C Restaurant

The sun made a rare appearance this particular weekend night and we were lucky enough to bask in it during our patio dinner at C Restaurant. It’s been a very long time since I dined at C and looked forward to the fine cuisine and expansive wine list. And it was prime time to use the Groupon I had purchased: $120 for 10-Course Seafood Tasting Menu for Two ($240 Value).

It was a less than an impressive meal. It was unfortunate as the plating was meticulous and the waterfront view was fantastic. What put a damper to our experience was a pompous waiter who wasn’t very attentive and timing of the service and dishes that spanned nearly 3 hours. At the beginning of our dinner, it felt like it took forever for the waiter to serve us water and asked us for our drink and dinner order. In terms of the dishes, some were delicate and spectacular and some had flavours that didn’t seem too blend well. I have very high regards for Rob Clark and Lee Humphries so I may come back and properly try from the menu.

Instead, I’ll turn this post into what I’ve learned about food ‘iPhoneography’ and use our C Restaurant meal as examples. Here’s some of my general rules of thumb:
1) 1-2 picture rule. Unless I’m with friends or other food bloggers, I try to ONLY take 1-2 pictures of each dish.
2) Ask. If I’m with a new friend or coworkers, I always ask if I could snap a food picture
3) Presets. Many iphone camera apps let you pre-set so when I get a chance I play around with these features. When it’s time to take pictures, I’m ready with the type of filter and settings I want.
4) Darkness. If it’s just too dark to take a picture, I don’t even bother.
5) Sharing. Like rule number 2, if I’m with people I know I go ahead and share my pictures on my social media channels. Also remember it’s not the end of the world if you have to share it a few hours later.

So here’s what I’ve learned from my ongoing Trial and Error experiments (sorry I should have done a before/after treatment to the photos :-p)
A) Ready to shoot!
When I take a picture, I rotate through a few apps. If I need to quickly shoot, I’d just use the default Camera app.  When I have a few seconds to adjust and calibrate the exposure I would use  Camera+ app but if the lighting is too low I would use Mattebox.  Mattebox allows me to be particular and adjust the white balance, exposure, and such immediately afterwards. Below chilled cucumber soup shot was mellow and bit on the gray-scaled side.  While adjusting, I focused on bringing out the vibrant green of the soup and the rim of the bowl for the contrast.

Chilled cucumber soup with smoked sablefish and lemonade foam

B) Angles and Lighting
If you’re in a restaurant, most of the time it’s inevitable that the indoor lighting would be too low;  therefore find another light source! Sit near the windows for natural lighting, grab a couple of table candles, or ask your friend to use their flashlight app with a thin napkin over the light source…voila! an impromptu softbox-ish effect

With angles, it’s a matter of playing and moving the plate around.  Now due to my 1-2 picture rule, I have to make the decision FAST! Sometimes it’s the right one and I luck out, and sometimes I just have to work with what I have.  The types of shots I usually try to take are up-close macro effect, side view,  or above dish shot.  For this tuna tartare shot, the visual and layout of the dish was ‘flat’ so it would have been difficult to capture the dimensions and textures from a side view.  The deconstructed nature of the plating was simple yet effective so I did an above shot to capture the layout of the dish.

Tuna tartare with nori crackers and ponzu dressing

C) Time to edit!
I go through at least 2 apps to edit my pictures before I share them.  For example, I rarely just use the filters on Instagram and Path and then click the share button.  Once again, it really depends on the quality of the original picture and on my mood (LOL).  If I’m particularly fussy, I tend to run the picture through Mattebox if I feel the exposure, white balance, etc of the shot is off.  But nowadays I’ve been using PictureShow or Snapseed for tweaking and filters.  I really like the options and flexibility of the features especially the tilt shift .  If I need to quickly edit and apply a funky filter, I go back to Camera+.

For this visually stunning dish, I just used Snapseed for editing. My focus was to capture the vibrant colours and details with some sharpening and contrast.

Spot prawn, bacon-lime tortellini with black bean puree, jalapeno fluid gel, and fava beans

I advise to try to hold back and not ‘filter your photo to death’ ie tilt shift beyond recognition, apply a nonsensical filter or saturate it until it looks like a Warhol painting (unless you’re doing that on purpose). Sometimes I do apply a fun filter to reflect the theme of the restaurant (ie vintage filter for diner food). But like the most basic lesson of cooking, the best is when it’s simple and the food should speak for itself :-)

C Restaurant
2-1600 Howe Street
C Restaurant on Urbanspoon


  1. 08/06/12 at 19:53

    Nice photo tips! That last spot prawn photo is awesome for an iPhone pic! Do you know if either of those phone apps are on Android as well?

    Btw re: C that sucks about the service. I suspect it was b/c you were using a Groupon, which isn’t a reason for poor service, but sometimes nicer places do put on that silly attitude.

  2. 16/06/12 at 8:47

    Terrific photos and useful tips. Lighting is always tricky in restaurants and sometimes even the prettiest and best tasting dishes turn out looking poorly.

    Was it a very long time ago that C was considered a top tier restaurant in this city? How times have changed. At least the view remains unchanged.

  3. Senses Inspired
    20/06/12 at 14:53

    @Liv indeed it all comes to the food!

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