Sherman's Food Adventures: Cafeteria


*Restaurant is closed*

With a name like Cafeteria, you would expect a counter serving mystery meat, potato paste and the requisite jello (complete with whipped topping) in a refrigerated display. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Residing on the former location of the now defunct Ping's Cafe, Cafeteria is another venture by the La Buca Group. It boasts finely crafted eats at a reasonable price all in a classy; yet casual atmosphere. Nothing here is over $20.00. With the rising prices of chain restaurant food these days, I'm beginning to wonder why people would overlook places like Cafeteria. Seriously, one could get a 3-course meal at Salade de Fruits for $21.00. With that amount of coin, you can only get one entree at most of the chain restaurants such as Cactus Club, Earl's, Milestones and Joey's.

I tried to convince my softball team to try Cafeteria the week before; but for some reason or another, they preferred E-Bei's all-you-can-stuff-your face sushi. Quantity over quality once again... This week was different. They all agreed to go, even though I did a lousy job selling them on the idea. Heck, I didn't even really know what was on the menu. You see, the menu changes daily and all I could make out on the fuzzy picture on Yelp was schnitzel. So schnitzel for everyone! Deep down inside, I seriously hoped there were be more choices since there is a wide range of tastes on the ball team. Of course, when we arrived, I was face with a focused menu. Let me rephrase that, a REALLY focused menu of 5 entrees. Hey, that can be a positive. When you only have 5 dishes, there is a much better chance they'll be good. Some of my teammates didn't seem to care and commented on the lack of choices. Fair enough.

For myself, I started with a cup of the Tomato Broth with Clams. As opposed to a clam chowder, this was much lighter since it was a broth and had no potatoes. I found all the flavours to be very understated. Usually I would call this bland. Not in this case though. I felt that the lightness helped accentuate the fresh ingredients. The clams were both plentiful and plump while being tender. No easy feat for non-canned clams. For my main, I went for the meatiest item on the menu being the Prime Rib Steak with mac 'n cheese. At just a shade under $20.00, I wasn't expecting anything large. Yet, nearly taking up the entire plate was this massive bone-in steak. It was done a perfect medium-rare despite the fact I was never asked how I preferred my steak. I found the accompanying sauce to be quite flavourful without being salty. I wasn't a huge fan of the mac 'n cheese though. It was both bland and a tad gritty. The arugula added a nice bitter/freshness though.

Since there were only 5 entree choices, 3 people went for the Smoked Salmon appetizer, although, Silent Bob and Judes had it as an entree size. Despite being the "entree" size, it was still very small and not all that filling. Judes thought that the fried potatoes (a la Chinese bird's nest) were a bit too crispy. She did like the sauce, it was a good balance between sweet and salty. However, she did note the sauce detracted from the perfectly smoked salmon. Bear ended up ordering the Duck Confit with Port au jus and we were very surprised it came with 2 legs (a nice surprise that is). He enjoyed both the crispy skin and tender meat. The meat was flavourful without being salty. This was a complete contrast from the disappointing duck confit at Avenue Grill. He thought that a risotto would've went better with the duck; but the lentils were fine anyways. Boss Woman and Milhouse opted for the other meat dish being the Veal Schnitzel. Thinking that it would rival my steak in terms of quantity, they were quite disappointed by their portion size. Milhouse said it best when he remarked that it wasn't that the size was too small, it just wasn't filling. If we focus on the food itself, the veal was beautifully fried and the accompanying sauce delicious.

For dessert, a few of us tried the only 2 that were offered. Miss Y had the Greek Yogurt with sour cherries. I gave this a try and enjoyed the smooth yogurt with the cherries. A relatively light and refreshing dessert. I didn't want a whole dessert to myself and ended up shared a Raspberry & Cherry Crumble with Bear. Not that it wasn't good or anything, we just found that it was your typical crumble. I have to say that it was nice to have 6 other people with me for dinner. There was a wide range of opinions regarding the food. On one end, you have some who were disappointed with the portions; while still enjoying their food. Then on the other, you have Bear and Myself who not only enjoyed our food, the portions were very good. So depending on what you order on the limited menu, your meal could be filling or lacking. In my personal opinion, I thought that the portions across the board were fair considering the quality of ingredients and execution. One could easily spend the same amount of money at one of the aforementioned chain restaurants and still be hungry. At the very least, we pretty much agreed the food is good at Cafeteria.

The Good:
- Focused menu allows for focused food execution
- A good value (in my opinion)
- Unpretentious

The Bad:
- For some, too few choices
- Not a particularly big place and they don't take reservations

Cafeteria on Urbanspoon


Linda said...

omg i just went here and the menu you had looks so much yummier! but what i had and my friends had were pretty good too... the staff is so friendly and I would definitely come back!

Sherman Chan said...

Linda, I would return as well!

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