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This Steakhouse Embraces the Bold While Honouring Traditions

07/15/2015 12:38 EDT | Updated 07/15/2016 05:59 EDT
Valentyn Volkov / Alamy

There's a disparity between The Doctor's House and XXI Chophouse, the restaurant situated inside the historic building. But the yin and yang appearance is no accident. It reflects the younger generation of the Graci family who currently own the property; they embrace the bold while honouring their predecessors' traditions.

The building itself is already rife with heritage. Located in Kleinburg,Ont. The Doctor's House gets its name from a league of medical men who practiced there in the 1870s, including one whose practice spanned 52 years. By 1974, the property changed hands and the first restaurant was built. By the 1990s, a succession of buildings were erected to take advantage of the serene beauty and lush greenery, these included a chapel, banquet rooms and rooftop patios. Most recently, they welcomed the opening of this steakhouse.

Despite a boldly modern aesthetic created by Renato Lamonaco of L15Design Studio, the steakhouse is built around the original beam work of the stable and haymow. XXI Chophouse boasts a blend of equine accents, bronze finishes, imported Italian marble, rich wood flooring, a wine wall, and a showcase of dark spirits. The cost of this transformation was $4 million. For Ben and Marc Graci, it was imperative to spare no expense -- they wanted the quality of the space to reflect the steakhouse's cuisine.

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Photo courtesy of the Image Commission

Indeed, the space was luxurious. It is something I wouldn't be surprised to see in a seductive Miami outpost. However, as much as I wanted the evening's menu to be a success, there were a few issues with the execution of the food. The tiers of shellfish we began the evening with left many in breathless awe, but aside from the Alaskan king crab, the remaining seafood, such as the lobster and clams were a textural disaster: overcooked and rubbery.

Fortunately, the second course teemed with delicious redemption. The caprese salad was an interlude of palate pleasure. The bufala mozzarella was creamy and buttery, and best of all, it brought out the natural sweetness of the heirloom tomatoes.

Another plate of starters streamed out of the kitchen and they featured a quintet of "bites." If you're coming here with a large party, then order some and share; otherwise, I'd advise you to save room for the main meat event instead. Aside from a slight "off-shellfish" taste from the lobster bisque, there was nothing wrong with these items per se, but also nothing remarkable about them.

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Photo courtesy of Katie Flood

Then came the meat parade including a float of sides. First, the beef. I was able to try both cuts on offer that evening: Paradise Farms organic 10oz New York striploin and the U.S. prime 8 oz filet mignon. While I ordered the former, I actually preferred the filet my dining companion had because it was cooked to the requested medium-rare. I noticed this was a recurring trend with my fellow carnivores -- some received more tender and succulent pieces than others. I surmise that if they tighten up the cooking consistency in the kitchen, none of us would suffer from meat envy.

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Photo courtesy of Katie Flood

As for the supporting players, I found my kindred spirit in those potatoes au gratin; a provision of unabashedly rich comfort. The same could be said for the mashed potatoes with lobster morsels. But the mac and cheese shared the common plight of the evening's weaker dishes -- the macaroni was bone dry and desperately seeking sauce.

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Photo courtesy of Katie Flood

To finish our meat-riddled evening, dessert arrived in the form of mini-doughnuts which featured a trio of dipping sauces. Personally, I enjoyed the deep-fried sweets on their own. They were akin to dense little cakes, similar to the texture of a savoury Chinese doughnut.

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Photo courtesy of Katie Flood

Would I try XXI Chophouse again? Yes, despite the fluctuating performance of some of the dishes, this is a walled oasis of meats for enjoying. They've cultivated a tapestry of contemporary and classic features at The Doctor's House I think many who visit Kleinburg will appreciate and enjoy.

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