Boil-in-a-bag Cajun & Asian-inspired seafood has recently been a big hit in the 6, with The Captain’s Boil leading the charge in opening two locations. Afraid of long line-ups at The Captain’s Boil? Need not fret, as we have a new entry in this latest food trend with the arrival of The Boil Bar! Please note: in this review there will be many references and comparisons between The Boil Bar and The Captain’s Boil, but this is inevitable due to the fact that they both run very similar operations and themes.
Situated deep in Silver Star Boulevard in Toronto, the restaurant’s seating arrangements and overall atmosphere play up to the restaurant’s friendly lobster mascot. The tables are set spaciously apart from one another and there is a bubble tea bar by Presotea set at the rear of the restaurant. Similar to the ordering system employed by The Captain’s Boil, customers first select the main dish by the pound. Afterwards they select a sauce and lastly the spiciness level for the sauce. The mains here are a variety of fresh seafood that is delivered on a daily basis, ranging from crawfish (seasonal) & mussels, to more exotic seafood such as snow crab leg, lobster, and even king crab leg. Likewise, there are a variety of flavourful sauces for customers to select, ranging from lemon pepper, Cajun, to more Asian flavours such as curry sauce and The Boil Bar’s self-made house sauce.
Since we were invited to partake in their grand opening media event, we were provided with a set menu allowing us to sample a selection of their menu. The menu was separated into an oyster appetizer, along with an assortment of pre-set main dishes with predetermined sauces and spiciness level, and finally ending with a dessert.
The oyster appetizer consisted of a plate of Fanny Bay oysters. Oddly enough, oysters are not part of the regular menu. The oysters were big and juicy, with the usual slight metallic ting accompanied by the cucumber-flavoured finish. All-in-all, a solid oyster offering but nothing stood out (3.5/5).
Next, the craw fish with sweet corn and sausage. This was provided to us in a plastic bag where the food was submerged in a bath of Cajun sauce that was labeled as mild spicy. The sweet corn and sausage tasted fine, but the craw fish was a bit of a letdown due to the fact that the Cajun sauce tasted very bland and watered down (3/5). The lack of bold flavours in the sauce would be a reoccurring trend for all the main dishes.
Likewise, the mussels came in a bag submerged in garlic sauce described as a bit spicy. Again, mussels were large in size and juicy, but lacked flavour from the garlic sauce and as a result we were unable to really enjoy the breadth of flavours (3/5). Also, what’s the difference between labeling a sauce as mild spicy versus a bit spicy if there was no valid difference in spiciness that could be detected by our taste palate?
The king crab legs came next in a lemon pepper sauce that was a bit spicy. Again, the seafood was accompanied by sweet corn and sausage. The lemon pepper sauce complimented the king crab legs well but again, lack of bold flavours due to a watered down sauce meant that it tasted bland (3.5/5). Another similar reoccurring trend that you may have noticed by now is how the seafood seems to be constantly paired with sweet corn and sausage…
The clams arrived bathed in The Boil Bar’s special house sauce described as mild spicy. The clams tasted fresh but again, the sauce was overall bland (3/5). By now, we felt that all the sauces tasted very similar to one-another; it was getting hard to tell the differences between the various sauces due to the fact that they all tasted watered down and bland. The house sauce tasted literally the same as the Cajun sauce, albeit the Cajun sauce had a very slight tinge of the Cajun spice.
Next on the menu was the Sizzling Chicken Plate, which was served with a healthy portion of steamed rice. The chicken tasted like regular grilled chicken one can cook at home, and the rice was just regular steamed white rice. The sizzling hot plate felt like a cheap gimmick since the sizzling only happens when the accompanying sauce is poured on top of the dish (2.5/5).This menu item felt very out of place, considering the restaurant is supposed to be specializing in seafood. We also felt it was a weird experience to be eating so much seafood and all of a sudden have a plate of chicken and rice in front of us. The dish had nothing that stood out about it – we felt that we could have cooked a similar dish at home without even needing a hot plate. We certainly felt that if it is to be included in the menu amongst so many seafood items, then the dish certainly needs to stand out in order to warrant customers to order it.
Last on the main courses was the Baked Lobster. This was definitely a good and positive note to end the main courses with, as the lobster meat was plentiful and the baked cheese tasted very cheesy and did not make us feel bloated. Having the baked cheese on top also meant that we could crack open the lobster claw, take out the claw meat and dip it into the baked cheese. This allowed us to not only have some fun with the dish, but also enjoy the cheesy and gooey goodness (3.5/5).
The dinner ended with dessert, which consisted of Grilled Sweet Corn. Again, very unorthodox version of what one would expect Grilled Sweet Corn to be. This version seems to be a pizza-like flatbread of corn, held together by deep-fried panko and layered on top with a large dosage of sugar. When you bite into it, you expect to taste corn but instead all you taste is the powdered sugar and the flavourless panko (2.5/5).
The event overall was run very well and service was quick to respond. The event organizers were very friendly in nature and provided gift bags at the end of the event consisting of a gift card, a press release along with photocopy of the event menu, and a much needed pack of gum. In summary, The Boil Bar definitely has room for improvement before being able to meet the expectations one might have after visiting The Captain’s Boil. The Boil Bar should not shy away from this fight, as they have the right approach but just need further refinement of their menu items. We’re excited to come back at a later date and have a fun and messy time eating delicious seafood!