Birthday Dinner: Fring's

Wednesday, November 16, 2016
My friends and colleagues took me out for dinner for my actual birthday yesterday at celeb chef Susur Lee's and rapper Drake's restaurant venture, Fring's. It promises globally-inspired fusion comfort food served tapas-style in a hip, dimly lit, Brooklyn apartment-meets-saloon setting where hip hop music pumps loudly, girls walk around with drink trolleys serving up cocktails made with Drake's whiskey, and shameless selfie-takers rotate in front of the massive Drake-referenced neon wall installation by the bathrooms. In short, it is a place to see and be seen (and apparently, Drake can often be found here when he's in town). I don't really care so much about the celebrity aspect of the place, but I have dined at Susur Lee's other restaurant, Bent, and enjoyed it thoroughly, so I wanted to check this place out to see if it lives up to the hype. As the menu at Fring's comprises of well over 20 shareable plates, the six of us decided to partake in the $65 Chef's Tasting Menu, where they served us ten courses of the chef's choice (you can choose more courses that increase in $10 increments per extra course).

Grilled Octopus

Mom's Homemade Sweet & Sour Meatballs

Roasted Butternut Squash Toast

We started off with drinks and guacamole (not pictured here), which is served with homemade organic corn chips. The guacamole at Fring's is not your authentic Mexican guacamole, but it is incredibly tasty, maybe even more so than some I've had at Mexican joints. They mix a bunch of things in with the standard mashed avocados, like salsa and olive crumble, but they work really well together, and it's an surprisingly satisfying starter. Shortly after, all of our appetizer dishes from the Chef's Menu came at once: the grilled octopus, served with red pepper relish, white balsamic, tapenade and a side of potato salad, was incredibly soft, tender, and flavourful; the homemade sweet and sour meatballs, ultra-plush and made with three different types of meats, with breadcrumbs and crispy thin onion rings was a standout dish; the Caesar salad (not pictured here), featuring full stalks of fresh romaine lettuce tossed in Caesar dressing with parmesan, garlic croutons, and pork belly bacon, was reliably good though admittedly not particularly special or unique; and finally, the roasted butternut squash toast, layered with homemade ricotta, candied orange segment, and fresh mint, was surprisingly disappointing and the only mediocre dish of the bunch — the flavours were muddled, and as a whole, seemed like more of an after-thought filler food than a feature dish. 

Spicy Rigatoni Rosé

Pan-Roasted Salmon

Chicken & Waffles

Once we finished our appetizer dishes, they rolled out the main course dishes: the spicy rigatoni rosé with parmesan, sweet onion, fresh corn, spinach, and marjoram, was the unanimous favourite of the night, in which all the flavours and textures just worked so harmoniously together; the pan-roasted salmon, tender and flaky, drizzled with lemon hollandaise and served with grilled polenta and the best asparagus I've ever had (peeled and perfectly cooked so they were soft on the inside but still crisp on the outside) was fresh and simple, albeit a little boring, but was a satisfying seafood course; and the chicken and waffles, though heavy and quite overplayed in the current food scene, featured the most tender chicken with crispy panko-crusted shells to keep it from being too heavy or dense, and a fluffy, butter-drenched Hong Kong-style egg waffle with just the right amount of spicy kick and maple sweetness to keep it interesting. The chicken and waffles were followed by their truffle fries (not pictured), which were absolutely delicious, but really overkill since we were already bursting at the seams and serving more carbs seemed almost cruel at that point. 

Caramel Monkey Bread

And finally, dessert, of which there were two. The first one was churros — crisp, light, and airy — served with three dipping sauces (not pictured here). These don't seem to be on the regular dessert menu, so I think they're exclusive to the Chef's Tasting Menu. Not the most interesting or the most unique of desserts, and not really fusion in any way, but still pretty tasty and better than some of the churros I've had at Mexican and Spanish restaurants. The one to write home about, though, is the Caramel Monkey Bread, served with caramelized apples and berries, English cream, salted caramel, hazelnut ice cream. Just a myriad of textures and flavours and even temperatures working so well together; the apples and berries add a tartness, the caramel adds a salty sweetness, the ice cream adds nuttiness and a great contrast to the sweet gooey bread. It's almost like a hopped-up sticky toffee pudding, and it's positively delightful. For the most part, I think the food is excellent here and the quality of the ingredients and the presentation of each dish is top-notch, but ultimately, I don't think Fring's is really an accurate portrait of Susur Lee's culinary genius. A true foodie looking to experience his award-winning innovation and creativity is probably better off at Lee or Bent.

Our server was very nice but a little scattered and not the most attentive; food came out promptly, but glasses were empty for a while before he even noticed they needed refilling. They were fairly busy, especially given that it was a Tuesday night, but they just seemed a bit disorganized. I also thought it was a little ridiculous that, given how expensive the food is and how "upscale" and modern the place is, they couldn't split the bills when we live in a world where almost every single food establishment has a POS system that can split even individual dishes into quarters. Paying ended up taking up way more time than is ever necessary, mostly because of the inability to split the bills, and partially because the time in which it took our server to give us the bill and bring us the card machine was at least 20 minutes. Overall, I had a really good time with amazing friends and I would go back to try some of their other offerings that seem very promising, but they do need to work out some kinks. 

455 King Street West
Toronto, ON M5V 1K4
(416) 979-9696
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