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Feb 21, 2008 08:27 PM

French restaurant recommendation needed

I am looking for an authentic French restaurant, willing to spend up to $80/head excluding drinks, no tourist traps please. Location does not matter as long as it is inside the GTA. Any recommendations fellow chowhounders?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. How about Batifole?

    744 Gerrard St E, Toronto, ON M4M1Y3, CA

    17 Replies
      1. re: kawarthagirl

        Third for Batifole. Not much on comfort or decor, but the food tastes as close to authentic French bistro cuisine as i've found in Toronto.

        1. re: rsvp7777

          Had dinner at Batifole last night. Overall experience was only so-so! Ordered the spicy lobster/rock fish bisque and the chicken liver bruille as appertizers, which was great as usual. However, the mains of pork shank confit and the calves liver were dissappointing. The pork shank, though tasty through the first couple of bites, was too greasy and overwhelming. The liver was nicely seared to medium rare pink but spoiled by being immersed in a huge 'pool' of basalmic vinegar based sauce which washes away all the delicate smokey pan seared aroma and flavour of the liver. Both the butter scotch crepe and frozen chocolate mousse with coffee sauce desserts lacked the taste of the main ingredients and were way too sweet! In comparison, 'Pastis express' food quality is much better, especially the calves liver, which is 'hands down' best in the GTA.

          Lastly, how come no body gave 'Celestin' a mention?!.

          1. re: Charles Yu

            I was also there on Sat night! Was my first time there, as I went based on everyone's recommendations here. I had a great experience. Also had the lobster soup and loved it. Had the dory, which I loved. However, similar to your main, it was served in a bowl of the sauce, which while was exceptional, I felt was perhaps a bit too strong for the delicate taste of the fish. Service was great. Didn't order any deserts, also due to people's opinions.

            Planning to go to Le Paradis in a bit and will report on that...

            1. re: SMOG

              Went to Le Paradis last night and really enjoyed it. Overall, the service was attentive and pleasant and the food was just as I expected it to be: perfectly cooked, perfect portion sizes, great selection and exceptional value. The only negative I would say is the decor of the place, which I would say as past it's day, but certainly not bad enough to detract me.

              At our table, we started off with the vert salad, croquette salad and fish soup. Vert salad was fresh, but kind of plain. But it was only $4 and a large portion for that price. The croquette salad at $7 more interesting. The $4 fish group was great, although it was very, very spicy. I can handle spice, so had to issue with it, but for most people I would say it would have been over the top. I was warned of this prior to ordering though, so had no issue with it.

              (We were topped up on spectacular fresh bread regularly and of course, lots of butter on the table!)

              For mains, at our table we had 2 flank steaks with bearnaise sauce, frites and veg; a sea bass with rice and veg; and a braised lamb shank with beans. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the food. The flank steak was cooked perfectly to medium rare, the same colour all throughout. It was nicely charred on the outside to give it lots of great flavour. Just enough sauce on it. And we asked for aioli for the fries, which also were cooked perfectly and eaten to the last little bit! The fish came with a gorgeous and incredibly unique tasting sauce. I don't remember what they called it, but it was made with coconut milk, lime butter, shallots and chili. Portion sizes, in my opinion, were plentiful for price. For everything, including a couple beers, the bill was $105 including tax and tip. Considering we ate appetizers, steak, lamb and bass, I'd give value a 10/10!

              Now for the interesting part - comparing it to Batifole. Although I really enjoyed both, I'd say that my experience at Batifole was more enjoyable. The food was a little more refined, but what I enjoyed the most was the atmosphere and overall feel of the place. Pros of Paradis are that they have a more extensive menu, which was appreciated, and I think the value was better. Batifole for more expensive, but still I'd say good value. It's a tough choice though! I highly recommend both.

            2. re: Charles Yu

              Celestin is one of my favourite restaurants, but seems to be not as popular here.
              It is a restaurant to go to with friends, and have a very relaxed enjoyable evening.
              Never rushed, and just solid food.

