Café Boulud 416.963.6000 http://www.cafeboulud.com/toronto/ open daily: breakfast, lunch and dinner
Boulud’s focus has never aimed for innovation. Instead, his mandate is to wow with pure, uncomplicated, perfectly executed French cuisine with familiar ingredients. The menu is dived into 4 sections: la tradition (classic French), la saison (seasonal delicacies), le potager (the vegetable garden), and le voyage (flavours of the world). An over the top menu can be a little hard to choose from because there is so much to choose from; however, this restaurant has to cater to travelers from all over the globe so I get it. The lofty room is stunning, softly lit and spacious. Several affordable wines are available, though prices can quickly climb to the if-you-have-to-ask level. Service is flawless.
Gougeres, light as air and so savory, along with freshly baked Thuet bread are the first to arrive. Terrine de foie gras ($26), ably prepared into a buttery mousse using linden poached apricot, long pepper, hazelnuts and brioche. Tender-crisp Octopus a la Plancha ($19) with Marcona almonds, rocket, orange, and jerez (sherry) vinegar is savoury, tart, crunchy and just plain spectacular.
Cooking is as focused and flavourful as ever. A roasted breast and stuffed leg of Chantecler chicken ($33) gets brightness, crunch and creaminess from fennel, tomato confit and tarragon-vinegar jus. A meltingly tender veal tenderloin ($36) layered with braised cheek, roasted sweetbreads and summer vegetables are completed by a savory veal consommé.
One of the specials of the evening – marble potatoes fried in duck fat with smoked chili paprika – is one of the evening’s standouts; seasoned, spicy and fluffy inside – it should be on the menu! A dense and sickly heavy side of garlic parmesan grits ($9) is a letdown. Still, when everything else is so close to perfect, this odd failing can be forgiven.