Sublime food in a warm atmosphere puts this
Lorne Park eatery at the top of our secret diner’s list.
Words by Tara Pepper
In the heart of Lorne Park lives a wonderful restaurant called Tu Casa.
In English, “tu casa” means “your home” and I felt this vibe instantly when Bobby and I visited on a recent Saturday night.
Tu Casa has been open for two years and the large, yet cozy space has a lovely, elegant ambience with warm wood and soft lighting.
Our friendly host was very accommodating when he offered us our choice of seating. We decided on a table in the corner where we could observe the organized, professional hustle and bustle of the busy restaurant. Turns out it’s the most requested table in the place.
The clientele was sophisticated and mature; there were several different birthday parties with groups of four or six. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen so many servers and staff on the floor at one time. It was amazing to watch the choreographed dance as they moved between tables to take care of the diners. Tu Casa is truly a seasoned establishment where unobtrusive, exceptional service is a top priority.
Our server was excellent; attentive but also very patient when we couldn’t decide what to order! After we were seated, we enjoyed some sparkling wine with a single, fat blueberry floating in the bottom. What a lovely beginning to what was to become an extremely memorable evening.
Bobby prides himself on his martini-making ability… a simple vodka recipe with just the right amount of vermouth and a couple of olives. Could Tu Casa improve on that? He said they did and I agree. The martini was smooth and absolutely perfect. I opted for a Cosmopolitan—one of my favourites—and it did not disappoint. It was light and crisp with just the right amount of sweetness… much better than any other Cosmo I’ve had recently, and although I hate to admit it, better than the ones I make! Would they part with the recipe, or better yet, teach me how to make it, I wonder?
The extensive wine list would please the most discriminating palate. Choosing from over 200 options, with prices ranging from $28 to $400, we opted for an Italian Primitivo (Ugozanier $45) which is the grandfather grape of the great California Zinfandels that we love so much. It was excellent… smooth, bold, well rounded and an excellent value.
A basket of assorted breads was brought to the table accompanied by a cumin-scented spread, whipped butter and the most delicious olive oil and balsamic dipper. The balsamic vinegar had just the right amount of sweetness and tartness to compliment the fruity olive oil.
The menu selections were eclectic, with Mediterranean and continental offerings and the daily specials make the decision of what to order that much more challenging. Appetizers ($9.75 to $18.75) included a Baked Eggplant Tower, Sesame Crusted Tuna, Lobster and Duck Spring Rolls and Steamed PEI Mussels. Bobby opted for Scallops Provencal which arrived seared perfectly golden brown. On the side was a tomato concasse, a perfect blend of juicy tomato, bright garlic and parsley, tuned perfectly like a band, where you can hear each instrument separately but they blend together into a perfect harmony.
I chose the Escargot and was delighted when it appeared in a parcel of golden puff pastry like a gift waiting to be opened. When I cut into the buttery, flaky pastry, the aroma of gruyere cheese and herbs rose to tickle my nose, with the scent of tarragon emanating from the accompanying sauce. The escargot themselves were tender and plump. Magnificent!
The menu offered many different soup and salad options ($6.50 to $14.50) including a Warm Salad of the Day special and the classics: Caesar, Baked Goat Cheese, Caprese and a Pear and Stilton combo that sounded wonderful. Instead, we picked an appetizer portion of the Daily Risotto to share: Beef Tenderloin, Artichoke and Rapini. It was a very tasty combination and although I usually find rapini to be bitter, it was cooked to perfection with not a bit of harshness at all. The chance to order an appetizer size of a main to extend the dinner with a pasta/risotto course was a great offering and reasonably priced.
For our main ($22.75 to $38.75), I chose one of the specials: Sea Bass in a Parmesan Crust. It was served on a bed of sweet potatoes and was crispy on the outside yet flaky and juicy inside. Bobby chose— and I know it’s not for everyone—the provimi calf liver. This is usually a hit or miss choice and one that most restaurants miss, but at Tu Casa, it was sublime! The liver was mellow and cooked perfectly medium. I can’t begin to describe the accompanying sauce, a flavourful gravy with a hint of balsamic vinegar and a silky, smooth finish. Unbelievable! The vegetables that accompanied both of our dishes: cauliflower, green beans, asparagus and peppers were expertly steamed—that subtle, tender yet crisp texture that only a true chef can accomplish.
I didn’t think I could manage dessert ($9 to $11). But when our server mentioned the Banana Spring Rolls with homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, I couldn’t resist and I’m so glad I didn’t! The banana was wrapped in a hot, crispy wonton shell with just a touch of chocolate inside, topped with a drizzle of caramel sauce. Accompanied by the velvety ice cream? I thought I had gone to heaven. Bobby went for the Cr?me Brulee and was not disappointed.
To end the meal, he also had a wonderful cup of brewed coffee, which he deemed excellent. They also have a nice selection of cheeses and aged after-dinner drinks.
Tu Casa is truly a quality establishment with a pride in their attention to detail that is rarely seen these days. The service was excellent, the ambiance comfortable and most importantly, the food was very, very good.
All in all, we’ve definitely placed Tu Casa high on our list of places to return to in the very near future. It’s a great venue for a romantic dinner for two or a celebration party for however many friends you’d like to share it with. Enjoy!