UPDATE: FRIDAY’S IS CLOSED. SIGN SAYS IT WILL BE “BURGERS ON MAIN”
When Friday’s Roast Beef House closed after a long run on Elgin Street, I was not among the mourners. Friday’s tasted weary 15 years ago.
What it did best – roast beef – it did well enough. If memory serves, service was caring. But other than the nostalgic worth of its 37 years in Elgin Street heritage quarters, there wasn’t much about Friday’s I could muster enthusiasm for. Except maybe for the entertainment by lounge crooner Noel Dimar in the piano bar.
When it reopened on the pretty Somerset Village strip (in the former home of Bocado Restaurant) now part of the Prime steakhouse family (owners of Prime 360, Manotick Prime) I assumed it would be as a contemporary example of the steakhouse model. I arrived to taste a born-again Friday’s. But high hopes were dashed, first when I saw the menu, and then when plates started arriving. These may be new digs, but this is a dreary lineup of tired-tasting food, season-be-damned dishes, and shortcut cooking, with hefty prices attached.
The supermarket buns arrive so hot we can’t touch them. You must avoid the crab cakes, which are mushy, roof-of-the-mouth sticky, and taste more of floury filler than crab. They come with a puddle of what tastes like grainy mustard and Miracle Whip. Scallops are leaking salty water and have a chemical flavour, while their maple sauce is icky-sweet and tastes more Aunt Jemima than the real deal. We don’t mind the spicy tomato sauce, made more interesting with anchovies, but the calamari, which we are told is stuffed (with what, our server can’t say) isn’t, and adding salty cashews to a plate of squid in red sauce seems to me a mistake. The escargots are nothing more than rubber conductors for an uncomfortable amount of garlic and butter. While the cheese on the Caesar doesn’t taste of Parmigiano, the romaine is crunchy and there’s evidence of anchovies in the dressing, improved with a squirt of lemon.
The fish is all frozen, we are told. The salmon is juiceless and dull. It comes with undercooked wild rice and overcooked basmati. The halibut is dry and salty. Almost inedible. Lamb arrives pink as requested, but hasn’t much flavour, served with a hard brick of garlic mashed potato that appears to have been carved out of a tray.
We’ve tried the ribs and can’t recommend them. The meat clings like stubborn barnacles to the bone, and they’ve been painted with something that tastes like Eau de Bourbon. We order sweet potato fries with them and get more of that hardtack mashed instead.
The signature dish is, of course, the roast beef, and though the meat is very nice, the gravy it is coated with is not. Ask for the salty jus on the side – it tastes darkly of liquid MSG. I’ve had one OK Yorkshire pudding, and one baseball one. The house baked potato wears a roof of rubbery cheese.
Asparagus are under-cooked and need trimming. Indeed, vegetables here tend to be too crunchy and unseasoned, except when they are over-cooked and over-seasoned, as they are with the roast potatoes, which arrive vaguely warm, crunchy-hard and coated with an icky seasoning mix.
Other than the crème caramel (with the pitted appearance of an amateur version, and with a caramel that tastes canned) and the chocolate pecan tart (which tastes of inferior chocolate and fake sauce) the desserts are all brought in.
The wine list is pretty dull for a steakhouse.