From the outside, Oscar’s Restaurant looks suspiciously like a dance club, especially since it is located right beside The Ranch country bar downtown. But once you push past the steel front door, you’ll enter a stylish world of crisp white linens, elegant table settings, and contemporary, minimalist furnishings. Trendy background music and the flickering light of a fireplace set in a stone façade complete the backdrop for an exquisite, upscale dining experience. Having enjoyed several superb meals at Oscar’s before, my husband and I were delighted to learn that they were participating in the Barrielicious festival (which is on until July 24). Unfortunately, Oscar’s noticeably strained staff seemed unable to deliver their usually excellent service, and our dinner was less than stellar.
After we had made a reservation by phone a few hours earlier, we arrived at Oscar’s excited to eat – only to find that they hadn’t noted down our information when we called. Although they scrambled to find a table for us, it marked the beginning of a long and disappointing dinner. The harried wait staff, who usually offer personalized service lightly sprinkled with humour, barely had the time to smile as they jotted down our orders and disappeared. Confusion about table assignments had us repeating our orders, and our water glasses remained empty until we finally decided to hail a server. That one member of the staff was taking care of some accounting business at the bar did nothing to improve the ambiance.
At this point, we were in dire need of some good food – which arrived in the form of our appetizers, a pleasing combination of contrasts in colour and texture. A deliciously crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside (if somewhat over-salted) cube of pork belly rested on a bed of vibrant wilted greens, punctuated by creamy, perfectly seasoned white gnocchi. Beautifully presented on a rectangular plate, the juicy morsel of pork nearly melted in my mouth. Sadly, our main dish was less impressive. A slab of under-seasoned, over-cooked pork loin roast was sitting on an uninspired mixture of vegetables and a strange polenta puree tinged with lemon. The pork loin, reduced to a dense, tasteless mass, was so tough that it was difficult to cut with a knife. The only thing I liked about the main entrée was the foie gras, which we had added on as a supplement. Thankfully, the dessert that ended our meal was delightful: a thin slice of chocolate torte drizzled with caramel and perfectly complemented by a dollop of banana cream. This torte is a long-time favourite at Oscar’s, and while it is absolutely fantastic, we would love to see executive chef and owner, Randy Feltis, expand his dessert repertoire.
Though we were disappointed by the service and food this time around, we will definitely give Oscar’s another try – perhaps on a day when we know it won’t be so busy. During the Barrielicious festival, dinner for two without drinks, taxes or tip costs just over $40, an excellent price for a three-course-meal. Normally, Oscar’s prix-fixe, three-course meal is $30 per person, which is also quite reasonable, though some diners may find the portions on the smaller side. We advise you to dress smartly; the other patrons are often dressed to impress. Oscar’s is a great place for a group of friends to share long conversations in a classy atmosphere. If you are looking for a truly romantic experience, ask for the table by the fireplace.
52b Bayfield Street, Barrie
Ambiance & Décor: 3.5/5
Cuisine: Fine Dining
Adventure Level: Pleasing to most palates
Atmosphere: Trendy formal