              1. re: erly

                Totally agree Erly- not sure why nobody mentions it. The food is innovative French but is served without pretense, the room is lovely- is it a secret spot Chow people don't nkow about?

                1. re: MartiniGirls

                  the reason batifole gets more recommendations than celestin probably relates to price. batifole is one of the better value/quality places in town, as far as i'm concerned. celestin, haven't been there, but the menu looks really good and i've heard good stuff from others. but appetizers between $15-$23 and mains getting close to $40 puts it in a different category. that being said, the original request was up to $80, ex drinks, so celestin fits the bill.

                  1. re: grandgourmand

                    Exactly. Celestin is in a different league with respect to price. It's a formal place that's high-end, whereas Batifole is a casual place where you can eat a full meal for less than the price of one entree at Celestin!

                    1. re: SMOG

                      i guess the question then, is whether or not Celestin is in a different league in price AND food; if so, $80/head is worth it.

                      1. re: MartiniGirls

                        Yes to all of the above. Celestin is in a different league from Batifole in terms of both food and price. And it is well worth the extra $$ in my opinion. I would also add that the ambiance and location is much nicer too!

                        1. re: millygirl

                          If that's the case, then I'd argue that you can't and shouldn't compare them. It's like comparing.... well, you got the point!

                          1. re: SMOG

                            Huh?? You'd be arguing with yourself smog. It's not a matter of comparison. We are simply discussing price points, food quality, and why one resto gets mentioned over another. No 'dis' intended to Batifole.

                            1. re: millygirl

                              My two cents:
                              Batifole if you want honest, tasty French food and not blow your brains after getting the bill. A frequent stop.

                              Celestin if you want really nice French food (sorry, haven't been there so can't really comment) for a special occasion.

                              Personally, I'm biased towards the better value places. I've been disapointed many times by "high end" Toronto restaurants that don't deliver the goods to match the price. Susur, Truffles, a few others come to mind. Those places, I'll save for the expense account.

                              1. re: grandgourmand

                                I have been to Celestin and think the food good but not outstanding with a good environment. I like the white theme of the room. Never been to Batifole.

                                grandgourmand, so in your opinion, which "high end" restaurant deliver the goods to match the price ? Or have you experienced any at all ?

                                1. re: skylineR33

                                  I've been to Susur, Truffles, Canoe on my own dime. Good food, no doubt, but did I feel it was worth the $150+ incrementally over a place like Batifole? Nope. Conversely, I've been to a few similarly priced places when work was picking up the tab and didn't really think much about value then. That's how i feel, hence prefaced the statement with "personally"...kind of getting off topic from the original request, though.

                                  1. re: grandgourmand

                                    every time we go out, all things are considered; price, location, service, food... sometimes homey is all I'm looking for, sometimes price will keep me away from a restaurant I love. That said, I wouldn't eat at Susur every week, but I am glad I had the chance to experience it. anyway, i do appreciate your personal selection on this one- batifole is a great little spot, especially in that area & I didn't intend to diss it.
                                    on another 'off the topic' mention- I never have the perfect dinner when out with work, no matter how nice the resto- it's just not the same as enjoying dins with friends..

      2. Le Select on Wellington or Thuet on King West....Miranda

        2 Replies
        1. re: miranda

          havent been to Batifole yet, but I have tried Le Select and really enjoyed my meal. I dont know how authentic it is to be honest, but its clean, a beautiful room, a good menu that should please everyone and the service was excellent.

          1. re: hungryabbey

            Third for Batifole. Le Select is inconsistent, and the decor, while expensive-looking and beautiful, is kind of a touristy recreation of 1920s Paris. I'd rather go for a neighbourhood French boîte any day.

          1. re: HelloClarice

            Can you be more specific, Clarice... I've been eager to try Tati... was there a problem?

