The Harbord Room

The Harbord Room

Date Night 2010 started with me meeting the Beast at the Harbord Room’s bar.  

Foodie:  Sorry I’m late!  They were completely booked tonight but they told me that we could probably sit at the bar, which I see you’ve already done.

Beast:  I figured it out.  The bartender is a bit scary though:  before he even asked me for  drink he said, “Ah, are you meeting somebody?”  I told him that I was.  I think he was concerned with the spacing of the bar seats.

Foodie:  Is that him?  (pointing discreetly to the bartender.)

Beast:  Yes it is.

Foodie:  That’s the same scary man that served me and my friend Elena about a month ago!  He was so cold!  Every time he left our table we’d wondered if we’d said something to make him hate us so much.  We behaved normally–maybe were too nice though, in an attempt to warm him up a bit.

Just then the bartender came over to offer me a drink.  The Beast started with a gin martini.  I had a plain old glass of riesling.  He was less cold than I remembered.  I’d say he was “efficient”.  

Foodie:  What looks good? Oh, oysters!  Let’s have some of those.  What else.  I had the B.C. ling cod last time and it was incredible.

Beast:  I’m having the steak frites.  

Foodie:  Do you want to share steak frites and the fish?

Beast:  No, not at all.

Foodie: Okay then I’m getting the steak frites too because I’ll see yours and regret not getting it.  Let’s get a little salad on the side too.

Beast:  Perfect.

Our oysters were delivered right away.

I’m afraid I can’t remember what sort of accoutrements were in the little ramekin:  we didn’t sample them because the Beast prefers his oysters as nature intended them–unadorned.  I like them with a squeeze of lemon, and sometimes a little freshly grated horseradish.

(Photo graciously provided by Meghan Telpner!  Visit her gorgeous website here.)

Mom, this is what a horseradish root looks like!  Maybe you knew that already, but the first time I ever saw a horseradish root I couldn’t get over the fact that it resembled a big giant tool of some sort.  Maybe like a hammer, or a wrench.  I don’t know for certain what tool, but isn’t the similarity to some sort of  tool uncanny?  

Anyway, the oysters were lovely.  

Beast:  I am so excited to see Steve Reich that I can barely stand it.  Look, my hands are even trembling.

Foodie:  Oh yes, I’m excited too.

Beast:  Do you know how important Steve Reich is?

Foodie:  Who’s Steve Reich again?

Beast:  He’s only one of the most influential composers of the 20th century, along with Stockhousen and Philip Glass.

Foodie:  Do I like him?

Beast:  Yes, you like him.  He’s had a huge impact on film scoring from the 1970s onward–especially the film scoring that you like.

Foodie:  Well then I can hardly wait either!  Oh look, here comes our steak.

Foodie:  These are good fries.

Beast:  Yes they are.  How’s your steak cooked?

Foodie:  It’s pretty rare.  I’ll let you have the middle, gelatinous part.  Isn’t the melted Ermite blue cheese on top lovely?  

Beast:  It’s okay.  

Foodie:  Just okay?  I think it’s so tasty!

Even tastier though was the little side salad!  Shocking?  Yes!  I couldn’t get over it either.  It was simply some arugola with thinly sliced radish, fennel and carrot in a tarragon vinaigrette but it was so crisp, clean and refreshing!  (I’ve recreated twice now at home.)

While we finished our dinner, the Beast and I behaved like to two old gossipy women having a yarn together.

Foodie (in a whisper):  You see those three ladies sitting to my right?

Beast:  Yes.

Foodie:  They’ve already asked scary bartender for two pints of ice to put in their glasses of white wine!  You should have seen scary bartender’s face!

Beast:  Did you hear what they said about meditation?

Foodie: No.

Beast: Well, one of them asked, “Have you guys ever meditated before?” And they responded yes.  And then the woman said, “No, I mean really meditated.”

Foodie:  Did you notice the couple to the left of you?

Beast:  You mean the lady who’s 16 going on 65?

Foodie:  Never mind her, look at her husband!  He’s dressed like an Italian teenager with those ripped jeans, pointy leather shoes and his button-down shirt that’s buttoned way the fuck down!

Beast:  We should really get the bill.  I don’t want to be late.

The Beast waited outside while I waited about fifteen minutes, with my credit card in plain view, for the bill.  

Beast (outside and ready to start walking to our concert venue):  What took so long?

Foodie:  I don’t know.  I just couldn’t get his attention and I didn’t want to interrupt him while he talked to the cast of Jersey Shore at the counter.  God that was cold service.

Beast: I don’t actually mind cold service.  It’s better than “You have GOT to try the cheese plate! There’s this one from Prince Edward County that’s TO DIE FOR.  It’s made with goat’s milk.  Or maybe it’s not goat.  What’s another animal that makes cheese?”  Anyway, have y’all heard of organic beef before?”  I just can’t stand cold, ineffectual service.  

Foodie:  But I didn’t actually ask for the bill.  Maybe we should give him a break–think of the type of people he’s constantly dealing with.  Maybe that’s why he’s so cold.  Maybe we’d be that cold too.  

Beast:  Think about the type of people everybody deals with every day!  Look at the two of us in our jobs!    That’s no excuse.

Foodie:  What a second–what were you reading when I first came into the restaurant?

Beast:  A book on James Joyce, and one on Chinese poetry.  

Foodie: Well that explains it!  Think about it:  You sit down with your gay little books and we start talking about Steve Reich.  We’re bigger assholes than the meditating ladies and the retired couple dressed like Euro-trash!

Beast:  No way!  Steve Reich is the most–

Foodie:  Oh God, we only have five minutes to get there!  Let’s hurry!

The place was packed!  (Maybe the Beast was onto something with this “Steve Reich” guy.)  By the by, I could have sworn I saw Atom Egoyan and Adrianne Clarkson in the lobby–not together or anything though.

Our seats afforded us a grand view of the instruments on stage.  

The Beast loved the concert.  I just “liked” it.  I really enjoyed our dinner though, while the Beast felt it was a little mediocre.  You can’t win them all.

Oh, and I figured out during the concert (my mind wandered a bit) that a horseradish root looks like a giant cock with balls!  Nature is amazing!

Foodie:  **1/2

Beast: *1/2


Categories: The Harbord Room

6 replies »

  1. I was thinking about horseradish the other day. My grandmother used to grate my grandfather’s horseradish on special occasions. If you know what I mean. He would be out in the garden and she would call out to him and then he would come in with it in his hand and she would grab it and start grating it. Made quite a racket on the kitchen counter. Sometimes I even had to do it, although I remember crying once.

    It was worth it, though. Nothing is better with a Sunday roast beef dinner than some fresh horseradish on the side.

  2. Tom and I were served by that same bartender, didn’t crack a smile and we used some of our best material.

  3. Incidentally, Tom and I were also eating overly rare steaks served by the same bitter bartender the night before cinqo de mayo.

  4. I have never bought, borrowed or read a book about James Joyce. It was a book about Ezra Pound.

    And I’m sorry if Li Po doesn’t impress a guy who looks like an extra from a Mighty Mighty Bosstones music video.

    You also forgot to mention that I hated the “edgy” decor of the Harbord Room – from the chalk-board bathrooms to the Sid Vicious “painting”.

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