One can barely keep up with Charles Khabouth, who at last count has 21 clubs and restaurants, all successful, all snazzy, all cool. From Cabana pool bar (very Vegas) to Byblos (very good Middle Eastern), this is the guy with the Midas touch. His new place, Sofia, has 238 seats and has 110 seats on two patios. Big. But no doubt Mr. Khabouth can fill 348 seats in Yorkville. Every night.
The place is jumping already. Stand for three minutes at the podium and watch the non-stop parade of blondes with long legs in short skirts and guys in expensive suits. Where does all the money come from? And why does it flock here?
Our dinner for two, with two glasses of wine, came in at more than $250. Was it worth it? Depends on what you mean by worth it.
The food was meh (more on that later), but the scene is … quite the scene. All those blondes and guys who look like money, the Yorkville address and the entertaining decor.
The floor is particularly arresting, herringbone strips of remarkable stone. Tables are white lacquer, chairs and banquettes are plush cranberry velvet, and everywhere light reflects from the many milk glass chandeliers. Mirrored columns and walls. There’s even a crooner at a white baby grand on a platform.
Sofia’s aragosta crudo (IMAGE: JESSE MILNS)
Both male and female servers are, of course, pretty. Managers (older men in suits) rove constantly, checking the room for service. This makes us feel very important. The noise level, thanks to all those hard surfaces, is ear-splitting. All part of the scene.
Then there’s the food. Mostly southern Italian with the occasional excursion to the land of fusion. Like the lobster crudo, sweet, sexy raw lobster dressed with lemon, green onion and too-sweet mayo that tastes suspiciously like the Japanese kewpie mayo that sometimes dresses sushi. We veer back to Italy with agnolotti stuffed with ricotta and garnished with hazelnuts, black truffle and chanterelles. As I said, meh. Flavours neither robust nor interesting.
The zeppole di san giuseppe dessert with pistachio gelato (IMAGE: JESSE MILNS)
For mains we have two large wild shrimp for $12 each. Nice but not noteworthy. And not that big either for $12. And orata (sea bream) for $48, served with lemon butter. Also nice but not special. For sides we have rather plain broccoletti (the promised white balsamic and garlic apparently MIA) and Roman artichokes, the super-traditional Roman deep-fried artichokes. Problem here is that the kitchen has trimmed the artichokes incompletely and where we expect crunchy outside and soft inside, there are some fibrous leaves that don’t chew so good. And where oh where is the promised basil pesto?
Bottom line: So many pretty people, so popular already, not about the food.
RECOMMENDED DISHES: Insalata di arance, aragosta, rigatoni alla vodka and torta dell’opera, a decadent chocolate cake for two.
DRINKS: Nishan Nepulangoda (of Blowfish fame) whips up Italian-inspired signature martinis and tasty cocktails. There’s also an extensive wine list of international vintages.
PRICE: $250 for two.
OPEN: Mon.-Sat., 3 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
RESERVATIONS: It’s recommended that you book ahead of time at opentable.ca.
Sofia, 99 Yorkville Ave., 416-479-8974