Merlot Restaurant (Toronto)

I love old school restaurants where the furniture is fashioned from solid wood and the walls are adorned with sconces and/or varied paintings and prints. A place where there’s a napkin, water glass, and place settings. Most of all, a place where the music blends into the background so you can still chat amongst the table.

To my delight, Merlot captures these qualities. You’ll find the traditional French favourites on their menu like escargot and steak frites, as well as interesting dishes like the “St. Tropez” fish soup ($15.50). The broth has a bouillabaisse feel spiked with more saffron and thickened with pulverized fish - personally, I would have preferred if the fish was left in chunks, so it’d feel less like eating savoury baby food. 

The texture improved once I dropped in bite-sized pieces of the toasted baguette topped with creamy rouille (a garlicky lemon and saffron aioli) and grated Emmenthal to each spoonful. Think of it as a lighter French onion soup that swaps out the onion for fish.

If there’s duck confit ($32.50) on the menu, most likely it’s what I’ll order. Interestingly, the duck leg arrives with no sauce giving it a lovely rustic homemade quality. You can certainly taste the duck and without sauce the meat has nowhere to hide, it needs to be done perfectly to taste delicious. In this case, it was.

Yet, it was the caramelized sautéed garlic potatoes that stole the show. Cooked in duck fat until a sticky and crispy crust forms, the spuds made me swoon with delight. Never swap these potatoes for fries.

The meal ended perfectly with a shared slice of tarte aux pommes ($13.50). The thinly sliced apples sat on a bed of apple sauce and a perfect pastry crust. Likely the apple sauce helps to add moisture without relying on syrup, which keep the tart light. While there’s nothing wrong with the apple sauce, using crème anglaise or some sort of custard give it a richer element. And get rid of the fruit coulis, it makes the plate pretty but takes away from the lovely apple flavours.

When I saw the handwritten check, I knew we were in the right place. I truly hope traditional restaurants like Merlot continue to thrive as they have such a lovely charm.

As we get into the summer, I’ll be returning to enjoy their patio, which hopefully will transport me to a Parisian café. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 2994 Bloor Street West

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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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