6 dishes, share them, and walk away relatively full– but at a cost.  This is a place should be reserved for more important occasions and not a place you could dine at on a regular basis (unless you like putting a hole through your wallet).   We had reservations for lunch on a lazy Monday midmorning.  Being the first set of diners to arrive, I immediately soaked up the space.

Gorgeous artwork on the walls and comfy seats to boot.

It is a large dark room, with a slight warehouse feel, but purposely created this way to accent all the fine architecture and pieces of furniture.  In the daytime, the natural lighting helps to spotlight some fine pieces placed throughout the restaurant, including the coiled lights which hang above us.  The large space is divided in half with an island in the centre that is essentially the hot line.

The hot line 'island' acts as the focal point in the room

With the exception of dessert, this is where all of our dishes come out.   As you make yourself around the centre-situated kitchen, you come to the other half of the room- the lounge, bar area, and semi-private dining space.

Chef Aprile speaking with one of his staff before lunch service

The place feels very chic, akin to a W hotel.

Foreground: You can take a seat by the action. Background: A glimpse of the Lounge Area

The semi-private dining space

After snapping some beautiful pictures, I make my way to our table and look over the menu.  I realize then that their lunch fare is the same as dinner.  Not sure if this is a good strategy, but I suppose if one dined here quite often, there would be enough variety to maintain their interest.  It is cold outside, so we skip over the cold cheeses, appetizers, and salads and opt for hot food.

Origin Menu

First up were the ‘tostones+ guacamole’, a popular Latin American dish which has plaintains deep fried, then pounded out using a mallet of sorts or a “tostonera,”and deep fried- -again.  The second time makes them extra crispy and ensures that the plaintain is cooked through completely.  The thin, golden yellow disks are sprinkled with coarse salt and served with fresh guacamole.  The avocados were rich and sweet and there was a brightness from the citrus.  There was an undertone of savouriness from the spices, onion, and garlic.  I also detected some cilantro (which I eventually discovered, they’re VERY fond of using).  While the tostones were nice and crispy, they were quite bland.  I was hoping to get some sweetness from the plantain but didn’t have any success.

Tostones with Guacamole

To follow this, our ‘Chinois duck wrap arrived’.  The soft pieces of meat were placed on a grilled flour torilla, then drizzled with sour cream, hosin, sriracha, and garnished with pickled cucumber.  It was a good tasting dish but nothing spectacular.  At any good Chinese restaurant, you can get peking duck wraps.. and at least more than 1.  At $14, this ‘tapa’ was quite pricey and not very filling.

Duck Wrap: a variation on an Asian classic

Before we even got to finish our dish, the next one arrived. Even though the place was still dead, they certainly weren’t waiting for us!  The ‘Grilled Rock Hen+ cacciatore+ orzo+ arugula’ was set on our table.

Grilled Rock Hen: heard great things about it but the dish didn't quite deliver the goods

Another beautiful dish, but again, this one slightly lacking in flavour.  Cacciatore means ‘hunter-style’ in Italian and so for this dish, the hen was cooked in a rustic tomato based sauce with vegetables.  A rice shaped pasta of orzo was served along with this meat dish.  I was not a fan of the tomato base because I found it too acidic and I could taste cilantro in it– again.  The hen was cooked perfectly but lacked in flavour.  If it had been marinated before grilling, I think some more flavour could have been imparted.

Chorizo w. Manchego Cheese Rice: This reminded me of a cheesy risotto

The last dish to arrive before dessert was the ‘chorizo+ manchego rice+ poached egg+ salsa verde+ dried black olive’.  Upon its arrival I was immediately taken aback by the plating.  It was another one of those ‘deconstructed’ plates.  Everything was scattered about and didn’t look appetizing.  However, after shoving aside our biases, with a spoonful of creamy cheese rice in our mouth, our appetites returned and the dish redeemed itself.  The chorizo was chewy and slightly oily but had a nice smoky-spicy taste which contrasted the richness of the rice perfectly.  The fatty, runny egg yolk which oozed out onto the rice was pretty much the cherry on top of this carb laden rice delight.

Interactive food, but too messy for our tastes

Swirling in some of the herbaceous salsa verde (again overwhelmed with cilantro) and the salty olives made it look as though a baby had played with our food.  Not a pretty sight.  I think if all the elements were placed in a bowl, the dish would be much more appetizing.

Last but not least, dessert.  I was craving something citrus so we chose their rendition of a lemon parfait.  By this time, looking over the menu, I started to feel as though I was in math class.  Aptly named ‘Dulce de Leche+ lemon sponge+ hazelnut espresso ice+ caramel+ sea salt’, all that was missing out of the equation was “= delicious?”  We would soon find out if everything added up.

Dessert menu

I felt like we had blasted off  and landed on the moon when our last dish arrived.  The lunar rock pieces of espresso ice appeared to have been created with liquid nitrogen.  They were emitting a cauldron-like fog.  The pieces were crunchy and sweet and the taste reminded me of a coffee crisp.  I didn’t really detect the hazelnut in it.  Beneath that was the dulce de leche and a freezing ball of caramel and sea salt.  We should have been warned to wait for the chill to be taken off because my mouth felt as though it had been injected with arctic air.  Everything was too cold to be enjoyed, but when it subsided, all we tasted was too much sugar.  The caramel in combination with the dulce de leche was overkill in the sweetness category.  I thought it would have been tempered with the lemon sponge. Unfortunately, there was only a tiny nugget of it sitting at the bottom of the glass.  It should have been layered with the other elements.  I really wanted to like this dessert but the execution of it made it a bit of a fail.  A little working around of ingredients in different ratios would help make this item a success.

An Origin Dessert- reminiscent of a parfait

I couldn’t end this review without showing you the beautiful lights that hung in the staircase which leads you downstairs to the washroom.  The  lights were coiled around with a delicate, impossibly thin spider’s web. It was a haunting and beautiful sight.

Ethereal lights dance above the dimly lit room

We hesitate to return to this restaurant in the future.  If I had an expense account to cover the extravagant costs (which can easily creep up on you, especially if you want to try the more innovative and unique dishes), I would definitely come back.  Hopes and dreams aside, for the majority of diners, these prices are much too great.  Although their dishes- -from inception to execution- – greatly interest me, I would hold off on coming here until they fine tune some of their menu items.

Origin Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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