When you think of a steak dinner, the first thing that comes to mind would probably either be the word “fancy” or “expensive”, depending on your outlook on things and your social standing. It makes sense: meat is valuable, and steaks are made up of the best, most choice cuts of meat. To go along with the price of the meal, expensive restaurants usually lavish up everything: chandeliers light up the whole place, a small fortune of candle wax is used to illuminate each table, an expensive band is hired to play Beethoven’s Symphonies on their orchestra, the guests wear ornate ballroom masks [the kind that cover up your face], and all the waiters look like Batman’s butler Alfred. Because of the fancy decor, the restaurant can then ram the prices through the roof, allowing in only the city’s most elite and rich clientele, which I’m sure the Freemasons and Illuminati of our society enjoy during all of their social dinners, because it perfectly encapsulates the classism in their ways.
Okay…. I may have let my imagine run a little bit there. Truth is, I’ve never been inside a five-star restaurant–of any cuisine–and I don’t really know what they’re actually like [although I’m sure candle wax is quite expensive]. I’ve also never been in a steak restaurant before, indeed, I’ve never eaten steak before. The closest I’ve experienced would be either ribs, different types of grilled meats or maybe gourmet hamburgers. Meals that are certainly not, by any means, close to the level of a proper, certified steak.
The Tulip is an interesting place for steak-newbies to try out, then. The place certainly doesn’t look like its high-end enough to serve proper steak: there’s no fanciness to the aura, the location itself is far away from Toronto’s financial district, and it doesn’t even remotely resemble a half-backed dystopian novel with heavy-handed themes about class divide. In fact, The Tulip is rather plain-looking: like a diner which has a laissez-faire way of living up to its name by having a few floral paintings and the odd plastic flower lying about. The seating area looks well-used and unassuming–but clean–and is accompanied by a nice little bar for those wishing for a pub-like atmosphere. It’s very similar to a diner, in fact, The Tulip kinda is a diner, except when it’s not. This place is kind of hybrid restaurant, and like those cars that run on both gasoline and electricity, it can go either way. If you want to enjoy a coffee and all-day breakfast, you can come here. If you want a nice, deluxe steak and house wine, you can come here as well.
As one could tell, we can here to eat the steaks, and I was looking forward to the first one of my 19 years of living. I ordered a Medium Top Sirloin [not medium-rare: medium] and I took the option of replacing the usual veggies and potatoes with spaghetti and tomato sauce, because it was strangely offered on the menu, and I figured they wouldn’t offer a combination that odd if it didn’t work out somehow. My mom had the medium rare tenderloin with a side of mushrooms.
Before the big entrees, we were treated to a complimentary plate of buttered bread, much in the same way they do in the restaurants that [I imagine], those elitist, creepy ballroom mask-wearing people go to. It was a pretty good appetizer: warm, very fresh and an all around bread-lover’s delight. The crust had just enough resistance to be nice and firm, but didn’t hurt when you bit into it. The inside was generously lathered in butter, and the bread itself was light with a full-bodied taste. Pretty good way to start a meal, before the actual meal-part came to our table.
To start, the potions served here are quite generous. Steak is very rich, and also can only be safely chewed in smaller mouthfuls, so the amount on our plates was quite enough. And believe me, I’m the kind of person who usually feels mildly disappointed by a restaurant’s portion sizes. The sirloin was visibly quite juicy, and surrounded by its own pleasant little bath of beefy water. It had a very light char on top, just enough to give a gentle crunch to the overall texture, and did not in the slightest way taste burnt.
The meat itself had extraordinary flavour, one that was aromatic, multi-layered and plentiful in its dimensions. Unlike a lot of meals, it kept giving off flavour as one keeps chewing, inviting you to take long, slow bites. And that’s a good thing, because the texture itself was quite easy, with enough resistance to be toothy, but enough give to be comfortably edible. It had the taste of fatty steak, but the texture of a lean steak: the best of both worlds. All of this was accented by a light seasoning of salt and freshly grated pepper.
As for the medium rare tenderloin, I very much enjoyed the way that The Tulip treats their rawer meat. There was just a mild bit of salt, and every bit as much taste as the sirloin, except contained in itself more with less juice overflowing. The raw parts were soft and buttery, almost melting in your mouth. It was a very relaxing dish to eat.
Both steaks were cut to avoid any of those unpleasant veins of fat, which I greatly appreciate because I find fat clumps impossible to fully chew. They were also drained of all blood, also cleaning up any possible messes that those can make. The steaks themselves were clearly select cuts, based on the quality and flavour of them. Now that I’m 19 [Ontario’s drinking age], I recommend the steak with a beer of your personal choice.
The mushrooms were pretty well-cooked, although there isn’t much one can really do to mess up mushrooms. They might need to be salted or peppered to your own taste. As for the broccoli, I quite liked how it was cooked: just enough to give it more flavour, but still allowed to keep its crunch.
Okay, now the part that you were waiting for: the spaghetti, how was it? Surprisingly unique. The pasta itself was nice and just the right amount of al dente, giving the kind of firm texture that you wish for when eating spaghetti. As for the sauce, it was creamy and a little bit peppery. It was seasoned with a tingling blend of assorted, Italian herbs. The overall dish could be described as bright and cheery.
For dessert, I chose The Tulips’ “famous chocolate cake”. As a genuine chocolate hound, and amateur connoisseur, I have some high standards for anything chocolate based. While I like sweetness, I prefer if the dominant taste is actually chocolate, not sugar: I prefer a bitter dark chocolate over anything too sugary. I also like cakes that have layers, and very rich and moist, with the icing designed to give another layer of chocolate flavour, instead of over-saturating with sweetness. Above all, I want the cake to be heavy, but light to chew, packed with flavour and overall filling. Fortunately, The Tulip managed to hit all of those marks. Their cake was truly quite delicious.
As for the service, I found it quick and unobtrusive, as well as mildly polite. My mom found it cold because of the lack of small talk. I say it’s up to you to decide which sounds more like your style: professional or engaging. While I felt comfortable in the atmosphere, I’m also used to old, neighbour diners. If you don’t like that kind of setting, let me just say the food far outperforms the decor. The only complaint I would have is they cleaned something up with bleach during our meal, although I’m not sure quite what that was or how urgent it was. The smell passed away rather quickly, but not before making its presence known.
When it comes to the pricing of a restaurant, I have kind of funny way of reviewing it. Given that I’m a cheap skate, I always consider if something is too expensive or just not worth what you’re paying. But, and I feel like this is different from how many professionals do reviews, I don’t consider anything to be too cheap, or the decor too tacky, as long as the food is good. If you’re looking for a high-end steak restaurant so you can feel super fancy and spend as much money as possible–say, if you managed score a date with a Hollywood actor by convincing him/her that you’re rich, and want to see if you can fake it till you make it–this is not the place for you. If you want a cheap or moderately priced meal, then… then you’re not going to be having steak. But if you want to treat yourself to a nice, quality steak dinner–one that’s satisfying and won’t set you back more than is necessary–The Tulip is a good location to have that occasional, carnivorous treat.
The Tulip Steakhouse 1606 Queen St E