The Harbord Room has been one of my favourite restaurants for years and years, it was actually one of my very first reviews, and Chef Cory Vitiello was so encouraging when I was just 8 years old, that it inspired me to keep reviewing and writing. Ever since I had their burger (reviewed in 2009), it has not moved from the top of my favourite burgers, no matter how many I try.
A couple of weeks ago, Cory, the owner and chef, temporarily closed the Harbord Room for some renovations. He kept everyone updated on the progress via Instagram, and announced last night as the re-opening, so I couldn’t get it off my mind, and really wanted to check it out. I emailed to see if I could get a table to enjoy their revamped menu by the new chef, Robbie Hoho, and we were in luck! As soon as my sister and I walked in, we were greeted by smiles and the sight of their brand-new bar, made from a cool-looking marble instead of their classic wood. Another notable change is that they removed the chalkboard, where they wrote specials beside the bar, otherwise, the familiar pink walls and comfortable space of this great restaurant remain unchanged.
When we sat down, we were given their completely redesigned menu, featuring an all-new logo and new dishes. Where the old menu was laid out in one column spanning the width of the page, with the classic “Appetizers, Mains, and Sides”. This menu, however, is shown in small rectangles with new names for sections like “Hot Dishes” and “Cold Dishes”, with new sections like “Shared Snacks” and “Shared Sides”. Our server told us the shared sections are meant to be tapas-style, which I think is a great addition to their menu.
After reading the menu over, my sister and I decided to get the Shishito Peppers with lemon miso sauce, which were awesmazing, as tends to be the case with Shishito peppers, in my opinion (but the sauce was OUTSTANDING in this dish!). We also enjoyed a side of the grilled asparagus. It is usually served topped with hazelnuts, but my sister has a nut allergy, and instead of just leaving them off, like most restaurants would do, they took the time to add shallots to the Meyer lemon, which was really creative, and kind, and my sister and I really enjoyed the generous serving. I ate 7 stalks, and normally I don’t love asparagus, so while this is in season, especially when it will soon be local, I would go and try them. For our main course, we both went with the classic burger (don’t worry, it’s still on the menu!), which features their house made patty, cheddar cheese, tomato, caramelized onions, and the option of bacon. As I said earlier, it is my favourite burger of all time, no matter how many I try, so I definitely recommend you try it if you haven’t already! The other mains sound great as well,with additions like Roasted Heirloom Carrot and Beet Salad or Housemade Spaghetti! I know as someone who reviews restaurants, I should have perhaps tried something new, but I just can’t help myself from ordering the burger. If you do not eat meat, they always accommodate at Harbord Room.
While we ate, Cory came over to say hi and ask how the menu was, and even “stole” one of our Shishito peppers (we gave him one :)! Cory is super-nice, so make sure you say hello if you see him! He can be spotted running between his neighbouring Flock and The Harbord Room most days, and is almost always wearing his Blue Jays baseball cap.
After we finished, we went to the kitchen to meet Robbie, the restaurant’s chef and the mastermind behind the new tapas-style dishes and that miso sauce on the peppers. I got a picture with him (below), and he was very kind and willing to talk to my sister and I guess friendliness runs in the Harbord Room family!
If you haven’t been to the Harbord Room yet, now is a great time as it always has been!