41 can’t help but make a good first impression. From the stylish, warm interior characterized by exposed brick, high ceilings, plush booths and fresh alstroemeria on every table to the way the maitre d’ put a commendable amount of work into finding my family a table (that said, dinner reservations are recommended!), it’s easy to tell that this place was created as a labour of love.
41 is a revisioning of a classic kid on the block – it opened on April 15, 2010 – although head chef and proprietor Peter Martin stayed on board from when it was known as Peter Martin’s 20 King. From a quick menu survey, 41 has kept 20 King’s focus on gourmet dining featuring a variety of meats while expanding in the direction of “gourmet comfort food”.
That said, while the food is delicious, the wine list solid (Dad was pleased to note a favorite Malbec), the fries addictive, and I wish I could adopt or learn the secrets of the person who makes their smoky, chipotle-tinged ketchup or spicy blueberry mustard (the latter sounds crazy but it is a thing of beauty) there is room for improvement.
Firstly, the website is in need of updating; most of the dinner menu entrees are listed on the website as anywhere from 1-4 dollars less than what we paid during our visit, and the dessert menu “singles” are around $7 (although a chocolate/vanilla cookie has been added). Prices go up; that’s part of the business. But when they do, I believe it should be the restaurant’s responsibility to let potential customers know what they’re in for.
Service for the most part was solid, and everyone has their rushed days, but literally dropping a soup spoon on the table in front of my dad before rushing away without a word? Not so much. And at least tonight, 41 suffered from unattractive side plating and a minimal serving of sides on the Wild Boar Schnitzel (which three of us ordered; my siblings did much better with the buttermilk mashed potatoes and fries that came with their dishes.) Also, I’m naive enough (and visit St. Jacobs’ market enough, where they’re readily available and not that expensive) to expect that when a menu says a $25 entree is served with fingerling potatoes, there will be more than two or three, and they’ll be plated attractively. The fennel and beets served with the potatoes were a sweet-sharp counterpoint, but I couldn’t help but want a little more.
My favorite main course was the chicken Kiev – a great mix of flavours and the chicken was perfectly cooked; as well, the sarsaparilla short ribs had the best plating and melted off the bone (yum to the root beer jus; another unlikely mix that turned out deliciously!) The wild boar schnitzel was good and filling, but pounded thin enough that it was hard to discern any boary flavour; M enjoyed it, but he noted quietly that “it could have been anything.”
(We’re coming back for the 20Kinger burgers and fries – we watched way too many emerge from the kitchen to not give them a try!)
And the evening ended on a positive note: dessert!
My sister’s sweet tooth is legendary, and she closed in on the creme brulee; rich, creamy, and with a smooth, strong vanilla flavour… I almost kept it upon my chance to try it. I chose the lemon tart, which was a knockout too, nicely contrasted by a small bowl of raspberry sorbet. M was the only guy at our table to join us in dessert, and chose the triple chocolate tower with Bailey’s cream on the side; I’m not much of a chocolate dessert girl, but with a white, milk, and dark chocolate layer, it was beautifully presented and not too heavy (key, as schnitzel is sneaky; it doesn’t look like a lot, but we were both very full at the end of the night!)
Having awesome desserts swayed me, in the end; 41 has a ton of potential, and there’s something to be said for supporting locally owned and operated businesses, too. I just hope they update their website between now and then.