You won't often find a rave review on this website. The reality is that too often restaurants, even the good ones, will provide a reason or two to deserve a less than perfect rating. Sometimes a meal will be good but the surroundings are not clean enough; dust on the heating ducts above your table, or fingerprints on the entry door glass, a bathroom which isn't clean enough. Perhaps the main course is delicious but the appetizers or side dish offerings are lacking; unripe veggies, waterlogged chicken, meat that comes "rare" when what you ordered was "medium". Or, maybe the waiter wasn't as attentive as he should have been. Well, I am pleased to report that for the first time since we began doing reviews on this website, one restaurant surprised us with an outstanding experience.
I will admit that I am extremely fussy about restaurants. I expect a good meal, a clean environment and the service to be professional whether I am dressed in evening wear (which is never) or arrive wearing my work-out clothes (clothes I own in spite of the fact that I don't work-out). The occasion of this visit for my husband and me was our - delayed - 23rd anniversary. We had planned to visit the C&A Steak Company at Blue Mountain on or near Valentine's Day but my husband came down with pneumonia and I was far too busy with work for us to note the real day of celebration. Instead, we waited a few weeks until we were both in a position to really enjoy ourselves. It is after all supposed to be a relaxing and enjoyable experience to dine in a restaurant, and these days you pay dearly for the privilege. Today I am pleased to describe our experience at the C&A Steak Company which is located in the Village at Blue Mountain.
At First Glance
The menu at the C&A Steak Company isn't large. It is exactly what you might expect considering the name. They serve steaks. Filet Mignon, Rib Eye, Peppercorn and Strip Loin. The menu lists a few appetizers, some salads. A couple of daily specials are recited at your table by your waiter.
Your waiter arrives promptly to take your drink order. Normally I expect a wince from the server when I order coffee. It's no secret that they prefer it when you order the higher priced beverages as they can quickly increase the tab, and the tip. I've never liked this about restaurants because you can easily feel like your patronage is not appreciated. Our waiter was cheerful even after our coffee order.
The coffee arrives quickly and is piping hot, fresh and full bodied. In my view, coffee is an afterthought in most restaurants. They fuss over wine choices but thoroughly neglect those of us who aren't interested in alcohol. Not so at the C&A Steak Company. The coffee was a delightful surprise. It's sad when one has to utter the words "please bring the coffee only if it has not been sitting for 20 minutes" but these words gained a bemused expression from our waiter."Of course" he responded.
My husband was apparently in a very indecisive mood but the waiter was patient. I was less so due to the fact that I was an hour past hungry but we both waited for Rick to make his choice. The waiter helped him out by reciting the ingredients of the various salads. It was becoming clear that the C&A Steak Company has put a great deal of thought into their few offerings. Don't expect iceberg lettuce with a sliver of unripe tomato and the predictable raspberry vinaigrette dressing which is typically offered by restaurants without imagination. It seemed each salad contained ingredients which were deliberately chosen to be both provocative and tasty. It was difficult not to order one of everything.
I decided on the Filet Mignon with Lobster Tail at approximately $50, while my husband asked for the Peppercorn Strip Loin at $40. The waiter promised that these were good sized portions so we skipped the salads deciding that we might save room for dessert if we could manage it. The waiter was adept at the power of suggestion and his enthusiastic descriptions of everything made it difficult to be sure of our decisions.
I'll be honest. I wasn't expecting much. I've eaten lobster in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland where it is so fresh it almost jumps out of the water onto your plate. However, here in Ontario ordering lobster usually results in a sensory assault; dry, rubbery white flesh which needs to be doused in butter just to make it taste good. It's not unlike eating a rubber band dipped in oil. The same goes for calamari. I usually am not brave enough to order these things. My cynicism comes after years of disappointments. But, being an eternal optimist, or a glutton for punishment, I just keep trying.
Okay, I've given you all enough background information to tell you why I expected the worst but let me tell you why the C&A Steak Company deserves a rave review from your humble webmaster.
