Saturday, January 28, 2017

Eating up the Hill: Steak frites at The Riviera

After trying historic political dining spot Mama Therera Ristorante last week, this week I joined a friend for lunch at a more recent on trend politico lunching spot: The Riviera.

Located on Sparks Street just a few doors down from Darcy McGee's, The Riviera opened last spring in a former CIBC branch. It was an old school CIBC, so art deco architecture and tall, vaulted ceilings make for a pretty cool dining experience. I'm told The Riviera opened not long after Hy's closed, but this certainly isn't a replacement as a setting for private conversations, gossip and deal-making -- the wide-open room and close seating make any secrets hard to keep.

While the menu at The Riviera is limited in quantity of items, they are greatly varied and I found myself pouring over it for longer than usual, racked with indecision on my entree choice -- partially because I knew that, no matter how delicious, at these prices I won't be here often.

I was deeply tempted by the "Spot Prawn, Scallop and Mussel Chowder with Crisp Bacon" and the Pork Ragu Pasta" but, in the end, I opted for the "Hanger Steak Frites." I know, a rather pedestrian selection, but I'm a simple man who likes a good steak. So, after confirming that their frites were appropriately thin and not those ridiculous thick beefeater things which should never be called fries, I placed my order for the steak frites, medium.

Then, the steak came. And it was good. The fries, while crispy, herbed and served with an aioli dip, were but a deliciously frequent brief respite as I tried to make the steak last as long as possible. It was cooked to a perfect medium and was one of the most tender slabs of beef I have ever been served. Melt in your mouth, with a delicious char on the outside like a good steak should be.

I did think the sauce was an interesting choice though, particularly in a steak frites entree. It made it a bit of a heavier meal than I would usually expect for lunch, when people usually need to go back to the office and can't take an afternoon nap. It was a tasty, beefy sauce though that complimented the steak nicely -- I wouldn't have objected to a few mushrooms, however.

At $32 before taxes and tip, this was their most expensive entree and certainly several times what I'm generally willing to spend on lunch. They do have plates beginning at $14 though, with the average being around $20. Still, for special occasions, it's a worthy indulgence.

The Riviera is also becoming a popular spot on the political reception circuit, so I shall have to visit again some time to see how they do appetizers. Expect a full report.

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