Review: Bymark Restaurant

Location
Toronto, Canada
Cuisine
Creative Continental
Price
$$$$
Date
November 2021
Rating

A quick work trip into Toronto led me to having dinner at Bymark, a popular spot for Bay Street bankers and foodies alike.

If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Bymark is home to the “Truffled Bymark Burger”, which, when it first came out almost two decades ago, cost $35 and earned the title of the most expensive burger in Canada.

Bymark – About the Restaurant & Chef

The restaurant is part of the McEwan Group founded by Mark McEwan, a well-respected celebrity chef based out of Toronto. His most notable television appearance was on The Food Network’s Top Chef Canada, where he held the title of head judge.

If you frequently travel through Toronto Pearson International Airport, you may have eaten at Nobel Burger Bar or Fetta and unknowingly eaten dishes curated by Chef McEwan himself.

The McEwan Group portfolio is also home to other upscale restaurants in the GTA, such as North 44, One, and Fabbrica. Chef McEwan is one of the founding fathers when it comes to the Toronto food scene, and has been well-recognized for his culinary innovations.

Bymark – Booking

While a reservation may not be required, as a general practice I always advise making one – even if you intend on dining the same day.

Reservations can be made directly on Bymark’s website or using the OpenTable platform. Personally, I made my reservation at Bymark using the American Express Platinum Concierge service.

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The phone call with American Express took 30 minutes, which is more time than I would have liked to spend in exchange for a free glass of prosecco. That’s a factor which I’d need to weigh heavier when deciding on whether to make future use of the concierge service.

Bymark – Welcome amenity

Bymark – Location

Bymark is located in the Toronto-Dominion Centre. At street level, you can walk into Bymark’s bar area, a swanky room with tall glass windows that gives views to the busy Financial District in Downtown Toronto.

The dining room, located downstairs, is a playful mix of modernism and creativity.

Bymark – Lobby

It was designed by Yabu Pushelberg, the mastermind behind the interior design of the Four Seasons in both Toronto and New York, as well as many other high-end restaurants and hotels worldwide.

Bymark – Dining room

Alternative access is also available through Toronto’s underground pedestrian walkway, the PATH.

For those driving in, complimentary parking is available at 66 Wellington St. Just be sure to ask the hostess to give you a ticket for validation on the way out.

Bymark – Exterior

Bymark – Dinner Experience

Nicole and I arrived with an appetite, splitting three appetizers and two mains for dinner.

Overall, we were very pleased with our meal at Bymark. The food was delicious, creative in presentation, and portioned well.

As someone with a fondness for spicy food, I have come to appreciate when a chef is able to integrate spice and still maintain a good balance of flavour.

The food at Bymark found that balance and executed it on every single dish, which was a pleasant surprise from continental food, which in my experience is usually more timid in the spice department.

Let’s dig in.

Ontario Burrata

Bymark – Ontario burrata

A decadent Italian cheese served with a generous portion of olives and artichokes, with fresh olive oil and aged balsamic drizzled on top and served with a grilled ciabatta.

This dish let the ingredients speak for themselves; the delicate but rich cheese was elevated by the savouriness of the olives and artichokes, while the playfully sweet aged balsamic tied it all together.

The bread, in my opinion, was burnt after spending too much time on the grill, which gave a harsh bitter taste to an otherwise delicate dish.

Steak Tartare

Bymark – Steak tartare

Steak tartare is one of my favourite dishes, and I order it anytime I come across this item on a menu. This classic appetizer can be customized and interpreted in so many ways, so I like to use it as sort of a viewfinder into the chef’s mind, if you will.

Bymark seemingly followed a classic recipe, and executed on it flawlessly. I was particularly intrigued by the jammy poached egg yolk, as it added a unique element to the texture of the dish, and is something I have only come across a handful of times.

Grilled Octopus & Calamari

Bymark – Grilled octopus & calamari

Both the grilled octopus and calamari were cooked perfectly tender, with a crispy outside. The creamy coconut cashew sauce and airy citrus crème fraîche complemented the smokiness of the grilled seafood.

This dish was my favourite for the night, and I would highly recommend ordering one for yourself!

Pan-Seared Halibut

Bymark – Pan-seared halibut

The pan-seared halibut was tender with a subtle sweetness. The dish took inspiration from Thai cuisine, with notes of ginger, sesame and miso coming from the broth.

While this was well put together, I didn’t find it too exciting and wouldn’t rush to order it again on my next visit.

Grilled Swordfish

Bymark – Grilled swordfish

I think swordfish is a highly underrated protein, and I was happy to see it on the menu.

I was completely blown away by the jerk-style butter that melted onto the fish, as it added a bold dash of flavour to this otherwise delicate fish.

In line with the Caribbean inspiration of the dish, it also came accompanied with crispy plantain, which provided a nice contrast of texture and recalled memories of sitting on a tropical island – a nice touch considering it was very cold outside.

Bymark – Service

I aim to be as objective as possible when judging a restaurant, and grade in response to the style and type of restaurant I am dining in. Bymark, without a doubt, positions itself as a fine dining establishment and was held to the highest standards in this review.

