CLOSED: La Creole (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 810 St. Clair Avenue West
Type of Meal: Dinner

La Creole, a new restaurant to land in St. Clair West, brings the taste of Haitian Creole cuisine to Toronto. Given my friends and I are visiting New Orleans soon, La Creole sounded like the perfect way to introduce ourselves to the Louisiana food culture. After viewing the menu and doing some research, it appeared I was a bit misinformed – Haitian and Louisiana Creole are influenced by the same French and Latin flavours but not identical. Hence, you won’t find jambalaya, gumbo or shrimp & grits here.

The ceilings are draped with white linen while booth seats contained accent pillows, giving the restaurant a toned down Sultan’s Tent feel. Lively music was played throughout the restaurant, but alas no one started dancing in the stage area at the back. However, the relaxed jovial atmosphere certainly put me in a good mood for the food to come.

Almost everyone gets a plate of their le plate fritay (small for $12 and large for $18; large portion pictured below).  Essentially, it translates into a plate of assorted deep fried items. La Creole’s arrives with numerous pieces of malanga root fritters, codfish fritters, marinad (deep fried dough) and tostones (fried plantain patties).

Although they look similar, each offers its own unique flavours and textures. The malanga root fritters were the crunchiest given the little slivers that come through the batter and fry on its own. Although the starch look like taro, its texture is lighter and reminded me spaghetti squash. The taste of dried cod shown through in the codfish fritters but the consistency a tad mushy for my taste. Meanwhile, the marinad were surprisingly flavourful despite only being fried pieces of dough; not oily at all they were light and fluffy with a great savoury taste. Our table agreed the fried plantain were dry and bland, I had to put a fair amount of pikliz on it to make it edible.
Accompanying the fritay was a light refreshing watercress yoghurt dip and pikliz (a spicy vinegar based coleslaw). 

For the amount of food, there was way too little dip and upon asking for an extra portion were charged $4. Certainly, the price isn’t astronomical, but why the large fritay has the same helping of condiments as the small to begin with was baffling.

Every main came with a helping of black bean rice, tostone and a handful of spring mix. Ben, the owner of the restaurant, had suggested we order the fried snapper ($23). Indeed, the dish looks impressive with a whole snapper arriving upright and showed promise with a tomato and spicy heat coming from the creole sauce. But, the fish needed more sauce as it was a bit overdone and dry. I’d imagine the stewed version would likely taste better (at the very least more flavourful and tender), but perhaps not as exciting looking.  

The ratatouille ($12) was a complete miss, in my opinion. Perhaps it’s because the creole sauce on the snapper and chicken were so packed with spices, but the ratatouille seemed extremely bland in comparison. Despite the menu proclaiming it containing spinach, eggplant, zucchini, cabbage and carrots, all I could taste were carrots (for those who know me, these are one of my least favourite vegetables). In the end, the dish just tasted like unseasoned stewed carrots, which personally wasn’t appealing. What I liked most was the side of black bean rice, which was quite delicious (a sticky consistency, but each grain of rice still defined).

Lastly, was the creole roasted chicken ($14), the best of the mains. Packing the most flavour of all the dishes and the meat nice and tender, we should have just ordered the larger version which feeds two for $23.

Opened in mid-March, by mid-April more training is required for staff members. Despite having only 15 items on the menu, our waiter couldn’t point out what each item on the plate of fritay were. When asked what pepper was used to spice the pikliz, that question couldn’t be answered as well. Of course, not every staff member may know all the ingredients, but at the very least they should offer to ask the chef and find out. Don’t get me wrong, service was friendly and attentive, but as a curious minded patron the lack of knowledge wasn’t helpful and doesn’t give me much confidence.

Perhaps my taste buds have been westernized by the Louisiana styled dishes, but I was expecting bold flavours and tendered stewed meats. Aside from the pikliz and creole chicken none of them really reached that level. All in all, I found the food decent but not something I’d want to have again.

Overall mark - 6 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!