|Location||96 Harbord Street|
|Dinner with two glasses of wine||$190|
Securing a reservation at one of Toronto’s newest bistros, Dreyfus, has been a hot item since it opened in May 2019. Making its home in a narrow townhouse on Harbord Street, Dreyfus is an authentique slice of Montreal if I’ve ever seen one. But, how did it come to be?
When Montreal transplant Zach Kolomeir, formerly chef de cuisine at Joe Beef, had an opportunity to move to Toronto and put his stamp on the restaurant industry, it was difficile to say “non.” Together with girlfriend and wine connoisseur, Carmelina Imola, their goal was to create an intimate space with a lively vibe and unfussy food. After dining at Dreyfus recently, I can say that Kolomeir has accomplished all the above — though some better than others.
Upon arriving on a samedi soir, we were greeted warmly by the host and welcomed into what seemed like an intimate kitchen party where we were the guests of honour. The narrow space was full, but never seemed overcrowded. Conversation was flowing just as much as the natural wines on offer. And, our seats at the bar provided a prime location to see the short-order cook assembling various appetizers. With no set wine menu, our server asked us what we felt like drinking and gave us a taste of Rupestris from Pardas cellars. She assured us the crisp, minerally wine would pair well with our menu selections.
What I liked most about the menu was that it didn’t stray from that authentic Montreal feeling. No more than 14 handwritten daily offerings, displayed en français, ranging in price from $5 to $57. Kolomeir sources many of the ingredients from local suppliers. Our server was friendly and knowledgeable (offering to translate, if required) and recommended that we choose five plates pour partager.
From my perch on the rather uncomfortable bar stool, I had been eyeing the Oeufs à la Lyonnaise ($14), and when they arrived, I was glad I did as it provided the comfort I was seeking. My first bite transported me to a French bistro — the umami from the hard-boiled eggs and creaminess from the thick dollop of mayonnaise were a match made in paradis. Rather than being a traditional Lyonnaise salad with a warm poached egg, this assiette was served as a cold, complete with frisée and a sprinkle of lardons for added texture. When I asked about the monogrammed plate and its meaning, the server explained that it had been acquired during an antique hunt, and its meaning was a mystère. At $14 per plate and only 1.5 eggs (cut in half), the price-to-portion ratio was un peu steep.
La prochaine assiette, Poireau Parmentier et Vinaigrette Calamars ($21) was an elevated version of a potage Parmentier, meaning cooked or served with potatoes. While preserving its rustic qualities, Dreyfus’ version was served at room temperature. It combined potatoes, leeks, and rings of rubbery calamari with an overly acidic aftertaste. The heap of fried onions were also soggy. After the resetting of our cutlery from the previous course, we were only given one spoon, making it awkward to share the remaining purée. Quel dommage!
The next dish was a standout: Mezzaluna d’Automne ($23), a half-moon shaped stuffed pasta similar to ravioli. The bundles of butternut squash and hazelnut evoked fall flavours and the rich brown-butter chive sauce just couldn’t go to waste. Fortunately, the server noticed the shallow pool of sauce and sliced some baguette, so we could soak it up.
The final dish, Cabillaud Cuit sur l’Os ($57), was a rustic bone-in chunk of cod served over bean cassoulet. Flavours were satisfying and rich with every bite. Kolomeir preserved enough tradition from the canonical cassoulets of the Languedoc region of France, while adding his own spin. It was the perfect dish to share with a date, and warm the soul on a cool fall evening.
Since Dreyfus opened its doors, Kolomeir and Imola have gained traction and a loyal following and it’s easy to understand why. The charming bistro is a quaint spot for a cozy date night where you’ll feel quite at home. Kolomeir is prolific in his craft, as evidenced by his well-curated menu, solid execution and “je ne sais quoi” ambiance. While there was room for improvement in some of the dishes, the vibe and service were top notch, leaving an strong impression on the Toronto dining scene. Félicitations!
Mme M. xoxo
La rubrique de Madame Marie
1 étoile – Run. Before you get the runs.
2 étoiles – Mediocre, but nothing you couldn’t make at home.
3 étoiles – C’est bon, with some standout qualities.
4 étoiles – Many memorable qualities and excellent execution. Compliments to the chef.
5 étoiles – Formidable! Michelin Star quality. Book a reservation immediately.