Auberge du Pommier (Toronto)

With the newer restaurants focusing on small plate menus, no reservations and shared service, it’s such a treat to visit a traditional fine dining establishment. Auberge du Pommier is a well-known French restaurant with impeccable service – formal and attentive but still friendly and not hovering. They inquire whether you’re are celebrating an occasion, but strive to make it feel like a special night even if you aren’t.

Auberge certainly takes customer satisfaction seriously. After a less than stellar dinner (food wise) back in March, I posted a review and to my surprise received a request from their General Manager to discuss the experience. During the call, there was no excuses or defensiveness, rather he asked questions to understand the nuances of my complaints. Afterwards, they sent me a certificate to use based on my schedule, which is why I returned six months later for this meal.

There were small changes, one being offering a bread basket so people can graze to their heart’s content. Despite not wanting to ruin my appetite, I couldn’t help but tuck into a piece of their tangy apple sourdough and chewy baguette.

Normally, I wouldn’t visit a French restaurant to order a Japanese dish, but their shiso-cured hamachi ($24) sounded too delicious to pass up. The thick slices of fish, speckled with a bonito spice mixture, were crisp and neutral. The accompanying wasabi sauce verte provided such a powerful punch, a concoction of refreshing herbs and the tingle of wasabi. Cubes of watermelon help to cool things off when I became overzealous with the sauce.

Although it’s not described on the menu, the dish could be hamachi done two ways – the second being diced pieces mixed with crunchy vegetables and creamy avocado that pairs nicely on top of the chip being used as garnish.

The St-Jacques grilled B.C. scallop ($24) were plump and lightly cooked through. Although the grill marks look beautiful, it left a strong char flavour that was overpowering - covering the natural sweetness of the shellfish. Additionally, since the scallop and the bouillabaisse were both well-seasoned, together it became much too salty. Personally, I’d rather have the scallop be less seasoned to allow the diner to adjust the dish to their taste by varying the amount of sauce used. The crispy fried brioche with roasted garlic garnish was delicious and I could easily have eaten more than one.

Generally, I’m particular about how I like duck breast: closer to the rare side, skin-on and well-rendered to leave a crispy crust without too much fat. Luckily, Auberge’s canard ($44) was exactly too my taste, visually confirmed the moment the halved breast arrived showcasing the brilliant red hue of the duck. But, it was the first taste that solidified my stance: a salty crackling skin, indulgent micro-thin layer of fat and juicy duck meat that has a hint of delicate gaminess.

The accompanying pomegranate-glazed eggplant was a tad tart, but does work well to cut against the duck’s heaviness. Although the couscous and barley mixture was a bit unexpected, it was great for soaking up juices and a nice change from roasted potatoes.

The agneau ($47) or Ontario lamb shank confit simply required a fork, to say its tender would be an understatement. Moroccan spices were prevalent in the dish with a touch of Spanish flare from the green olive panisse and piquillo pepper. But, it was the grilled apricots and polenta triangles I enjoyed the most – one juicy and sweet while the other having a delightful crispy exterior and airy savoury centre.

To visit a French restaurant and not have the cheese plate ($24) would be a shame. For anyone who’s seen the Part’s Unknown Marseilles episode and heard the provocative soundtrack used to score the cheese cart while it was being wheeled out would understand.

At first, we were going to order the three cheese dish to avoid getting the blue cheese. Joel, Auberge’s Maitre d’hotel, convinced us to give it a chance, placing it separately so it wouldn’t taint the others if we thought it was repulsive. Boy am I glad he got us to change our minds, the Bleu d’Auvergne is unlike any blue cheese I’ve had before! From south central France, it’s creamy, salty and has a milder twinge to it; rather than being crumbly, the texture was smooth and buttery.

Other cheeses served that evening included:
  • Beaufort, a firm raw cow’s milk cheese with salt crystals within it (similar to the Dutch Beemster) but a richer delicate flavour.
  • An Avonlea clothbound cheddar from PEI, where it’s said the grass-fed cows and the salty sea air adds a savouriness to its milk. The cheese was light, had a firm crumbly texture and a slightly bitter finish.
  • Ossau-iraty, a raw sheep’s milk based cheese from the northern Basque country. Also delicate with a smooth semi-hard firmness.
  • Lastly, Valencay, an ash covered goat’s milk cheese from Berry in Loire Valley. I love the oozing creaminess of it but used the fennel compote and honey comb to mask the slightly bitter flavour.

At last, this meal had the wonderful refined plates I remembered from my first visits to Auberge. Hamachi, canard and fromage, how I love thee so!

Overall mark - 8 out of 10
Disclaimer: The above meal was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in the mission statement, I will still be honest with my opinions. 

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 4150 Yonge Street

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - 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!

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