The service came in bursts, with elongated periods of absence in between. The server and the floor manager would check in on us in rapid succession, only to disappear, leaving dirty plates and empty glasses on our table longer than what I would deem appropriate at a high-end restaurant.

In my opinion, communication is essential in any team environment. During my time working at various fine-dining establishments, communication with my co-workers would come in the form of hand signals, code words, and written instructions.

Finding the right balance with your team and table is more of an art than a science, in order for guests not to feel overburdened with your presence or be in a state of need throughout their meal. Bymark’s execution on this aspect of service could’ve been better during our visit.

Bymark – Bar area

That’s not to say I had a bad service experience. The team at Bymark provided professional service and a hospitable environment, and were passionate about their menu.

I will give a high level of praise to the staff for their level of discovery when I was asking for recommendations, both for food and wine.

I find very often when asking for recommendations, it is very easy to hear “You should try this…” or “I really like this…”, and those items are usually favourites in the restaurant, or an expensive item you are being sold and may not take into consideration what you as the guest are looking for.

What stood out to me at Bymark was the questions that were presented to me, to make sure that any recommendations brought forward were to my personal tastes and preferences.

Overall, I was pleased with the level of service provided at Bymark, and only a particular diner or someone with a keen eye for restaurant hospitality would notice any areas for improvement.

Conclusion

I had a great evening at Bymark. The venue is perfect for a dinner with a loved one or for a professional outing. The service was welcoming, and the atmosphere opulent. They also scored some bonus points from me because the venue was featured on an episode of Suits, which I thought was nifty.

The biggest highlight for me were the subtle amounts of spice that the chef was able to naturally integrate into the continental style cuisine of the restaurant.

I look forward to dining at Bymark again in the future, and am excited to see how their seasonal menus continue to develop.

6 Comments
  1. Margot

    I love fine dining and enjoyed your review. The bread that came with Buratta cheese does really look burnt. Unacceptable in any restaurant and especially that level. Why didn’t you ask to replace it instead of consuming that harsh bitter piece of bread?

    Two suggestions. Would be nice to add a wine review to describe the restaurant experience as a whole. What wine did you choose for your dish and why? And my second suggestion is how to communicate with restaurant staff so you get the best service possible. I appreciate that kind of advice in Ricky’s articles – because it works.

    1. Rohin YYZ

      Hey Margot, thanks for commenting! Good question, I am not sure why I didn’t ask them to replace the bread – in hindsight I should have.

      That is a great suggestion, moving forward I’ll be sure to add in a section where I review the wine I enjoyed with my meal and why I selected it.

      To answer your last question, I think it comes down to communication. I always like to call or email ahead of my reservation date and start building some rapport with the staff, and ask them to make notations on my reservation about any special occasions that bring me into their venue. You don’t need to be celebrating a birthday or anniversary, in-fact 99% of the reservations I make I let them know that I am coming in to celebrate a personal achievement or milestone and that seems to do the trick in having them go the extra mile to make my evening special.

      Similarly to Ricky’s ‘Suite Talking’ method, I find that simply introducing your self and sharing your excitement can lead to an overall better experience as more often than not they will match your energy.

  2. Nick YYZ

    Also surprised to see this as a 4 star. My partner and I were extremely disappointed with both the food (burger, chicken, and an app), and service.

    Though, as Paulk mentioned, we’re usually disappointed with service in Toronto relative to other places (the best being the Middle East, the worst being South America).

    1. Rohin YYZ

      Hey Nick, thanks for leaving a comment.

      I am in total agreement with you about Toronto’s over all service standards being significantly lower when compared to other cities like London and Hong Kong. My partner Nicole also felt that the restaurant as a whole was underwhelming when compared to other restaurants we have been too – and I would tend to agree.

      But, my goal is to compare apples to apples, and when thinking about comparable restaurants in Toronto I feel my experience at Bymark was pleasent enough to warrant 4-stars.

  3. Paulk YYZ

    It’s an interesting review. My wife, son and I took my sister and brother in law out to the Bymark last month, which was pretty exciting for us as it was the first fine dining experience in a long time. We had been to other McEwan restaurants over the last few years and were pleased with the food and ambiance. We also had that $175 Amex dining credit to burn, and Bymark was one of the listed restaurants in Hogtown, conveniently located to our condo suite at One King West Hotel, so we could hoof it there using the Path system (that was eerily deserted) in a few minutes .

    Well, unfortunately our experience was not the best. We had appetizers that were very good, can’t exactly remember what be it ended up being the highlight. The mains we had were the duck breast, which was tough and chewy. Desert was Ok but I’ve had better.

    Service was Ok. They kept checking to make sure we were happy (and how many actual patrons complain? – we didn’t), but again they were slow in clearing plates and the space between courses was inordinately long.

    Two things that may have contributed to that service lag – 1) Toronto restaurants just opened up to full capacity, perhaps understaffed? 2) the McEwan Group is currently in bankruptcy – it I were staff there, I might look for another job incase the place closed down “in the middle of the night” and left everyone stuck.

    So, overall, would use our hard earned money elsewhere.

    1. Rohin YYZ

      Completely agree on the service side, I feel with even just one more team member on the floor things would have been better.

      I wouldn’t rush back to Bymark but I can definitely see my self again there in the future, if they survive.

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