            1. re: Rabbit

              I was at Tati this week. It is a good little spot to have in the neighbourhood, but I would not travel any distance to eat there (at least not yet). Uneven service--nice, but not particularly organized or professional. The food is just okay. I had the duck terrine, which was bland, but the antipasto platter at the table next to us looked very fresh, with huge shrimp. My New York steak was tender, and cooked how I requested, but had an ice cold lump o' herb butter on top that didn't melt until I was almost done. Frites were mealy, plating was unappetizing. (And I was shocked that they asked if I wanted ketchup--until I looked around and saw half of the tables were using it.) My companion had the lamb, which was doused in some sort of reddish sauce--he said it tasted better than it looked, which isn't saying much. Generally, I'd try it again, but I plan to give it some time. However, if your idea of celebrity sightings is profs from U of T, you'd be in heaven!

              1. re: Rabbit

                I had a terrible experience there last Saturday night. Here’s a look at what the evening was like:

                Went arrived as a party of 4, although we reserved as a party of 5, with a 7:00 p.m. reservation. We showed up timely, but without our 5th guest, who cancelled last-minute. While standing in the doorway, with half our party literally standing outside in the cold, we were promptly delivered a lecture by the hostess, who was clearly very annoyed with us, on how in the future it would be a “simple courtesy” to call them ahead of time in the event of any change to the reservation, since they’re “very busy”. We understood, but explained that we only learned of the cancellation minutes ago ourselves. A little annoyed, and still in the cold, we were subsequently delivered another lecture by our gracious hostess, this time reminding us that there they offer two sittings, and our table was “spoken for” at 9:00 p.m., so eat fast.

                After this warm welcome, we were finally invited in out of the cold, but left to stand idiotically in the centre of a busy restaurant holding our coats until our hostess finally decided we could stay and offered to take them off our hands. While I have it in mind, I should mention that at the end of our night we were asked to traverse the stairs and retrieve our own coats, since the staff had no recollection of which coats were ours (note to restaurateurs: the “memory system” is perhaps not the most excellent system for a coat check) At long last we were seated at our 4-person table, where the 5th chair (which was squished awkwardly into one side) was removed with much drama.

                Recent Riverdale transplants, we really wanted to love Tati since we live down the street and long for a French bistro to replace our beloved Batifole. So we agreed to wipe the slate clean and start fresh with a clean plate, so to speak. The place was hopping. It’s a lovely room with a great bistro feel. Our waitress made her initial appearance at our table at 7:15 p.m. Tick, tock. She dropped off and menus and disappeared into the crowd. We didn’t see her again until 7:30 p.m. Tick, tock. We ordered a bottle of wine and some water. Our first pick on the short wine list was not available. Not a problem. We picked again with success. The wine came, was promptly poured all over the table, then wiped up unapologetically. I prefer my $120 wine in my glass, thank you. Mercifully we were left to pour the wine ourselves the rest of the night. 7:45 p.m. Tick, tock. Our waitress reappeared and we ordered our starters and mains, along with some frites for the table to munch on.

                Starters came at 8:15 p.m. Tick, tock. We were getting concerned that we were going to run out of time. Surely this wouldn’t be an issue, after all, we were not responsible for the service which was slower than evolution, were we? As you know, good food can counteract bad service and elevate a dining experience, and vice-versa. Beef carpaccio was bland and tasteless. Calamari was a also bland and tasteless with the consistency of wet toilet paper. Perhaps by “grilled” they meant “boiled”. The French onion soup was decent, but so is the frozen Costco version. Mussels were excellent. Where were those frites? Ah, here they come, and pretty good too. 8:25 p.m. Tick, tock.

                We awaited our mains, as well as the various pieces of cutlery that were removed and never returned. 8:40 p.m. our mains arrive. The cutlery does not. We renew our requests for cutlery. “It’s coming, we’re short-staffed”. Replied our annoyed waitress. No kidding. The hostess' lecture hung in our heads. Better eat fast!

                The forks and knives arrive after 10 minutes and without apology, and so our guests can proceed to eat their steak. Still no sign of the requested mayo, water, salt and pepper. We give up. Steak cooked to order and very good. Cod with roasted garlic sauce on truffled mashed potatoes: 10 out of 10. Duck confit was soft, bland and utterly disappointing. Accompanying vegetables were nice, and although raw garlic has some proven health benefits as an antioxidant, the heaps of it laced atop the sweet potatoes made the accompaniment too sulphuric and bitter. Ugh, where’s that water? Wait, here comes the mayo!

