Laissez Faire (Toronto)

You do you … the modern day equivalent to living a laissez faire lifestyle. It’s a romantic thought, being able to live as you please, be as you please - and at the new Laissez Faire – eat as you please. Their menu strays from their French name and also offers Italian dishes for good measure.

It’s not always done well, the porcini truffle arancini ($13) are the worst I’ve ever had: the risotto so dry that the ball starts to crumble and the mixture bland so everything relies heavily on the marinara (thankfully, fresh and delicious). As a plus, since it is deep fried rice, even being the worst it’s still edible, but certainly not one you’d want to serve a true Italian.

The squid ink tagliatelli ($21) is 100% better. Dark ribbons of pasta encompasses a seafood flavour but not in a fishy way. It’s covered in a sauce that’s not overly thick but salty enough to really give it a briny sea essence. Plump sweet clams and crunchy bread crumb provide a nice contrast to the pasta, while there’s just enough dill fronds to add a hint of freshness without morphing the dish’s earthiness.

Safer sharing plates are some of the cold seafood options. While we weren’t advised what the oysters were that evening (only that they were from PEI), the dozen ($32) tasted clean and fresh, accompanied with the traditional vinegary onion mignonette and grated horseradish. 

Meanwhile, the albacore tuna ($17) has a real nuttiness from the black and white sesame crust. It’s slowly seared so the seeds are just lightly toasted and the tuna wrapped in a thin cooked ring and warmed through. Really swipe the fish around the plate to get all the herby aioli on the plate.

For something incredible, you have to be willing to dive all-in … calories and cholesterol be damn! Just bite into the pork belly ($17) and enjoy the crispy skin that’s the perfect ratio of fat for flavours and skin for chewiness. A thin sherry gastrique and bits of pomegranate add a slight sweetness against the otherwise savoury dish. It’s so good that a table of four may want to double the order so you can each have another piece.

The duck confit ($21) was another strong dish with the traditional crunchy skin encapsulating soft rich meat. Pairing the fowl with salad was a great idea to keep it lighter and allows a diner to still enjoy some starters.

Aside from the food, two things really stuck out for me. Firstly, the odd portion sizes at Laissez Faire. While the small and large plates weren’t overly big, the sides like roasted Brussels sprouts and parsnips ($14) were massive. Who knows, maybe it’s their way of making diners eat their vegetables. Yet, there’s so much bacon incorporated into the dish that vegetables seem secondary. Moreover, the sauce is way too sweet and the pickled mustard seeds, while a great idea, needs to be applied with a lighter touch. Maybe it’s me, but I want my vegetables to actually taste like vegetables.

Portion sizes were wonky in the dessert department as well. The apple tarte tatin ($11) is barely sharable compared to the brioche panna cotta ($14), which actually resembles a regular-sized dessert.

Nevertheless, both are decent – the apple tatin served as a deconstructed version consisting of well-poached apples with a thinned caramel sauce on top of a piece of really buttery pastry. The flavours are bang on, just the form was a bit disappointing as I was actually hoping for the traditional tarte format. The panna cotta has the requisite creamy texture with a strong vanilla flavour. I could have done without the bits of crunchy brioche crumbles, which takes away from that lovely silky texture; yet, I can see some liking the contrasting texture and hint of saltiness it adds to the dessert.

The second thing that stuck with me, albeit I didn’t realize until I was writing the blog post, was how wildly inaccurate the prices charged for the desserts were from the published amounts. On the menu, it’s listed as $9 for the apple tarte tatin and $11 for the panna cotta, while what’s actually charged is $11 and $14, respectively. Perhaps a $1 difference is reasonable when there’s a last minute change, but to add $3 to each dish is terribly inconsistent. Sadly, the caliber and size of the desserts definitely aren’t worth the augmented price.

Maybe it all comes back to the laissez faire attitude – who cares if prices are incorrectly charged, the Italian dishes aren’t necessarily the strongest, or the sides are the same size as mains? Just go with it and pop another bottle of bubbly to forget about the situation – oddly, we did end up getting a BOGO 50% off deal for the Prosecco without realizing it. After all, it all works out in the end… just chill out.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 589 King Street West

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more -
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!

Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this: