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Mar 14, 2008 12:48 AM

Bistro Camino is Hiro and a Chowfind

Bistro Camino
2750 Danforth Ave, between Main and Victoria Pk.
416 698 0283
Full review after further visits

I thought there was something unusual about the place. Three Japanese cooks in whites in the kitchen. White linen napkin and in the bread basket. An extensive,interesting and toothsome menu. And this at Danforth before Victoria Pk. So I chatted up the waitress.

She says that the owner is Hiro. He trained in French cuisine, but when he came to Toronto the people wanted Japanese food, so that is what he gave them. As for the downtown location, nothwithstanding Hiro's fame , the place really didn't make money. High operating costs etc.

So he decided to convert this location to a "French " restaurant.
What is the food like? Its like this. Hiro is cooking outside his culture, and he can't keep his culture from intruding. But aesthetics are a consideration in just about about everything in Jpanese culture, and Hiro is good. So I liked what I had a lot; not really authentic, who cares.

Corn soup: delicious, and not what you would think
Escabache fish; OK , pleasant,
Shortribs. Another surprise. The whole plate was "composed" and delicious. Great accompaniments on the plate, but I would experiment before I would settle for the white rice that Hiro put on.
Cheesecake. I took it home. the beef taste was too full to be followed by dairy. 7 of teh desserts are forms of cream,- icecream, pannacotta, etc the 8th is tiramisu with whipped cream. Look, nobody, nooooobody!, makes a cheesecake like Hugh at Bibiche. This one was a correct ordinary bore, but it carried a good berry sauce topping.

Despite the inference from the list of what I had , Camino is no diner and does not serve diner food. I think that Camino hasn't reached Hiro's aspiration yet, but it will come.

Now the price. All this came to about $25 before tax. And a good and interesting meal, with would have large enough had I had dessert with it. And nothing screwed up by the Emperor's tailors of whom there is no evidence. Chef does need to think about the desserts though, to present variety. As`for the name, how many would think that the place was a tacqueria?

A bargain, and much of it was really good. If something here was not to my taste, the maeal was a lot better than at a chi-chi yup- yup, where nothing was to my taste and less food for much more money.


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    Bistro Camino
    2750 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4C1L7, CA

    1. Just in case you hadn't seen this thread, there are several others who agree with you!

      1. Went to Bistro Camino tonight for an early dinner and couldn't be happier about this chowfind as VV called it. We got there really early so we were the only ones in the place but the service was superb and the food was too.
        First of all, I must say, I couldnt believe how extensive the menu was. Usually I am very quick to know what I want but myself and my 2 dining companions went back and forth several times before we decided on what we wanted. Plus, in addition to the menu there were also about 6 or 7 blackboard specials to make my decision harder.
        To start we had a thai beef tapas dish which was chunks of incredibly tender beef tossed in a thai sauce with sesame seeds etc. It was truly excellent, it would make a wonderful meal if someone would want to pair it with a salad. We were also served a nice bread warm from the oven with olive oil, butter and balsamic.
        The meals all come with soup or salad, as was explained in previous posts, and so we tried the house salad (apparently good, but I mean, its just a salad), the sherry consomme soup (which was delicious, I tried it) and I tried the sweet potatoe soup with toasted almonds (ah, I could have licked the bowl). For mains we went for the short ribs in beer sauce with mushrooms, but I requested fries instead of rice . The short ribs were extremely tender and flavourful and the fries were, well probably not home made, but still good in a mcdonalds kind of way haha. My partners went with the beef curry with rice (which I tried and was very good. More like a thai sauce than a thick spicy curry, but it was the quality of beef that really stood out), and the beef stroganoff, which honestly kind of tasted like my short ribs, just without the ribs. Midway through our entrees, the chef came out to ask how everything was, which I thought was a nice touch for a little casual spot.
        After our entrees, we turned down dessert as we were just too full to even look at the menu but our server did ask how we knew about the place and I told her I heard about them on the internet. She instantly brought up and mentioned how crazy it was that there had been so many recent reviews. It seemed to make her a bit nervous actually. But I was really happy that she brought it up because it shows that the restaurants do check and read up to see what we say about them and hopefully improve/maintain the aspects of their restaurants that we comment on.
        On that note, thanks chowhounds for another great recommendation. Theres NO way I would have ever even looked at the place if it wasnt for you guys and I will definetly be back to try some of their specials or a couple other dishes on their regular menu.
        By the way, for 2 glasses of wine, the beef app, the 3 entrees that included bread and soup/salad came to 83$ with tax before tip. Amazing deal!

        1. Add my voice to the acclaim for Bistro Camino, if only because it is simply such incredible value. I'm the type of person who would eat out several times a week if I could, but like most people money IS an object. I still haven't tried Splendido, most of my meals in the top restaurants in town have come courtesy of business dinners, and I really have to weigh taking my wife out for dinner at even an average restaurant, where a good meal with wine and tax and tip will usually hit at least $80, and more often than not over $100. Coming from Montreal, where one can dine out constantly and well for just a little more than one would pay to cook it at home, Toronto has been a shock.

