Let’s just get this out of the way, the CN Tower is a tourist trap. But little kids don’t care.
Even before we moved to Toronto, H and T recognized the CN Tower from a cute ABC book their aunt gave them. So of course, once we arrived, they regularly asked when we could check it out.
I’m loathe to pay $35 per adult and $25 per child (aged 4-12) just to ride an elevator to the top and look around for a few minutes… half hour tops. Yes, I’m a cheapskate mother.
However, on my parents’ last visit from Vancouver, my sister suggested that we take them to the rotating restaurant atop the CN Tower for dinner. At least that way, we could eat while being price-gouged.
If you dine at the 360 The Restaurant at The CN Tower (WHY is there an extra “the”) and order a prix fixe meal, then the price of entry to the top is included.
An adult two-course prix fixe is $65, and a three-course is $79. The children’s prix fixe for those 12 and under is $40, and probably the best deal in the house.
Business was brisk at the CN Tower, even on a freezing Sunday evening after Christmas. Make sure you set aside ample time to find parking, walking from there to the tower, security screenings and lineups (like getting through the airport).
Dinner reservations come with privileges. We bypassed most of the lineups, straight to a reception desk, where we could check our coats. Then we got into one of the glass elevators for the one-minute ride up to the restaurant.
The view is pretty darn cool as the dining room makes a full rotation every 72 minutes. H was especially taken with the tiny ice skaters on illuminated outdoor rinks, while three-year-old T couldn’t quite make the connection that some of the lights below were cars on a highway.
The kids’ menu has your standard chicken fingers, and penne pasta, but I was happy to see additional variety like salmon and asparagus or prime rib.
No surprise that my boys had the 45-day aged Alberta prime rib, and medium rare to boot. I wouldn’t be surprised if the “child cut” was almost 8 oz. Someone ^^ was in heaven.
The kids’ desserts that came with the prix fixe were enormous. The ice cream is served in sundae glasses, and the chocolate chip cookie really is jumbo. (Perhaps that’s why by the time the children got to the glass floor of the observation deck, all they wanted to do was run around in circles and stomp on it. Just a guess.)
To be honest, our expectations for dinner were low. We were pleasantly surprised by how smoothly the place was run, and how there is quite an effort and thought put into the food, which showcases Canadian ingredients. (Many, many international tourists do come here, after all.)
The menu tries to cover vegetarians, omnivores and all those in between. For starters, a few at our table tried the mushroom chowder — made with tarragon from the tower’s rooftop garden, P.E.I. potatoes and Niagara quinoa. (I heard mostly slurping from that end of the table so I assume it was good.)
I ordered the beef tartar, featuring locally made mustard, house pickles and charred habanero aïoli. It was fresh, and well put-together, but I keep coming back to “inoffensive” as the best way to describe it.
On a whim, I opted for the Atlantic salmon, with crab hollandaise, sea asparagus, spinach and beluga lentils. The flavours were all there, but the salmon was slightly overcooked. Again, inoffensive.
Apparently, many of us were in a seafood mood (or perhaps just too bloated from the holiday excess). The other dish I saw around our table was the cod from Fogo Island, Nfld. (oh, how I long to visit there one day).
With pickled spruce tip tapenade, sweet potato confit, charred broccolini, and tomato thyme jus, the cod was probably the winner of the night, other than the prime rib.
Since it was the holidays, almost every table was packed with extended families. The servers have the patience of saints: I don’t know how many times they had to remind kids (mine included) to not climb on the radiators that line the windows, or mind the tiny gap in the moving floor lest their tiny feet get stuck.
I also saw them deftly dodge children who were too enchanted with a moving restaurant to notice someone carrying a tray of entrees. It comes with the territory, I suppose.
Dessert was quite lovely. Jason and I split a dark chocolate tower with fresh cream, toffee liqueur and preserved berry compote. I’m not a sweets person, but this wasn’t overly sweet or bland. Er, it was inoffensive. Not that that’s a bad thing!
My dad quite enjoyed his warm caramel apple crisp, accompanied with a much more modern sour cream ice cream, green apple floss (cotton candy!) and praline chips.
One of the showcase items at the 360 Restaurant are the impressive-looking seafood towers. I snuck a shot of the three-tiered one at the table behind us, which was obviously four guys on a business dinner. Other than the fact they were doing that loud-businessman talking, a corporate expense could be the only justification for forking out $180 for chilled seafood. (That could get you, like, 18 lobsters in northern N.B.!)
But I digress.
After dinner, we all visited the observation deck one floor below. Truthfully, I think we had a better unobstructed view from the restaurant. But here, you can go outside and feel the “breeze”!
The kids could not get enough of the glass floor, where you can look 342 metres(more than 1,100 ft.) straight down to the ground. They’re also allowed to walk and even jump on it, as the CN Tower promises that the glass can “actually withstand the weight of 35 moose.” Or four children hopped up on ice cream.
So, long story short:
- The restaurant is not cheap.
- It’s inoffensive.
- Do it for the kids.