The waiter brings a basket of bread wrapped in a linen napkin and a side plate of butter and sets them down on our table. I giggle because the thinly sliced square of butter looks like processed cheese but there is no laughing once the aroma of the warm bread makes its way to my nose. Mmmmm! It smells heavenly! It's hot, tastes freshly baked and soothes the intense hunger which previously made me feel impatient to order. We are now settling in to what now feels like a real anniversary dinner. The stresses of our day are now disappearing.
The waiter returns with our meals and before he finishes setting them both down he asks us if we would use our knives to test the meat to be sure it is exactly as we ordered. It's an oddly appropriate question but one that I don't think any waiter has ever asked. We slice the meat for a quick look and I decide mine could probably stand a few more seconds on the grill. My filet is whisked away and returned in what seems like seconds - perfect! We settle into the task of devouring all that we see.
The portions are healthy but they look deceptively modest on the large white plates. The waiter returns to offer us some fresh tomato and green onion. If you expect your vegetables to be slathered in a sweet, salty, or greasy sauce, you may be disappointed but it is refreshing in the middle of March to be served a wonderful, ripe tomato and a strip of onion which is not dehydrated, pock-marked, wilted and sad looking. Too often the chef will overlook the quality of the vegetable just to be able to serve a tomato in winter. That's not good enough for me. There is a lot to be said for serving vegetables in season and although tomato is not traditionally a winter vegetable, these looked and tasted like they were cultivated in the chef's private greenhouse. The meal also included a healthy portion of whipped mashed potatoes, some fresh and plump winter snow peas and a side of crispy onions. As enticing as the side dishes were, it was the steak and lobster which were the real stars of this show. The C&A Steak Company knows how to choose and cook steak and lobster.
The filet mignon was melt-in-your-mouth tender. Seared on the outside, cooked to perfection inside. The peppercorn steak also tender, juicy and full of flavour. We were not surprised by the quality of the C&A Steak Company's steaks as we had stopped here for lunch once during the summer. However, the real surprise was the lobster tail! Plump, tender, sweet and fresh. I cannot emphasize enough that "fresh" is the best word to describe everything. It was so fresh in fact that dipping it in butter would ruin the taste. Good lobster doesn't need help.
I was prepared to be disappointed and instead I was treated to one of the best meals I have had in a restaurant in years! All fresh, all cooked to perfection, no tricks to disguise food which is out of season or less than fresh. Just hearty, delicious, wonderful food all served with an attitude which comes from knowing that the product is excellent.
Beyond the Obvious
And one final note about the C&A Steak Company. No meal can truly be enjoyed if the surroundings are not clean. I worked in restaurants when I was younger and I know that if you see dust, fingerprints and other signs that cleanliness is not at the top of the restaurant owner's mind, you can be sure that the kitchen suffers too. The real story in far too many restaurants is told in the washrooms. Nobody likes cleaning them but if this area is neglected it is like telling your guests that they just don't matter. The washrooms were not only spic and span, there was extra special thought given to your comfort in the form of a sweet smelling air freshener to delight your senses as you entered the room, lightly scented soap in pump dispensers and my favourite - wash-cloth sized hand towels rolled up and ready for you to use to dry your hands. There was no detail of comfort or cleanliness missed.
The bill came to $108.48, hst included. We tipped 20% to show our appreciation and I can honestly say it was worth every penny. The C&A Steak Company is highly recommended. We can only hope they continue their extraordinary attention to every detail.
Location, Contact Info and Details
The C&A Steak Company is located at the Village At Blue in the Old School House building in the centre of the complex. Parking is free.
Reservations are recommended but on both of our visits we were seated without one.
Phone for hours of operation, or visit their website http://www.candasteakcompany.com
Dress code is "resort casual".
Payment: On our visit, there was no debit but there is an ATM machine on site. They also accept all major credit cards and of course cash.
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