                It’s 9:00 p.m. (tick, tock) by the time the plates are cleared and we are offered coffee and desert. we order 2 desserts to share. They show up at 9:15. Tick, tock. Lemon tart was fantastic, with the perfect ratio of sweet and sour. Frozen chocolate mousse was also a winner. I’m not a huge dessert fan, so I usually prefer to share them – I just prefer to have my own fork, which seems like an impossible luxury at Tati Bistro. By this point, staff has really started to apply the pressure. The party of 12 that was set to swallow up our table at 9:00 p.m. swarmed in and were now seated at the 8-person table next to us. A particularly obnoxious guest in the party of 12 leered at us constantly (and eventually confronted us), adding to the discomfort. Finally, at 9:20 p.m., we were refused additional coffee by our now hostile waitress and asked to leave (“You were told about that when you got here, were you not?”) – of course not before paying the $400 bill. A brief discussion with the owner resulted in an offer to move to another table and finish our coffee. Desserts were knocked off the bill (or forgotten). Too little, too late.

                After fetching our own coats we left. Outside we stared longingly into 93 Harbord wishing we could turn back the hands of time on this dreadful evening.

                1. re: HelloClarice

                  That was a BRILLIANT review!

                  124 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1G8, CA

                  1. re: HelloClarice

                    UGHH!! That's one place that's off my to-try list as of now. I hope management are reading, and I hope they're ashamed.

                    1. re: HelloClarice

                      Oh my, what an awful experience. I feel terrible for you and your party. I have never experienced that kind of rude service there in the half dozen times I've been, but perhaps it's because I dine solo (not that it should matter). Seems like they've got some serious staff issues that need working out. Thanks for the review.

                      1. re: HelloClarice

                        Ack! - horrific.

                        Thanks for the excellent report and sorry for your dreadful evening.

                        I'll be striking Tati off the to-do list for the foreseeable future. These kind of bad service stories make me crazy. Totally agree with estragon's comment that management should be very embarrassed by this report.

                        1. re: Rabbit

                          Thanks for the great review HelloClarice. I really feel for you. It's a shame to plan for a dinner out, spend your hard earned money only to end up being abused by people that are clearly in the wrong line of work.

                          If nothing else please know that your review is very amusing. One of the best I have read in a long while. Rest assured this is one place I will not bother with.

                          Actually friends of mine went about a month ago and experienced a similar disaster. Not sure of all the details but I do recall it started with a waitress (picture a pierced belly button staring in your face) asking "'what can I get YOUSE to drink". It was not a good start and went progressively downhill from there.

                          1. re: Rabbit

                            someone should email the management and let them know that people are reading about the dreadful hostess and service and are actively avoiding the restaurant for their poor (and admittedly abnoxious) service!

                            there's no publicity like bad publicity.

                            Amusing review BTW, HelloClarice. I enjoyed reading it.

                          2. re: HelloClarice

                            Holy Sotto Sotto Batman! Tati was never on my "to do" list. Too many bad rumours, too many solidly good places in Gotham.

                            1. re: HelloClarice

                              Amazing review. What makes a great restaurant is really the combination of food, service and ambiance. I think if one of them lacks, people are bound to get ticked off.

                              After reading this review, I would never bother going there. Simple as that. Thanks for all your effort, Clarice.

                        2. How about Bodega? I haven't been for a few years but I still remember the gorgeous duck breast with pomegranate sauce and the rabbit stew with a deep, dark red wine sauce and peppercorns. There were also some great wild boar sausages to start.

                          It's in a converted mansion which adds to the atmosphere too.

                          33 Baldwin St. 416-977-1287


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: GourmandGirl

                            I had a good meal at bodega as well. Especially the french onion soup :)

                          2. I have always had a lovely time at Celestin, and the food is excellent.