207 Ossington Avenue
Toronto, ON M6J 2Z8
(416) 534-8520 (No Reservations)
It really doesn’t look like much from the outside. I’ve walked by it hundreds of times and never realized it was a restaurant. In fact, since I’m usually on the other side of the street, I didn’t even realize it was a functioning establishment (Really. I haven’t lived in Toronto that long). My roommate (who is new to the area) and I were wondering the Ossington strip to find a place to eat on a Friday night. We passed by BQM, didn’t want Libretto, knew Fishbar was too expensive, and couldn’t get a seat at Delux. So when we walked back up the street and saw Foxley, we decided to give it a try.
The lack of people worried me for 8 PM on a Friday, but we were escorted out back to the patio which became full with our arrival, and 20 minutes later, the whole place was crowded. The menu was merely a white sheet of paper. No fancy cardstock here. Prices ranged from $5-$22 for tapas style dishes. The patio had a very lively and unsophisticated feel. There was no cutlery, only chopsticks. Seating was standard aluminum furniture upon which the diverse and happy clientele was eating. At one point the table next to us burst out in song. The inside seating looked comfortable with a large exposed brick wall providing a rustic ambiance.
The menu is best described as Asian fusion, but even that isn’t a good description of the place. One major food rating site lists Foxley as “Vietnamese, Spanish, Malaysian, Asian, and international.” That description really helps…doesn’t it? The food is done tapas style with plates more large enough for two people to get a decent taste. The waiter suggested that we order four or five plates between the two of us. He highly recommended we try a ceviche, said the duck was good, and mentioned that the side ribs were one of the most popular dishes. We took his recommendation, opting for the arctic char ceviche, duck breast, and shallot glazed side ribs. We filled out the order with pork and duck dumplings and veggie spring rolls.
“Grilled Vegetables Fresh Salad Spring Rolls” (Yep. That’s a quote from the menu.) – $6
I do really enjoy this kind of roll. Leafy veggies with mango, red pepper, cilantro, all combined in a cellophane noodle wrap. This version was notable for including a crunchy stick of some sort (almost like a fried spring roll shell) on the inside. There isn’t much to say about this dish – it’s not the kind of thing that can be spectacular, but if you like the dish, you’ll enjoy Foxley’s Version.
Lamb and Duck Prosciutto Dumplings – $7
The pork and duck dumpling was a lightly fried dumpling served with a light dipping sauce. I really like dumplings, but these were only satisfactory. With the first bite, any juices the meat possessed seemed to shoot out of the dumpling and onto the plate (or the closest neighboring table). The meat was surprisingly dry and under seasoned. It just didn’t pop in your mouth. The dryness was mitigated by the light sauce, which added needed moisture. It also could have been helped by letting the dumplings cool a bit longer so the juices would return to the meat rather than shooting out of the dumpling. Alas, we were hungry. I wouldn’t say that these are a must-try.
Wild Nunavut Arctic Char Ceviche with Green Apple and Ginger – $15
The ceviche was one of the highlights of the meal. One could think of Foxley’s ceviche as thinly sliced sashimi “cooked” in citrus and covered in oil. Adding to the flavor of the fish are chopped green onion, basil, hot red pepper, and sesame seeds. The dish was topped with an apple slaw. Although I don’t like the aesthetic look of this dish (I can’t see the fish under all that apple!) I really enjoyed the taste. I would recommend this dish to anyone stopping in at Foxley’s, and if I return I will try some of their other ceviche offerings.
Grilled Side Rib with Caramelized Shallot Glaze – $9
The waiter said this was their most popular dish, and I can see why. Tender falling-off-the-bone meat was combined with a sticky and slightly sweet sauce that coated your mouth in pure bliss. Hints of orange and ginger added to the complexity of the sauce, which I was guiltily spooning up with my finger after the meat had somehow vanished into my mouth. The picture only shows one rib, but two came with the order…I was just overly eager to get my hands on my half! A must have if you visit.
Roasted Duck Breast with Umeboshi and Port Reduction – $20
This was the most expensive dish we ordered, and the most disappointing. Rachael, my new roommate and eating partner, was excited to have umeboshi again (she lived in Japan for awhile). For those of you that don’t know (I didn’t before the meal) umeboshi is a Japanese pickled fruit that tastes similar to a plum and is in the same taxonomic family. I expected to receive sliced duck breast with a fairly thick reduction dressing the top. Just to be clear I love duck. When cooked properly, duck is by far one of the most delicious and tender meats. I order duck almost whenever I can, and Foxley was no exception to this rule.
To my surprise the dish came with what seemed to be a pile of onions. The “reduction” was thin and the duck was immersed in the watery liquid. The meat itself was overcooked and slightly chewy. Given the high quality and care that seemed to go into the ceviche and ribs, I was surprised that the duck was merely thrown together. The reduction simply needed more time on the stove; it didn’t pack the powerful flavors that constitute the very essence of a reduction. And why does anyone need that much onion? On paper these flavor combinations should be great, but in practice the execution was just sloppy.
Strawberry and Chocolate Spring Roll with Ginger Ice Cream – $8
The description above captures this dish, it was simply strawberries and chocolate fried in a spring role. The chocolate was melted, but the strawberries held their firm consistency through flash frying. The crunchiness added a nice bit of texture to the dish. The ginger ice cream was a nice compliment, although it tasted as if it had once been vanilla ice cream to which ginger was added. Still, a good and a fun dessert.
I left the meal very happy, although this was just as much due to the atmosphere and a glass of wine as it was the food. The service had been very friendly and informative (the only minor gripe was twice a server came to put food on our table that was someone else’s). The bill came to approximately $90 after tax and two glasses of wine. I would go back to Foxley and happily sample more of their menu. However, I can’t help but have a lingering feeling of disappointment: Foxley is a good restaurant, but it could be a great restaurant if the quality of dishes were more consistent.