Toronto’s best French restaurants
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163 Spadina Avenue, 3rd Floor, 416-260-2222, alorestaurant.com
Patrick Kriss’ area above the Queen and Spadina jumble is home to one of the most unique dining experiences in this city or any other. The wines lie deep in the sustainable vintages of small producers. The waiters are effortlessly polite and warm. And the 10-course menu, plus the occasional spontaneous addition, is a relative bargain at $ 135 (there’s also a slightly longer, more expensive menu for those who want counter seating in the open kitchen). A night of last summer started with a fun Raspberry Point oyster sprinkled with plum vinegar and wild chamomile petals, and a golden mirrored plate from a salted petit four. Things were all the more exquisite: lightly salted fluke sashimi with a yuzu vinaigrette and sprinkled with a few flakes of cilantro stalk; meatier pieces of amberjack sprinkled with lime and garnished with curling, cucumber and radish finely cut into julienne; summer bites, Saltspring mussels and chanterelles in a smoked butter broth and yukon gold foam; Wagyu ribs rivaling richness with a pool of black sesame, dashi and roasted eggplant; plus a series of desserts, the highlight of a bowl of strawberries four ways: a dry roasted, macerated leaf, a jelly, and a swirl of ice cream. At the end, as the elevator brings you back to reality, you will plan your return.
4150 Yonge Street, 416-222-2220, aubergedupommier.com
The stylish staff speak a hint of French to all they greet while guests can be heard chatting in Portuguese, Korean, Spanish, and Mandarin. Grilled, dark scallops are supported by an oblong prism of crab terrine in a cool architectural appetizer. The Ã la carte dishes, although gussy, stick to the tried and tested: halibut, risotto, beef tenderloin. There’s more experimentation on the $ 115 champagne tasting menu. The seared foie gras, nestled in a small fluted chocolate tart, is accompanied by a sweet corn and quince marmalade as well as chanterelles and marinated apples for balance. And the piglet pucks, simmered suckling pig, are extremely rich.
60 Sudbury Street, 416-586-1188, bacchanale.ca
Chef Luke Donato prepares first-rate sauerkraut with a white pudding stuffed with veal and another stuffed with foie gras; thin slices of hamachi crudo and cucumber pebbles, dressed in a lemon emulsion; and a large rib of beef patty aged two months. But once you meet an artist like Pastry Chef Cori Osborne, formerly Alo, what matters most is what comes last. The two highlights at the end of the meal are its slice of spiced rum baba topped with a wave of white chocolate ganache, mini pineapple cubes and micro basil, and its Paris-Brest sprinkled with sugar, the best donut known to mankind: two layers of cabbage sandwich with hazelnut cream sprinkled with flakes of feuilletine. For all the work Osborne puts into them, they’re not unduly valuable – you don’t feel guilty for picking up a fork. The room is also magnificent, with its cognac benches and its walls covered with a canvas representing the little-known icons of Toronto: raccoons, Honest Ed’s and Zanzibar.
60 Yorkville Avenue, 416-963-6000, cafeboulud.com/toronto
Over the past six years, Daniel Boulud’s restaurant at the Four Seasons has changed chefs and undergone a makeover – as well as a menu overhaul – and the place is better than ever. Charcuterie, terrines and pÃ¢tÃ©s are a specialty here, and the terrific charcuterie board is a great way to start a meal; an imported roasting oven allows you to roast everything perfectly, from whole chickens to pineapples. The flagship dish is the pike quenelle, a Lyon-style dish of emulsified northern pike mixed with eggs, cooked in a crisp omelet and coated in a bowl of rich cognac-lobster sauce. Like CafÃ© Boulud itself, the dish is seamless.
89, rue Harbord, 647-341-3100, cafecancan.com
It’s impossible to be cranky at Victor Barry’s very rosy French spot. Everyone sips cocktails with champagne or rosÃ© on tap, deciding between the French classics: beefy onion soup under a cork oozing with GruyÃ¨re; three options of foie gras (pan-fried, parfait, with beef tenderloin); or a slice of coffee-scented opera cake. Luxury is the default mode. There’s even a Barry-fied burger topped with remoulade on a homemade milk bun.
90 Yorkville Avenue, 416-428-6641, chabrolrestaurant.com
There’s lots of toast and kisses under the crystal chandeliers at Chabrol, Doug Penfold’s little New York bistro. It is accessed by an alley and barely visible from the street: even an innocent meeting for lunch acquires a whiff of discreet meeting. Penfold works at a few burners behind the bar, thriving under stress. It composes a pork liver mousse with the perfect note; chestnut soup flavored with sorrel; a ballotine of chicken wrapped around roasted apples, with a hint of herbaceous watercress purÃ©e; and steaming plates of celeriac and escarole gratin. He’s saving the best for last: made-to-order apple pie, with a warm calvados sabayon slowly poured over it.
