Dish

Getting my Crust desserts

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A plate of Sticky Toffee convinced me to make my peace with the Upper Crust Café

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but the Upper Crust Café and
I have had a somewhat troubled past. On my first visit to the small but
usually bustling eatery, I had the misfortune of receiving what was probably
the smallest and least satisfying sandwich I’ve ever been served, and
I’d be lying if I said that experience didn’t dissuade from going
back for a few months. But after reassurance upon reassurance from people who
swear by the café’s desserts and dinner specials, I decided to
put the sandwich behind me and give the Upper Crust another go.
Unfortunately, I tried to do this on a Sunday, a day when, as I discovered,
the Upper Crust is always closed. Thwarted, I bided my time until this past
Saturday, when my girlfriend and I headed over for a late dinner before the
bar; we never did make it to the bar, thanks to the whole “tornado
watch” thing that happened that night, but I did finally manage to eat
at the Upper Crust for a second time, and it was worth the wait. Being the
late eaters that we are, my girlfriend and I strolled up to the front door
around 9 p.m., giving us about an hour until the restaurant closed; it was a
ridiculously hot night, so we had been hoping for a table on the patio.
Finding none, we took a table close to the front door instead. After ordering
a surprisingly non-alcoholic round of Diet Cokes and waters, we began to
graze Upper Crust’s slender menu of salads, sandwiches and light
entrées, and I have to admit: after more than a few consecutive weeks
of reviewing flashier, more contemporary dining establishments, it was
refreshing to have a smaller selection of simple, modest dishes to choose
from. No cilantro-and-mango chutneys, no neo-Asian influences, no flowery
adjectives or promises of soaring, dramatic food presentation: just good,
old-fashioned, satisfying-sounding food. Pork tenderloin, Dijon chicken,
garden salad. Say that out loud a few times. Soothing, isn’t it? Well,
I thought it was. Geez. Anyhoo, there weren’t really any appetizers to
speak of other than soups (too hot for the evening) and salads (I was having
a salad for dinner) and, fully planning on having dessert, we decided to go
right for the main course. Not really feeling too hungry, I went for the
Upper Crust Salad Selection, a mystery array of four salads served with
multigrain bread ($7.50). My girlfriend, needing something a little more
substantial than I for once, decided on the rainbow trout with citrus walnut
butter, rice and steamed veggies (for a remarkably inexpensive $10.25). After
ordering, we sat back and took in some atmosphere. Maybe it’s just me,
but I’ve always preferred going to restaurants later in the evening,
after the rush is over and everything’s winding down. There’s no
fear in the servers’ eyes, no din to yell over; there’s only a
sense of calm, that feeling of ease and faded electricity in the air that
reminds me of the relief I used to feel at the end of the night back when I
was a waiter. It makes for good eatin’, in my opinion, and such was the
feeling that night as we sat and chatted amongst the tables waiting to be
bused in the almost-empty and darkening dining area. It’s generally a
rule of thumb that if you eat late, you never have to wait long for your
meal, and that rule held true as our entrées made their entrance after
a scant 10 or 15 minutes. My salad selection turned out to consist of a large
plate of potato, Thai noodle, bean and carrot salads, each occupying its own
little quadrant of the oval platter. The accompanying bread was nowhere to be
seen, and I guess it never did show up, but hey. It’s just bread,
right? I’ve had that before. The salads, in the meantime, ranged from
fairly good to kind of bland. The potato salad was firm and mayonnaise-y, and
the carrot salad was an surprisingly flavourful nest of shredded carrot with
cinnamon and nutmeg. The bean salad was a mix of kidneys, limas and greens
with some chickpeas thrown in just in case there wasn’t enough protein
in there for you. And the sauce? The sauce was fantastic, a buttery, spicy
concoction that hinted at curry but probably wasn’t. (I tried to find
out what it was actually made of, but no one working knew. Whatever, it was
good.) The only disappointing member of the salad quartet was the lamentably
bland Thai noodle salad, which tasted as if a bowl of peanut Thai sauce was
kind of close to it at one point and it just kind of absorbed the smell. Not
an ounce of flavour on that one, but I suppose three out of four isn’t
bad. My girlfriend had no such complaints about her trout, however, which
arrived seared with the skin on, resting on a bed of fluffy jasmine rice and
steamed veggies. The fish was tender and flaky, its natural flavours
unchallenged by the subtlety of the dish—although I must admit I
expected a little more kick out of the citrus walnut sauce, which basically
tasted like butter but nonetheless brought something to the overall
composition. Unsurprisingly, there proved to be more fish than my girlfriend
could handle, and I obligingly took care of the remainder before we moved
onto dessert. I had heard that dessert is one of the Upper Crust’s
fortes, and we weren’t disappointed by our choice, the Sticky Toffee, a
warm pecan cake covered with caramel sauce and whipped cream ($3.75). Oh,
man. Seriously. After all was said and done, our bill came to a very
affordable $27 before tip, a fact that made the recently-finished dessert
seem all the sweeter, and in the end, the Upper Crust and I were able to put
our troubled past behind us. V Upper Crust Café 10909-86 Ave •
433-0810

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