The Roof at Black + Blue punches up the classics

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      Nothing beats a patio with a sparkling-water view. The Roof at Black + Blue, however, offers scenery of an altogether different sort. Here’s a place for people who like to see and be seen.

      The scene might not be for everyone, but there’s no arguing that the patrons have good taste in food. Headed by executive chef Jason Labahn, this kitchen delivers.

      To clear up any confusion, the Roof at Black + Blue is not simply Black + Blue’s patio, but rather a stand-alone restaurant, complete with its own kitchen and menu. Turning the third-storey roof into an alfresco eatery was a smart move for the Glowbal Collection, which operates a steak house below that may not be the ticket when the weather calls for sipping icy drinks in the sun.

      Outside is a stylish space with glass-encased fireplace walls, sculptural bronze light fixtures, and enormous black umbrellas on shiny silver stands, while a separate lounge area has elegant fire pits and glowing, ice-cube-like seats. Looking out from the Roof in any direction, there isn’t much to see: a parkade across the street, for instance. But nobody’s looking past the tables surrounding them anyway.

      It seemed to be a particularly chummy place the night we visited, with many hugs and kisses exchanged between the staff members—in particular, the men in black suits wearing headsets who made sure empty tables were reset quickly—and diners. There was even one customer who had an extra wine glass on his table from which various waiters took sips now and then.

      While Black + Blue has numerous steaks on offer, the Roof has just three (an eight-ounce beef tenderloin, a 12-ounce New York strip loin, and a 24-ounce bone-in rib eye). The steaks are all from P.E.I.’s Blue Ribbon program, meaning they’re among the country’s best. The rest of the menu consists mainly of fairly straightforward fare—oysters, calamari, nachos, flatbread, a burger, and two types of risotto (one with spot prawns, baby zucchini, tomatoes, lemon, and arugula, the other with wood-roasted wild mushrooms).

      The standout dishes here are the ones cooked on the resto’s Josper grill. This beast is the kind of toy every chef covets, a “barbecue” that makes a Weber seem just so-so. The only one of its kind in Canada, it’s a hybrid of a wood-burning grill and a charcoal broiler oven. Its heat is fierce, with internal temperatures reaching 1,700 ° F, so cooking is swift, but the grill’s closed door ensures that no moisture or flavour escapes from whatever’s being cooked, whether it’s Baja scallops, lobster tails, or thick slabs of beef. Our server claimed that the Josper gives food an unquestionably deeper flavour than other grills, and he was right.

      The perfectly seared strip loin was super-succulent, the bright green chimichurri sauce atop giving it a bold kick. The only complaint about that dish was an under-roasted head of garlic. Instead of being sweet and soft, the garlic was still firm, the kind of stuff that stays with you the day after.

      A signature Roof at Black + Blue dish is the jerk chicken. The recipe comes from Sam Bailey, one of Black + Blue’s sous chefs, a native of Jamaica. It has the usual hot peppers, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger, but, not surprisingly, Glowbal Collection corporate chef Ryan Gauthier wouldn’t reveal the dish’s secret ingredients in a follow-up inquiry. He did say that the chicken thighs are marinated for a full 24 hours. The tender, toothsome poultry is served with a lovely quinoa salad with almonds, garlic, tomato, zucchini, and onion.

      Phyllo prawns are a decidedly terrific starter. Four fat black tiger shrimp are enveloped in an abundance of small, frilly ribbons of the delicate pastry. Each looks like an elaborately gift-wrapped beehive. The meaty prawns are topped with scallions and accompanied by a sweet chili sauce. Deep-fried never tasted quite so fine.

      There are some inventive cocktails here, such as the Citrus Mule, which consists of Bacardi white rum, limoncello, peach purée, fresh lime, and ginger ale. And there’s a fun dessert too: a banana split, complete with sponge toffee, maraschino cherries, and a little bit of chocolate and caramel sauce. Better for your teeth and overall health would be a slice of 23 Apple Pie, which gets its name from the number of Granny Smith apples used in each one.

      Dinner for two with two cocktails and a half-litre of wine came to $144 before tax and tip. Service was excellent and our waiter was attentive without hovering. Plus, there’s a great deal here on Fridays at lunch, as at other Glowbal restaurants: $10 gets you a beer and a B + B Burger. Cooked on the Josper grill, that burger is a smokin’ deal.

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