Where have all the steak houses gone? Sure, we can go anywhere for a steak, but for the classic “steak house” experience, only a few tried and true favourites that have dotted the Toronto restaurant landscape remain. At the north end of Toronto is a Thornhill staple, Octagon Restaurant. When a fire burned it to the ground in 1992, all that remained, ironically, was the fireplace.
A grand renovation included an original belle époque cast iron doorway gilded with 24 carat gold from the St. Regis Hotel in New York. Rich décor includes 18th century stained-glass panels from a Belgian Church; European oil paintings; Mahogany, walnut and European olive wood paneling and intricate carvings; custom-made Tiffany lamps; chandeliers; brass wall fixtures; and leather banquets providing the requisite grandeur for this Victorian style “jewel box”. Dress code is business casual. The room is all about the presentation and the ambience. The plating is about the food.
Prepared table side, the Caesar salad of crisp romaine is creamy and garlic-y with bacon and crunchy croutons that would make Caesar proud. They sure don’t skimp on the scampi. Shrimp cocktail is colossal. Plump, meaty shrimp are served on iceberg lettuce accompanied by a tangy in-house made cocktail sauce. Lip smacking baby back ribs are charcoal grilled for a smoky essence, and slicked with a zesty barbeque sauce. Good thing they provide us finger bowls, because we need both hands to devour this ample portion.
The wine cellar is fully stocked to match the menu. While the appetizers pique our appetites, we’ve come here for the charcoal broiled steaks, and are ready for our 16 ounce rib eye. Sizzling, juicy and tender this corn-fed beef packs flavour and needs no sauce or garnish to set my taste buds dancing. Quality meat prepared with care and consistency has enabled the Octagon its longevity. Enjoying every mouthwatering bite, and engaged in conversation, we don’t even notice how seamlessly our attentive waiter refills our glasses.
Dare we ask for dessert? Rich coconut cream pie and a soft crust mini pecan pie sprinkled with cocoa and drizzled with a chocolate sauce are made specially for Octagon. Served warm and a la mode, these lush sweets punctuate a decadent feast for the senses.
Octagon Restaurant, 7529 Yonge Street, Thornhill, On. (905-889-8989)
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.