The deal: I applaud the folks at this plucky West Wellington bistro for giving us a new reason to check out Absinthe at midday: a three-course lunch special for under $20.
I’ve noticed lately that restaurants often offer items for lunch that are pulled from their dinner menus and the price remains unchanged. I was pleased to see that wherever there is crossover, Absinthe charges less at lunchtime. So for instance, their now-famous steak frites — a splendid soy and Sriracha marinated hanger steak served medium-rare — costs $23 at night but is a tempting $15 for lunch.
The dish: The 3-course lunch special changes regularly. Recently it featured wild boar ribs and last week it was a trout burger. But when I stopped in a couple of weeks ago, I landed on the signature 8-oz drop filet burger. There was reason to celebrate. Remember that hanger steak mentioned above? Well that flavourful cut of beef gets lovingly hand chopped and formed into an outrageously thick patty that caramelizes and chars on a hot grill and remains juicy within. It’s perfectly cooked. On top of that, there’s aged cheddar, strips of double smoked bacon (almost certainly made inhouse — like everything else), thick sweet tomato slices, and some crunchy iceberg lettuce. Usually this is the part of the review where I have to demand an explanation for the second-rate bun (are you listening The Works?) but no: can you say homemade brioche bun? Hallelujah! This is the full package of burger beauty and a contender for the city’s best. Worthy plate-mates are a cauldron of flawless frites and a side of lemony arugula.
With such a gloriously generous main course, it must be noted that the other two courses exist on an entirely different scale: barely 10 spoonfuls of a fine roasted parsnip and apple soup and a soupçon of classic crème brulée. Ideal bookends to a great lunch they may be, but some customers will feel slightly misled by the traditional concept of three courses.
The cost: $18
Absinthe, 1208 Wellington St. W., 613-761-1138, www.absinthecafe.ca