date completed: 10 January 2014
The decision to put The Black Hoof (923 Dundas Street West) on my 25 for 25 list was made after hearing a lot of buzz about it around last summer. My dad is a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain who also mentions this place in talking about Toronto. A few of my friends and I ended up reuniting here to catch up with each other and get a good food experience.
I’m so glad we picked this place. :)
It was a long commute for me but it’s easily accessible by public transportation. I took the subway to Dundas station and transferred to the 505 streetcar headed west. I got off at Grace Street and The Black Hoof, while not immediately obvious, is just a few buildings back. The Black Hoof doesn’t take reservations, so our group decided to head over almost as soon as it opened for dinner and we were seated by the window. The menu is on a chalkboard on the wall (there’s one on their website as well, but it’s a little outdated) and drink menu on a chalkboard behind the bar.
I started my evening with a cocktail called “Red Wedding” because obviously it must be a Game of Thrones reference, therefore instant win. It wasn’t too strong and very fruity, which I enjoyed. I neglected to take a picture, and since this charcuterie place is rather dimly lit, the pictures I did take aren’t of particularly good quality. Sorry!
The six of my friends and I decided to order a few dishes to share:
01. Horse Tartare
My pick was the horse tartare which came with clams – it was my first time trying horse and tartar. I enjoyed it and the taste and texture of it reminded me of oyster. The immediate reactions around the table were more mixed and confused, haha. I’m glad we got this (and the rest of the dishes) to share though, because I think I would have gotten tired of the taste if I had to eat the whole thing by myself or even with just one other person.
This was a nice sampling of an array of different meats! All salty and flavourful, though unfortunately I can’t even pretend that I remember all of the different meat this included. We declined on ordering olives and/or bread to go with this – bread would have been nice, but I just ended up using the bread that comes with the bone marrow, which immediately followed the serving of this dish.
03. Bone Marrow
Probably the dish The Black Hoof is most well known for: bone marrow. The market price for this was $8, making it one of the least expensive dishes on the menu. We ordered two so that three people shared one dish. Bone marrow is used in a few Filipino dishes so the idea wasn’t entirely novel to me, but I really enjoyed having it with the garnishing and on the bread which did make it new for me. It’s obviously very rich, and between this and the next dish, I was already starting to feel full!
04. Pork Carnitas Tacos
Since this dish comes in three, we ordered two again. THESE WERE SO GOOD AND SO MEATY. I was really impressed with how tender the pork was, and they were definitely not stingy in serving it up. And YES, there was avocado! Each taco also came with its own lime and a chicharron (fried pork rind)!
05. Fried Chicken and Jellyfish
Maybe not the most visually appetizing, but both the fried chicken and jellyfish were good. I don’t think I’d ever had jellyfish before – it was stringy and chewy and jelly (duh), and could have maaaaybe been toned down a few notches in saltiness. While I enjoyed this dish, I wouldn’t call it a must-have, especially compared to the rest of the items on the menu.
06. Ants on a Foie
This was the most creatively concocted dish we encountered here, and such an interesting combination of tastes! Foie gras on a sweet cookie with peanut butter and celery and rum raisins. A modern, upscale version of familiar kindergarten snacks? Yes, please! I guess that’s better than the literal interpretation of “ants on a foie” we were imagining the dish to be.
A sombre side note: I only recently found out about the cruel way foie gras is produced (#4 on the link and not for the faint of heart).
07. Dessert: Apple Skillet
The preceding dish (ants on a foie) felt like a dessert-dish, so I was expecting some kind of carnivourous fusion to be involved with the actual dessert of the day to keep in theme with the place. However, the dessert offered was an apple skillet cake with pistachio something (haha, sorry) and streudel topped with white cheddar ice cream. We ordered two for our table to share. I had never even heard of white cheddar ice cream before, and it was interesting. It was great with the skillet, but on its own… I just like my ice cream to be sweet. :P Other than that, I quickly got over this dish being non-animal-related: it was delicious!
And that’s the end of my group’s meat feast experience at The Black Hoof! I highly recommend coming here with a crew to share plates with – it was fun to get to sample so many different dishes. My share of the damage for the night was $42, including the $12 cocktail I had.
Lastly, the service here was excellent. My friends and I all arrived around 6:30pm on a Friday evening and luckily the place wasn’t busy yet. Our waitress gave us an introduction to The Black Hoof and made suggestions for our group knowing that we intended to share all of the dishes. She also let us know which dishes would arrive first, and how they staggered the dishes was perfect in allowing all of us to enjoy each one comfortably and excitedly before receiving a new one. Our waters were also constantly re-poured and our plates and cutlery replaced with clean ones.
We briefly entertained the idea of hanging out at the cocktail bar across the street, but were all too full to really want alcohol, and the temperature was mild enough for a post-dinner walk around town. Maybe next time!