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“Playpen tries too hard to attract flash-cash trendoids, but food and service are good to truly excellent. Do it.”
Review of The Playpen Restaurant - CLOSED

The Playpen Restaurant
Price range: $31 - $50
Cuisines: Asian, Italian
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Dining options: Reservations
Dining style: Casual Dining
Neighborhood: East End
Cross street: Carlaw
Transit: College streetcar (east west) and Pape #72 bus going north/south adjacent to the restaurant.
Ottawa, Canada
Level 4 Contributor
29 reviews
23 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
“Playpen tries too hard to attract flash-cash trendoids, but food and service are good to truly excellent. Do it.”
Reviewed March 16, 2013

First the service: first rate. I will quote KWH70's review over there on the right: "Service is also great. Polite, friendly (but not too chummy), knowledgeable staff all around." Exactly. Thank you, Jackson.

On the food front, life was up and down. We had a few appetizers, a main, and a bottle of Amarone. Here's what happened.

I thought the roasted beets appetizer was charming in presentation and adventurous in texture, but boring in taste. Far better was the seafood hot pot, which would be easy to ruin anywhere from the kitchen to the moment of serving, but which somehow arrived at perfect temp and with the disparate bits all cooked exactly as they should be. I hesitate to say "excellent", but I'm close. Then came the lobster maki ball, which was simply an absolute five-star knockout. Get two of those.

The main was the seared scallop number. It allegedly involved lobster and double-smoked bacon as well, all on a bed of parmesan risotto. I don't know quite what to say about this one. My remembrance is that while the bacon and lobster aspects were...absent, and the risotto glutinous, the scallops clearly had been stolen from heaven and cooked by angels. I'd be hesitant to do a return bout, but in the end I'd do it, tossing the risotto and doing a face-plant on the scallops.

You might wonder abou the Amarone. Well, from the menu descriptions, we thought the meal would be darker and spicier than it was, thus the Amarone in advance of tasting the food. (Next time an Alsace or Riesling.) In any case, my beloved companion, on tasting the Am, said, "This is velvet!"--as it should be--but as time passed, I thought it was a bit more like velveteen. They need a decent Valpolicello Ripasso. At $80 a pop, this Amarone doesn't cut it.

Ambiance: nice, okay, been there. The armchairs are immensely irritating, as they are heavy and lack coasters to allow patrons to move them without serious assistance. One has the choice of gazing at one's plate from a distance or of grunting and yanking on the chair in trying to close the gap. It's not a pretty picture.

In sum, at $180 before tip, it was almost but not quite worth the price for good to excellent food and excellent service in a repeat-retro room.

Oddly, though, we'd go again. Hmm.

  • Visited March 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank Barry B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

15 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
    6
    8
    0
    0
    1
Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Toronto, Canada
Level 3 Contributor
19 reviews
10 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 20 helpful votes
“Excellent food, beverages and service”
Reviewed February 27, 2013

This is our go-to spot for great food, beverages and service. All are consistently outstanding and the lounge is a fun place to dine with friends, family or a larger group. Laura, the owner is gracious, welcoming and accomodating. The servers and bartenders are professional, charming and knowledgeable. The bartenders make a perfect vodka martini and they have a nice wine list. The food is well priced for the quality. Favourite menu items include the frites, salmon tartare, lobster roll, tuna and the tenderloin of course.

  • Visited December 2012
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank JulieinToronto2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto
Level 4 Contributor
37 reviews
20 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 74 helpful votes
“Overrated overpriced restaurant for wannabe's”
Reviewed January 30, 2013

Another Johnny K and Laura P venture where people go to try and be cool and they suck people in to paying too much for too little. The food is mediocre at best and definitely not worth the price. The staff are poorly trained, if at all. Plus, it's in the middle of nowhere in a terrible location. Cmon people, get real.

  • Visited December 2012
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank Stevieray99
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Canada
Level 6 Contributor
230 reviews
113 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 130 helpful votes
“As always, exceptional food”
Reviewed December 8, 2012

For those who know east-end Toronto haunts, The Playpen comes to you from the same owner/chef combo as Tomi-Kro and Lolita's Lust (among others). For those not in the know, this is shorthand for exceptional quality food and interesting ambiance. So The Playpen? Same great quality on the menu (foie gras creme brûlée is an exercise in eating perfection of complimentary flavours, as is the brussel sprout slaw; scallops risotto with lobster and Gorgonzola is a master-class in balancing strong flavours so none overwhelm; the coconut tart for dessert almost brought tears to my eye it was so simple and delicious; even their cocktails - including a thai twist on a classic (Thai Collins) - are outstanding).
The decor and soundtrack are very 70s - but in a good way - not too tacky or silly-retro. Tables aren't too crowded together, and there's not bad acoustics (better than the space at Tomi-Kro that sometimes got a bit loud with a full house).
The restaurant is located in an offbeat corner - Logan and Gerrard in what used to be a dodgy strip mall with a crummy donut shop and pool hall) but don't let it put you off. Despite the streetcars running past constantly, and the train tracks almost on top of the restaurant (not to mention the fire hall beside it), the soundproofing is spectacular. Literally, at one point, you could see a fire truck racing out at the same time as a train passing overhead, and you barely heard a thing. I don't know how they did it, but it's almost miraculous.
Service is also great. Polite, friendly (but not too chummy), knowledgeable staff all around.
Complaints? Only two minor ones. First, the timing of the drinks was poor - it generally took about 10 minutes for the drinks to arrive after ordering, which mis-timed them with when the food arrived, but there was a holiday party happening at the bar, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that they were just too busy with that.
Second complaint - the menu is almost a clone of what was at Tomi-Kro. So it you're not from Toronto, this won't bother you. But if you're a somewhat-regular, you might want a bit of a change.
Having said that, everything on the menu is a winner.

Helpful?
Thank KWH70
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Canada
Level 6 Contributor
496 reviews
336 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 158 helpful votes
“Took my parents for a nice dinner...”
Reviewed November 12, 2012

Everything about this restaurant is perfect.
Amazing food at a great price, beautiful selection of wines and the service is par none.
Will be back again and again.
Thank you.

  • Visited November 2012
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank PeterBruceG
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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