1320 Queen Street West, 416-628-3586, restaurantchantecler.com
Dining at Parkdale’s small French-inspired bistro is both delicious and cacophonous. The music is loud. The cutlery clicks. And, when the window facing the street is opened, a real siren song sounds. Fortunately, you don’t need ears to appreciate what Chef Peter Robson sends from Twee Cooking: Garlic Snail with Toasted Sourdough; asparagus drizzled with shallot hollandaise sauce and garnished with bacon crumbs; duck two ways (smoked duck breast, crispy thigh) au jus. Everything is fine and everything is very rich, so it’s fortuitous that the only parking spot available was five blocks west and two blocks south – a post-prandial walk won’t hurt .
2075 Yonge Street, 416-322-6767, rascalestaurant.com
The pressed pewter ceiling, cabaret posters, and vintage Parisian photos demonstrate Coquine’s ardent commitment to Gallic tradition, and the Davisville dining set maintains the well-attended checkerboard floor. The menu also sticks to the familiar. The snails are sautÃ©ed in garlic butter drizzled with Pernod and covered with a thick layer of bubbling Gruyere. Cassoulet, braised white beans simmered with soft pork belly, spicy sausages and a rich duck confit, reveals a cuisine at the command of its ingredients. The warm maple apple cake topped with vanilla ice cream is as comforting and sweet as it sounds.
East Railway Station
1190 Dundas Street East, 416-792-1626, gdlbrasserie.com
A dinner and a show no longer means having to walk downtown and pay $ 40 for parking. The new Streetcar Crowsnest is a residential and entertainment complex in Dundas and Carlaw: the contemporary Crow’s Theater provides the entertainment, and the beautiful Gare de L’Est Brasserie the meal. The kitchen, led by chef Deron Engbers and the tag CÃ´tÃ© team is made up of Erik Joyal and John Sinopoli (Ascari Enoteca), specializes in Parisian classics. Pre-theater menus are available starting at $ 35. For a nightcap, the wine list by the glass is littered with trendy choices that are usually bottled only. And yes, there is plenty of street parking nearby.
Greta Salomon’s dining room
1118 Queen Street East, 647-347-8640, facebook.com/gretasolomonsdining room
Owner Darlene Mitchell is from Newfoundland, home of cod tongues and fin pie, but the food she and chef James Vigil (Pangea) serve in this tiny Leslieville dining room is unmistakably French. A seared sea scallop, sourced from neighboring Hooked, is flanked with crispy oxtail pieces, sliced ââradishes, plump raisins, turnip puree and pickled cauliflower, and a Swiss chard gratin. bacon is creamy mornay sauce and garnished with Gruyere. Ontario beef tenderloin is served over candied fingerling potatoes, and spectacular morels, cooked in duck fat and demi-glace, are dressed to impress in a chive bÃ©arnaise. The wine list is long and thoughtful for such a small place, and so are the desserts, like a deconstructed fruit tart wrapped in a shortbread necklace with elderflower whipped cream, too.
227, avenue Ossington, 416 551-6263, labanane.ca
Chef Brandon Olsen’s foray into French cuisine reliably delivers both expertly rendered Gallic classics and unexpected twists meant to inspire more than a few toothy smiles. Forget the hushed image of the stuffy bistro: this one comes to life in shades of green, gold and copper, with the ambiance of a late-night New Year’s Eve dinner, with disco tunes and cups of alcoholic cocktails like Banane Banane Ã bourbon base, enhanced with banana liqueur. Here you’ll find the finest example of a pie in town, with a golden dough coating a peppery duck and pork stuffing and a capsule of wine jelly on top. Julia Child would approve of the way Olsen finishes his creamy crab and paella rice gratin in the shell of the crustacean, and how he achieves this extremely rare thing: a decent omelet – almost creamy on the inside, timed to the microsecond. And then there’s the Ziggy Stardust Disco Egg: it’s the city’s original paint-splattered chocolate ovoid, made by part-time confectioner Olsen (Toronto’s own Willy Wonka), and a tip for making the party – mash it with a spoon to reveal delicate chocolate truffles – that never gets old.
432 Wellington Street West, 416-596-6405, lesselect.com
This large room is sleek and polished, with pressed pewter ceiling tiles and a long zinc bar. Occasionally, the cuisine is sublime: the smoked whitefish terrine is airy, fresh and expertly seasoned. For the most part, however, the cuisine turns out to be heartwarming classics, like a bright, sour sauerkraut loaded with fatty pork knuckle, belly, and sausage. All it takes is a spoonful of the accompanying mustard to get all the right notes. The bouillabaisse, deconstructed with a bland bisque poured over it, is the only dish that lacks charm. The magnificent wine list reads like a learned treatise and the options by the glass are excellent. Chocolate mousse and lemon tart leave nothing to be desired.
72, avenue Ossington, 416-850-0093, union72.ca
For the past nine years, chef Teo Paul’s Union has been a little slice of Paris on Ossington and steered clear of the trend trap by simply delivering great food made with high quality ingredients day in and day out. Things like oysters served with horseradish and mignonette, but also with a killer habanero spread. The same vibrant concoction is accompanied by one of the best steak tartares in town, served with toasted cornbread instead of the usual, paper-thin crostini. Also good: fried and baked polenta soaked in a tomato bath, and sticky pork ribs, smoked and brushed with a homemade sweet and sour barbecue sauce. The dining room is a bit cramped, but no one seems to care – add delicious food, great cocktails, and smiley service and suddenly personal space is no longer an issue.