|Location||1600 Dundas Street West|
|Dinner for two with dessert||$150|
Some of the best things in life are uncomplicated. That goes for la nourriture, aussi. À mon avis, Le Baratin, a French restaurant in Toronto’s west end, is an institution when it comes to authentic French cuisine.
Chef/owner Jean Regis, who trained extensively in France and abroad, opened the cozy bistro as a passion project just under a decade ago. As for the food, Le Baratin’s menu doesn’t stray from the tried-and-true bistro formula: Offerings include staples such as succulent steak frites, homemade veal-based sauces, and a perfectly decadent mousse au chocolat, to name a few. It’s open for brunch, lunch and dinner, and features a $25 set dinner menu on Sundays.
My guest and I had a reservation one Saturday evening. Upon entering, we immediately noticed a convivial air about the space. Patrons were conversing and laughing, a telltale sign of a joie de vivre. Although the space was small, it brimmed with French charm. An eclectic art collection with mismatched frames was displayed on a wall-mounted shelf around the perimeter. Bountiful bric-a-brac, a B-shaped light fixture and a plane suspended from the ceiling added some personality to the intimate space.
When we arrived, our table wasn’t quite ready. The staff was extremely apologetic and led us to the bar to peruse the wine list and menu. Perched bar-side, we enjoyed an amuse bouche that was almost too pretty to eat while we decided how to fill our stomachs. The problem was, everything sounded amazing, especially with the heavenly smells wafting in from the kitchen. As for the drinks, the European wine list offered exceptional varieties at reasonable price points, with the majority of wines imported from France. House cocktails — from the aptly named “French Connection” to the absinthe-based “Chrysanthemum”— were all priced at a modest $10.
In France, the greatest bistros are magnetic because they produce consistently delicious food, and Le Baratin is no exception. But above and beyond the food, the service was worthy of at least one Michelin star. Our French-accented server was the definition of lovely. She was attentive, and even provided a curated list of her favourite spots for my upcoming trip to France.
L’assiette de charcuterie ($18) was the perfect way to start our meal. The savory spread of duck rillettes, pâté, prosciutto and salami was made for sharing. The duck rillettes were a highlight, and it was evident that the duck legs had been prepared in a traditional way: dry-brined and braised in aromatic stock, then finely shredded and mixed with duck fat. It was a gourmet combination with the baguette.
Nothing says authentic French cuisine like steak frites, so I ordered it to see how it measured up. Le Baratin’s steak frites ($23) was everything it should be — a flavourful, well-marbled flank that was cooked to medium. The accompanying frites were thin, crispy and had just the right amount of oil. The small side salad, with frisée and fresh mixed greens, added brightness to the plate and balanced out the hearty dish. My only complaint: I would have scaled back on the peppercorns in the sauce for less piquancy.
We also had the souris d’agneau Provençal ($25) – a braised lamb shank with white kidney beans. While I enjoyed the tenderness of the meat, the tomato and red wine sauce that it sat in lacked two things: salt and herbs. An extra dose of garlic and herbes de Provence would have contributed to more robust flavours.
The homemade desserts were also faithful to the tried and true, especially the mousse au chocolat and the crème brûlée. But, because j’adore le gâteau au fromage, I opted for the ricotta cheesecake. The beautiful azure plate provided a stark backdrop for the snow-white cake and its accompanying shallow pool of crème anglaise. I would have injected some colour into the monochromatic dish – likely a fruity compote, as I found the crème anglaise too rich.
All in all, our experience at Le Baratin was fantastique. It’s a quintessentially French restaurant that celebrates honest food and wine in a cozy atmosphere. The next time you’re looking for a quick “getaway” to France, book a table at Le Baratin. It will remind you, if even for a few hours, that nothing says pleasure quite like la cuisine française!
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.