Tuesday, February 21, 2012

c5 Restaurant // Lounge at the ROM

Tucked up under the pointy eaves of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at The Royal Ontario Museum is c5, which is short for Crystal Five, a reference to the restaurant’s location on the fifth floor of the ROM and also being at the top of the fifth crystal with soaring views over the historic west wing of the Museum. Designed by famed architect Daniel Libeskind, the 175,000 sq. ft. aluminum and glass covered addition is composed of five interlocking, self-supporting assymetrical structures, and the space is striking. With its soaring peaked ceiling, modern décor, angular walls and bright expanse of windows, c5's interior reflects the sophisticated finishes and contemporary architecture of Daniel Libeskind's cutting-edge aesthetic.

c5s spacious interior and modern finishes provide a striking contrast 
to the crystal's angular architectural lines

The restaurant's award-winning interior design, created by II by IV Design Associates, achieves a calm spare elegance to the space with an absence of right angles which result in quiet, private nooks and intimate corners. Veering planes and dramatic windows slash through the space creating dramatic lighting effects and offering fabulous panoramic views of the Toronto skyline from the top of the ROM crystal, and Liza’s Garden, the Museum’s recently unveiled 'green roof' garden designed by Plant Architect Inc. The restaurant's elegant interior, accented with soft caramel leather and well-spaced tables, is set very simply with classic modern wine stems and sleek contemporary flatware, creating a modern, comfortable and inviting ambience.

Crystal Five Bistro Bar

C5's glass sculpture installation designed by artist Jeff Goodman

Chef Corbin Tomaszeski, previously from Holt’s Café, recently took over as executive chef of c5 from Ted Corrado, who’d been the executive chef since the restaurant opened. "My style is simple, but classic", states Tomaszeski. "I believe the best meals use everyday ingredients to create beautifully presented dishes that are uncomplicated, accessible and appealing to everyone." Tomaszeski’s new menu includes a few Holt's-inspired favourites such as Truffled Potato Chips with fleur de sel and chives, Poached Pear Salad, Chicken Pot Pie and his signature CT Burger. New additions to his repertoire include delicious Crispy Vegetable Fritters, Mushroom & Wilted Spinach Pappardelle with cipollini onions and pecorino with optional topping of Duck Confit, Steak Frites and Lobster BLT Salad, the most expensive item on the menu at $24. 

c5's Mayan inspired menu

In keeping with the ROM's current exhibition Maya: Secrets of their Ancient World, on until early April, c5 is offering a Maya-themed menu fusing the flavours of Mexico and Central America, such as Chile Rellenos con Pollo, Empanadas de Carnitas and Flan de Chocolate. As tasty as it sounded, we decided on selecting some dishes from Chef Tomaszeski's new c5 luncheon menu, which included Crispy Vegetable Fritters served with a fragrant coconut ginger sauce which was wonderfully light and delicate, and very similar to an Indian bhaji. Made with chopped onion, squash and carrot blended with a lovely light turmeric batter and a sprinkling of sea salt, this dish was very tasty and well worth ordering again.

Crispy Vegetable Fritters with a coconut ginger chutney

We followed with the ROM Pot Pie made with free range chicken and Ontario root vegetables topped with a buttery dome of puff pastry and a nicely composed salad, and c5's Cornmeal Crusted Chicken Sandwich with sweet caramelized onions, tangy chevre, peppery arugula and a dollop of apple butter, attractively grilled in a panini press with a crisp buttery exterior and served with a cone of home made frites.

ROM Chicken Pot Pie made with free range chicken, Ontario root vegetables and salad

Cornmeal Crusted Chicken Sandwich with caramelized onions, chevre, arugula 
and apple butter, and served with house made frites

I remember the glory days when Jamie Kennedy was culinary king for nine outstanding years at JK-ROM, which closed in 2003, and since then, there's been a singular lack of fine dining at the museum. With the arrival c5, it looked like the future was bright again, and with a few stumbles, it's pretty good but not as good as it could be, given Tomaszeski's pedigree with having been Executive Chef at Holt's for almost ten years. Rather than being "a superlative gastronomic experience" as the website declares, c5 is in fact a casual family-friendly venue which "specializes in timeless tastes, appealing to visitors of all ages", which was particularly true the day we went — it was Family Day! Little munchkins were running all over the place; certainly not the dining experience we were hoping for. Fortunately, our server Marryn's sunny disposition, friendly manner and courteous service more than made up for the noisy distractions.

A large vase of Cherry Blossoms sit proudly in the centre of the restaurant

The restaurant may also be finding their stride, having had their dining hours slashed, serving luncheon only, from 11am to 3pm seven days a week, and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Also, c5 is also no longer open for dinner, which is a shame because the interior is stunning and in the evening it would be absolutely magical. Good news is that there are plans afoot to extend c5's dining outdoors onto the rooftop of Liza's Garden, over the historic west wing of the Museum, which would be glorious once the warmer weather returns.