Avant Gout-a review
Avant Gout is a small Morroccan/French restaurant that recently moved to Yongue street, in the Rosedale area. Last night my wife and I and another couple,decided to try it based on a very favourable recomendation from a regular.
As I write this I count myself lucky that I am not still sitting there.The meal took approximately two and a half hours.
This is a small "neighbourhood restaurant" not a fine dining experience that one is supposed to enjoy over a few hours.
Now to be fair, the place was packed with what looked like regulars from Rosedale,well put together types who the wait staff seemed to know and greeted warmly.
For us it took fifteen minutes to get our drink order in
Our waiter was pleasant but somewhat uninterested and busy with his other tables.The food was tasty enough. I had grilled calamari and Steak Frites. Others at the table had halibut, Pasta,Salad,another type of fish and the soup of the day.
We literally waited thirty to forty five minutes between courses and this leads to another issue. The portions were very small.
The fellow that had tha agnolotti was literally given six pieces. It looked like a children's portion and if you saw the guy it was served to, you would know he ain't no kid. In fact he has a sizeable appetite.
So,you get a small course,become hungrier after eating it,wait forty minutes still getting hungrier, get another small course, eat that and leave unsatisfied.
The fellow mentioned above went home and had a bagel with cheese.
I don't think I would go back but I also don't think, judging by the crowd that they need my business.
As stated the food is fine but there are a whole lot of restaurants in the GTA with fine food that will not be unreasonable with the portions or service standards.
I understand the concept of the tasting experience and not necessarily going out to eat myself into a stupor(although I have no objection to this)but I do think it is fair to ask that if I pay well for a meal that I do not leave hungry. Perhaps I am just hopelessly plebian but if I am I do not think I'm alone.
This review is totally at odds with my experience last week.
We dropped by without a reservation and had to wait for a table to be cleared (as the place was full with one table just leaving). There were two servers (you imply only one on the night you were there, or maybe I'm reading too closely between the lines) and one reset the table while the other took our coats. We were served promptly; our orders taken, the wine brought etc. in quick time.
We had appetizers, mains and one dessert (the killer creme brulee - still my choice as the best in Toronto) and were out of there in about an hour and a half. Portions sizes were 'normal' - sufficiently so that we chose to share 1 dessert.
Food quality was pretty good - certainly for a neighbourhood place and even with the wine (not the cheapest on the list) we paid about $125 all-in, including tip.
My only criticism was the blast of cold air when the people who left didn't close the front door. And possibly the closely set tables - we shared conversation with our neighbours - but that's almost a given with a neighbourhood place (I wouldn't go there for a romantic dinner for two). It doesn't have the lived-in character of the former premise but is bright and shiny new - more Rosedale than before. But I don't hold that against it!
And I much prefer it to the Abbot. The Rebel has more character and is still an alternative, but I find the Rebel cramped and the menu seems to have fossilized there recently (although what they do is still good).
I went about a year ago, when they were in their old location. I am sorry to hear they moved, as I thought the location was great as was the food. I didn't find the portions at all small, especially for this city. And I agree with estufarian, their creme brule is the best I've ever had.
However, Alfie, the waits you describe are inexcusable. I suspect that if you were fed in a more timely manner you may have felt better about the food and the portions. It always dismays me to see restaurants and especially servers that don't handle this situation well. Your server should be your advocate in the kitchen. If there is a screw up or delays, they need to offer at the very least, heartfelt apologies and regular updates and yes possibly larger portions or something to make up for the wait. The night we went, it was not too busy, but I do recall some wait for our bill. Our mains came very fast and piping hot from the nearby kitchen. I found our waiter a little quirky and irregular. But the creme brule and the cinnamon ice cream we shared at the end made any negative thoughts melt away and we floated away on a nice sugar buzz.
I'm curious to see their new locale, and I will try it again, but based on Alfie's experience, I'll likely not go during prime time and I won't take a grumpy husband.
I was going with friends in the area so I didn't choose it at all (and was expecting a mediocrely competent but well-serviced meal indicative of 'Rosedale' restaurants.) I was pleasantly surprised. The dining room filled up by 8:00PM on a Wed. and the room does tend to get noisy as it's a small boxy space with all hard surfaces.
Our server was terribly busy as there were only 2 service people the whole time we were there to serve the entire restaurant (including bar!) We did have to wait slightly longer than I prefer for first 'greeting' but afterwards the orders came through smoothly. He was understandably very rushed but was courteous and I think he did an admirable job given the situation.
It's a nicely designed room with a very subtle decor that is common but with some interesting touches. There is a small 5-6 seater bar that I saw people eating full meals from as well.
The menu is fairly safe and small but with reasonable variety of a few pasta dishes, the meat mains consisting of lamb, beef, and duck, and a number of starters.
I had the duck confit (special) and the beet salad to start. The beet salad with parmigiano reggiano cheese was good - the greens had a wonderful dressing and the beets fresh but there was two very thin sticks of cheese on top which was a little meager. The duck confit was excellent - two legs with meat that pulled away with barely a touch and the jus was very natural and true to the duck without being overly salty or flavored. Comes with side of mash and vegetables. Also had creme brulee that was prepared properly but a little cooler in the center than I like. The portions are a little more conservative than one typically expects but just by the smallest bit. I did not feel hungry in the least after the meal but generally eat less than more people.
Other people at the table had the liver and chicken and had good things to say about them.
Overall it was a very nice experience and if they just add more servers (which shouldn't be too hard as they were full on a Wednesday night) the service would be good (effort) to great. The food is not overly exciting but technically well-prepared and very pleasant. If I lived around there I would drop by more often! Mains were about 18-29 I believe and they are open for lunch Monday-Friday as well.
Thanks (I think) for the review -- except it may be even harder to get in now (have already been declined twice when I phoned for same-day reservations). But have to comment on the creme brulee, as your comment on 'cool centre' is exactly why I like it. The contrast between the hot brittle topping and the cool creamy base is EXACTLY why I like it best (not to belittle your taste - just a different preference).
I agree with estufarian about the cool centre in a creme brulee. We've had this discussion on CH before, but the custard in a properly prepared creme brulee should retain its chill.
In fact, when one wants to brulee and has no blowtorch available, the recommended way to do this is to place the ramekins in a bain marie filled with ice prior to broiling the top in the oven.
Thanks for the clarification I was careful to tack the "cooler than *I* like" because I thought it was the case where my taste was at odds with the 'proper' preparation. It's such a creamy and mellow comfort dessert that for me I enjoy it more warm.
For people that enjoy the little minutiae the server was nice enough to bring it promptly after it was ordered and remembered to warn me to wait for just a moment so the sugar could cool. I remember another otherwise flawless dinner at the Rosebud where the server put it down without saying anything so we immediately started digging in and came up with a very.. creative presentation to which it eventually set looking like bedhead. So for those not well versed with the creme brulee make sure to give it a moment to settle!
Our table also ordered the flourless chocolate cake which I didn't try because it's so prevelant now and while creme brulee is a comfort food for me the flourless chocolate cake seems to be like pad thai now - on every menu and reduced to a uniformly bland flavor. They seemed to enjoy it though.
Classy ambiance and tasty food. However we were disappointed with the portion size. My husband had the duck confit for $20 (3 slices of meat, a dozen green beans and a tablespoon of mashed squash) and went home hungry. I had the salmon which came with a dozen green beans and one mini potatoe cut in half. Judging by the crowd I don't think this place would go out of business if they added a few mini potoatoes to each entre!