At street level, beneath the sprawling expanse that is Harmon’s Steakhouse on Elgin, you’ll find a moody and intimate wine bar. Abby’s, the latest addition to the Whalesbone Group family, serves up something a little different.
With an extensive list at a variety of price points available in three-ounce, five-ounce, or full bottle portions, the wine offerings are an exciting way to start. Expert service helps guests navigate uncharted terroir. If you’re not in the mood for wine, Abby’s can slake your thirst with one of several classic cocktails on tap or shake up something else à la minute.
The wine and cocktails are accompanied by a taut menu of smaller bites, sharing plates, skewers, and three larger dishes. We started things off with the feta dip. A creamy bowl of briny whipped feta topped with heaps of fresh mint and pistachios, accompanied by slices of warm naan bread and cucumber — a simple and delicious opener.
We follow that up with a portion of the salt cod fritters, paired with a lemon paprika aioli. These oblong balls of deep-fried salt cod had a pleasant, crunchy exterior but might be better in slightly smaller portions as the texture of the filling was a bit wet, and the aioli could have packed more punch.
One section of the menu is dedicated to a variety of skewers. We tried a the A5 miyazaki wagyu, prawn, iberico pluma (Spanish pork loin), and the chicken thigh. All were tasty but the iberico pluma stood out — the delicate nutty flavour of the pork seared to perfection and topped with bright, herbal chimichurri. The wagyu skewer melted in our mouths, but for the $15 price tag it was marginally underwhelming in terms of flavour complexity.
For the main course: roasted cauliflower. A whole head of charred cauliflower nestled into caramelized cauliflower purée, dotted with pickled raisins, slivered almonds, and a dusting of Padano cheese. My dining companion loved this dish, but I thought a touch more acidity would improve balance.
Abby’s, like many restaurants in the wake of the pandemic, could benefit from a few more staff. On our last visit, one server took orders, educated guests, and made drinks — one other staff assisted by bringing food and clearing tables. Another capable server with great wine knowledge could help the pace of service.
It is still is well worth a visit for would-be oenophiles and anyone else seeking out a cozy place with great music and excellent small plates.
283 Elgin St., HarmonsSteakhouse.com