Formoli Bistro has been around for a few years. It has gotten quite a nice reputation during that time for fine food in a quaint setting. I finally checked it out for myself and find myself having mixed feelings.
The first time I went was with a friend for lunch to try their famous Whiskey Burger. We heard that it was quite large and so we split it and a salad. Note that they have a $3 split charge on it, something I don't really care for. $3 to slice a burger in half? The burger was a hefty beef patty that is cooked to medium rare. It's juicy and full of flavor from the whiskey and the cheese.
The burger is one of those items that has become so known that it will never be taken off Formoli's burger. It's popularity was obvious on my second visit when I went for dinner with a friend. She saw the burger arrive at the next table and couldn't resist. It looked so luciously juicy. As we waited for our orders, burger after burger was being delivered around us. In fact, I believe that at each table at least one of the people had ordered the burger. But when our meals came out, the burger that was set in front my friend was obviously overcooked. The outside was crunchy, the thickness was thinner from the overcooking, and when she cut into it there was no pinkness like all those other burgers we had just seen. We somehow got a lemon burger! The wait staff did offer to remake it but my friend was hungry and wasn't patient enough to wait. At least they did take the burger completely off the bill.
I had been so enticed by the many delicious sounding offerings on the menu that I decided the best thing to do was to get two small plates versus an entree. I chose the sweetbreads and the poutine and, although delicious, was a bit disappointed in both.
First, the sweetbreads. The first time I had sweetbreads was at the Waterboy. Since then I pretty much judge all against theirs. Although both Waterboy and Formoli's price at the $13 mark, Waterboy serves a large, full plate versus the plate I got at Formoli's with two small sweetbreads on a bed of white beans. Although Formoli's was delicious and the white beans were a nice complement, I still felt shortchanged on the amount of sweetbreads on my plate. For preparation, sweetbreads have a membrane that has to be carefully removed by the chef before cooking. There was still some of the membrane on one of mine. So the dish tasted great, but lacked in value to me.
My other choice was the poutine because it said it had a brie cream and mentioned braised short rib and pork belly in the description. Therefore, I had some expectations. Poutine is popular in the Montreal, Canada area where it is French fries with cheese curds and gravy. I was expecting French fries with the brie cream in place of the curds and then a gravy with some meat in it. Turns out the beef and pork belly were cooked into the sauce, according to the waiter. Thus the lack of any trace of meat on my fries. But the brie cream sauce/gravy was delicious. Again, a successful dish flavorwise. I just think that it would take another step to awesomeness if it had some bits of meat.
I realized one should not compare a dish to one you had somewhere else, but it just can't be helped. In the case of the poutine, my first experience had been at Kupro's, where they have a gravy full of bits of short rib over their fries. So when I saw short rib beef and pork belly mentioned on the Formoli's description, a similar image/expectation was formed in my head.
All in all, I think the dishes have all been well made and flavorful. There were several dishes on the menu that it was hard to decide what to choose. I've always had wonderful, friendly service from the wait staff as well . I just had several disappointments in regards to value and expectations.