“Neo bistro” is how the latest French restaurant in Toronto, with the team composed of alumni from Campagnolo, Le Select, Alo, and Ortalan, is defining itself. “My heart is in Toronto, I was born in Toronto, and I love Toronto. So, I wanted to build a bistro for Toronto,” says executive chef Luke Donato. “Everyone knows New York bistro, and of course, people know what Parisian bistro is, and I just think we can carve our own mould of what that is, our own bistro scene.”
What this translates to is modern versions of dishes where familiar bistro dishes are tweaked and transformed, and served alongside untouchable classics like pâté grandmère, steak frites, raw bar selections. For example, the chef adds cocoa into the agnolotti pasta dough to push its earthy flavour, then tops soft pillows of noodles with hen of the woods mushrooms and snails. “There’s snails, parsley, mushrooms, and garlic—but it’s not served in a funny little dish,” says Donato, referring to the classic presentation of escargots. “It still pulls on the heartstrings but it’s a fresh idea of what bistro can be.”
For beverages, the approachable wine program features more than two dozen bottles, and a handful of French-inspired cocktails—like the whimsical herbes de Provence and crème de violette-spiked Dalì, and a gin-based drink named for Édith Piaf, are fun and tasty. “And after a few, you might be singing Piaf from on top of the table,” jokes bar manager Jason Griffin. Coming soon: a not-so-secret secret absinthe menu (the trick is to just ask for it).
Located south of Queen West (but not quite in Liberty Village), Bacchanal, which implies wild revelry, is actually in a cozy and quiet residential spot. In the dining room, herringbone wooden flooring takes the place of the usual black and white floor tiles and there’s nary a bistro chair in sight in the striking 3,500-square-foot space. Plush mustard yellow leather banquettes and a mix of blue and grey tones fill the restaurant. And on the walls? A clever Toronto-inspired toile wallpaper created by DreamWorks and Sony Pictures animation artist Ray Xu. The Toronto bistro mould has been cast.
Bacchanal, 60 Sudbury St., Toronto, ON 416-586-1188.
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