|Restaurant||Faim de Loup|
|Location||940 College Street|
|Tasting menu with two glasses of wine||$300|
Faim de Loup is all about nouveau French cuisine in an intimate atmosphere. Unassuming from its spot on the corner of Dovercourt and College, you might second-guess its potential until you experience it — but when given a chance, you’re in for a treat.
Upon entrance, Faim de Loup felt luxurious without being pretentious. Studded sapphire-coloured banquettes, contemporary light fixtures and an abstract painting gave the space some personality. A sincere welcome from the general manager/server/everything front-of-house, Ryan Rioux, reassured me that the evening would unfold just as I’d anticipated — a welcome sense of certainty when you’re about to drop $100+ for a tasting menu. As one of the city’s new and strictly tasting-menu establishments, Faim de Loup offers diners a five ($85) or seven-course experience ($100) avec ou sans wine pairings for an additional $50 and $70, respectively.
The other half of the Faim de Loup equation is Chef/owner Jeffrey Yap (previously at Scaramouche) — a gifted yet humble artist who is only 31 years old, and executed quality creations with enviable skill. With just two people to serve 16 guests, the Faim de Loup duo had a lot on their plate. Did they deliver a seamless dining experience?
What I liked about Faim de Loup was that its principles were rooted in French cuisine and la nourriture was elevated while still being comforting. Yap made utmost use of the treasures from local artisans and market to their full potential.
Par exemple, a single Foxley River oyster from Prince Edward Island arrived as the amuse-bouche. As I sucked it back, the brininess from its terroir was evident. Une petite spoonful of pickled shallot didn’t overwhelm the bivalve’s clarity. My glass of honey-laced Chardonnay was the perfect pairing to open my palate for what was to come. The wine list — as small as the restaurant itself — was a healthy mix of both local and French varieties.
The best tasting menus take the diner on an immersive narrative, and the first course can either impress or disappoint. Any ordinary chef sees a tomato as just that, but Chef Yap went beyond the basics, presenting an elevated version of the fruit which was full of pizzazz. A peeled Campari tomato had been hollowed and stuffed with corn chowder purée. The glistening red ball of perfection floated on a bed of Newfoundland snow crab and runner beans. When I slid my knife through the tomato, its sweet corn “yolk” poured onto the plate, coating the crab meat and beans. One bite offered the textural variety I craved. This course set the bar high for both flavour and originality.
If there’s one thing I confirmed by the end of the second course, it was that Chef Yap was gifted at plate presentation. A variety of blanched radishes in hues of white, pink and purple in a variety of shapes and sizes amused mes yeux. Although the dish was overwhelmingly acidic, the duck fat breadcrumbs added a welcome surprise for my palate in terms of taste and texture.
The comfort of traditional French cuisine shone through in the next course — a bean cassoulet with black cod from B.C. Instead of being rich, it was brothy and light. Some more salt would have punched up the blandness, but it was also a welcome contrast from the acidic notes of the previous course. The beans were lightly bathed in broth, and pork crackling awakened the whole dish. Slices of homemade sourdough were the perfect vessels to sop up the remaining broth.
Chef Yap’s personality came to life in the next dish, the porcini cake — muffin-like crumbles that were infused with dehydrated porcini mushrooms. The cake’s umami flavours mingled perfectly with the meaty slices of king oyster mushrooms and wilted kale. If I could change one thing, it would be the overall dryness of the dish. An additional smear of garlic purée or compote would have helped the cottony feel forming dans ma bouche.
The first protein was a duck breast from Québec, which was plated with duck jus, and an unexpected (but incroyable) hit of Grand Marnier and melted butter. Citrusy notes from the Grand Marnier were complemented by fresh orange slices. Chef Yap’s knife skills were showcased with the immaculate criss-cross scoring of the duck breast’s skin. Peppery watercress and earthy turnips added a complex and layered flavour profile to the dish.
A decent but fatty cut of hanger steak with grilled baby gem lettuce arrived next. Grilled lettuce slicked with grainy mustard and a smear of Béarnaise sauce added that true French comfort I longed for. There was nothing novel about this dish, but it was still appealing in taste and presentation. La simplicité at its finest.
After a palate cleanser consisting of Granada, mint, basil and Ontario strawberries, the showstopper arrived — a peach pie, but not your grandmère’s version. This one arrived deconstructed: muddled peach compote with pie crust and a base of vanilla panna cotta. I adored the idea of being playful with my food and smashing the delicate pie crust and mixing all the elements together before taking my first bouchée. This dessert was pure nostalgia and transported me back to end-of-summer family dinners.
Throughout my repas, I loved how I wasn’t watching the clock to see if my dining window had expired. With only one seating per night, it’s all about unplugging and allowing yourself to be nurtured with food and drink. It’s challenging to find new restaurants that are in tune with all the little details — from ambiance to food to hospitality — and which deliver all these at an above average level. Faim de Loup’s talented duo exude a quiet confidence. Yap and Kozhikott are humble, hard-working and have a lot to be proud of. I’m eager to see how this restaurant matures season after season.
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.