Showing posts with label horse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label horse. Show all posts

Dreyfus (Toronto)

On my last two visits to Montreal, I’ve tried to secure a reservation at Joe Beef with no luck. Not even when I offered to go on a waiting list - the famed restaurant could never fit me in. Consequently, when I heard their chef de cuisine, Zach Kolomeir, was leaving Montreal to head to Toronto to open Dreyfus, there was hope that I’d finally try their no-nonsense French creations.

A group of girlfriends and I tried to get a reservation at Dreyfus; once again, securing a table for four was impossible. So, I finally changed tactics and decided to visit with my husband instead. Finally, I was able to secure a Saturday sitting without a hitch. Sure, it took half a year, but I was finally on my way.

Once you see the dining room, it’s understandable why acquiring a spot for more than two people is so difficult.  There’s only two larger tables in the whole place and then a row of singles that I guess could be pushed together to form larger tables, but for whatever reason are kept separate. It’s very intimate seating – you will over hear your neighbours’ conversation and most likely need to push your table to touch theirs to get in and out if you’re seated on the bench.

In a nutshell, the restaurant is cozy. This goes for the esthetics, temperature, and service. Your experience will be elevated if you’re served by Keegan deWitt. It’s rare that I try to figure out who our server is, but this guy is AMAZING – Dreyfus, do whatever you need to keep him. Keegan exudes passion without being preachy, is attentive without being annoying, and his knowledge of wine puts most sommeliers to shame.

In fact, a love for a wine is an important quality for working at Dreyfus. They don’t have a wine menu. In fact, there’s no drink menu period. So, our first interactions with Keegan revolved around what we wanted to drink: flat water and a bottle of wine.

We answered a few questions and he comes back with four bottles. In a succinct two-minute presentation, he goes through each bottle explaining their flavour profiles and the wine’s region, ending off with the cost of each one. Prices vary from $85 to $250 and we decide on the Domaine Viret Mareotis ($125). The first sip confirmed that Keegan got us.

So, when he came back to ask what we wanted to order and provided us the option of letting him ‘bring us an experience’, how could we resist? Again, he asked a couple of questions about dietary restrictions and how hungry we were on a scale from 1-10 (a 7 seemed safe) and that’s all we had to do.

It helps as they tailor the size of the starting nibbles to the table. Normally, the first three dishes are $16 each (unclear how many come with each), but for our table of two it was trimmed down to a smaller portion of one or two each (the perfect amount) and the prices also lowered to $12.

The canapes de topinambours ($12 for 2) went so well with the wine. Roasted Jerusalem artichokes forms the base of the canapes, instead of bread, giving the dish a creamy finish and a warmth that’s so lovely for the winter months. Forget trying to hold this in your hand as the artichoke is smothered with light tangy cheese and a warmed sardine that adds a nice muskiness against the slice of ham on top.

There were spinach dip oysters ($12 for 2) topped with feathery parmesan cheese, a dish that sounds heavy but actually quite nicely balanced. Oysters aren’t normally something I enjoy, but the mollusk was covered with so many things that it didn’t have a prominent in taste.

You can’t go wrong with the pommes dauphine ($12 for 4). These lovely potato puffs are as light as air – like a savoury honey cruller for those who have been around a Tim Horton’s. They’re fluffy and aromatic, by itself a delicate and creamy choux pastry, but arrives with thick crème fraiche topped with micro cubes of shallots and a generous portion of caviar. It takes the dauphine to a whole other level of decadence that made us swoon.

A skewer arrives and we’re advised the white chunks in the brochette de lotte ($24) are monkfish. The dense meaty fish was tasty, but perhaps could be cooked a touch less. Yet, any mild protein that sits in such a tasty sauce could do no wrong. It’s described to us as curry, but so light that it reminds me of a thicker and richer bouillabaisse. We must have been looking at the remaining sauce longingly, as a staff member asked if we’d like some bread, which was met with a resounding yes.

While I don’t know a lot of French, one word I do remember is cheval - on account of religiously visiting the now defunct Toronto night club. So, when the tower of filet de cheval lyonnaise ($33) arrived, I pushed thoughts of My Little Pony out of my mind and decided to just enjoy the dish. To be honest, if you didn’t know what cheval means, you’d think its veal or a light beef that’s tender and lean. The silky red wine jus keeps any gaminess at bay.

Dreyfus knows their way around a spud as the lyonnaise potatoes sandwiched between the cheval and the egg are heavenly. Essentially, they are thinly sliced potatoes that’s pan fried in parsley butter (forming lovely toasted edges) and mixed with well-caramelized onions. Just imagine scalloped potatoes, but even better, in my opinion. Mixed with some egg yolk and au jus, I probably could have a plate of the potatoes with eggs and been a happy camper.

To end, this main is smartly paired with an endive salad ($17). Dreyfus’ version of a Waldorf salad, the dish is one I normally detest - fruit (apple) mixed with nuts (walnuts) and topped with a blue cheese dressing? Yuk! Maybe it was the warm wine flowing through my veins, but it all worked together, including the thinned blue cheese dressing that adds tang without funk. Plus, the rosettes of curled cheese were so nice and creamy that I had a second and third helping.

After everything came, we assessed and indeed Keegan was true to his word – at the beginning he noted he’d make sure we’re satisfied but not disgustingly full. Rejoice, there was still room for dessert.

Once again, there’s no menu, instead another server explains she’s the walking dessert menu and lists off three options. The pear strudel ($11) sounded rather plain, but seemed like a dish I’d enjoy. Oh boy, did I enjoy it!

It took a while to arrive because it was being reheated and/or cooked. My first taste: crispy layers of phyllo pastry, warm chunks of cinnamon tossed pears, and creamy whipped cream. It was heavenly, the dessert I didn’t know I wanted to myself. My husband must have sensed something… after a few bites, he smartly left the remaining strudel with me.  

Find a lover or a buddy, hell, even a stranger off the street. Just book a reservation for two at Dreyfus! Whatever you do, do not visit with more than three people as you’ll be squished into a booth at the front of the restaurant that makes a sardine can look spacious; looking at the three couples packed in the table gave me shudders as I flashed back to an unfortunate incident at Grey Gardens.

Also, visit with an empty stomach and an open mind. And, there should be a level of trust as dining omakase style is the way to go. Just don’t be a hero and think you’ll share the strudel, that decision was the only mishap of the evening.

Overall mark - 9 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 96 Harbord 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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