          So Camino has just vaulted to the top of my "possible weekly destination" list, even though it's a bit out of the way from my Leslieville home. The location, frankly, is abysmal, but the restaurant is just so bloody cheap, and the value so strong, that I will make the trip, and hope others do too.

          Look, this place is not Batifole - the food screams "retro" rather than "classic." The soup that came with our entrees was a lamb consomme, with barley and flecked with parsley. I can't remember the last time I ate a soup like this, but the broth was outstanding. For mains, I had a fresh pickerel amandine, which was perfectly prepared, with several different vegetables including a bit of roasted squash, some asparagus with a drizzle of white cheese sauce (just like my mom used to make in the 70s), and roasted potatoes. Delicious. Price: $15.

          My wife is always a sucker for a good crab cake, so I suggested she test the menu's obvious Japanese influence and have the crab cream croquettes. Two large croquettes with a side salad and the aforementioned, but forgivable at this price point, frozen french fries. The croquettes were beautiful, golden brown and crunchy with an almost-liquid crab filling. I helped myself to her plate a few times. Price: $13.

          We were stuffed at this point, and want to go back with a heartier appetite and test a bit more of the menu, But here is the kicker: the final tally for the two entrees with the bowls of soup and a glass of decent house red (Nero)...$37...$44 with tip.

          Sadly there was only one other couple in the restaurant, so I think we CHers need to get out there and give Camino a try. Hey, this board has turned the fortune of many an out-of-the-way gem, right? I suspect all the Japanese-influenced stuff on the menu is good (they had a beef curry that I was sorely tempted by, but I just came back from Texas and am beefed-out), and the retro French dishes are impeccable - remember, this style of cuisine used to be incredibly popular for a reason, it just tastes great. Decor is a bit woeful, but the service is charming and friendly, and chef came out to ask if we enjoyed our meal. Did I mention dinner for two was 40 bucks?!?

          3 Replies
          1. re: childofthestorm

            The beef curry actually was very good. I am so excited to go back because there are just so many things worth trying

            1. re: hungryabbey

              I'm already planning a return trip this weekend! The menu is pretty extensive. Perhaps next time I will get a bunch of appetizers and tapas-sized plates so I can give a more thorough report.

              1. re: childofthestorm

                My objection to Batifole is that I feel that the meal is cafeteria style. By this I mean that I am getting one of this and a discreet one of that. I much prefer a composed plate with a soup that complement, and this is what I get at Bistro Camino. I love the vegetables on teh plate with the main. I counted seven different kinds last time, just a bit of each one, nicely cooked and flavoured, generally without butter, and going nicely with each other and the main.

                I haven't had anything there yet which I didn't like a lot, although I must say that I avoid (Toronto) mesculan ( Yes Virginia, mesculan does not have to be boring insipid crap> the escabache fish was hum- drum the first time, now improved and I ask for it as a separate appetizer, $3.50). Also I didn't think much of the cheesecake, but I used to have the greatest, and regularly. For dessert I really liked the vanilla ice cream with the reduced basalmic sauce, $3.50.

                The lamb broth was thought to great by one and all.

          2. My wife and I visited Bistro Camino tonight and like others on this thread had a great dinner. We both had the 3 course fixed price menu, mine was $25 and my wife's was $28. The fixed price menu includes a small sample of 4 appetizers beautifully presented. I chose the leg of lamb main with a balsamic vinegar reduction, my wife had the beef stroganoff. Both were nicely plated with a side of roasted potatoes and about 6 other vegetables. Desserts were also included, I had the tiramisu and my wife had the cheesecake. We have to agree with others on the board that said the cheescake is bland although the tiramisu was good and portions are generous. The wine list is very well priced with adequate variety. We had very pleasant servers and although the decor leaves something to be desired, we were prepared for it after reading the reviews, and it wasn't as bad as we had expected. We highly recommend Bistro Camino and hope that others in the area will support this spot. When we left, the wait staff, including the chef, wished us good night, this certainly is a restaurant that's doing things right and deserves to succeed.

            4 Replies
            1. re: jdavies

              Two extra- base hits and a strikeout.
              Had a Michelin-crossed-knife -and- fork scale meal one evening. Octopus soup followed by a lamb mince strudel.
              The soup was very tasty and interesting. The octopus was minced.
              The lamb was wrapped in phyllo, and sat in a pool of "minted" sauce with stewed blueberries. There were eight different vegetables including roast potatoes, a bit of each, each beautifully prepared. The whole plate sang.$15 for soup and main.

              The meal was so good that I went back shortly thereafter specifically for the salmon. I am over-salmoned, but I had seen a salmon plate come out the evening of the lamb strudel, and it looked good, and that night was so good that I thought, lets see what Hiro can do. Besides, it is only $14 for soup and salmon main. The plate was excellent.
              Particularly noteworthy was the sauce-bed on which the salmon sat. Capers, dill and bits of green onion top, done with a bit of olive oil. I suppose that the salmon plate was as good as the lamb strudel plate, which was outstanding, but I am slamon jaded. Oh yeah, the salmon was very nicely cooked.
              The soup with the salmon was a vegetable soup with bits of fried garlic. Very good.
              I had dessert, what is described on the menu as tempura icecream ($6.50). This is battered (donut like batter, not tempura) ice cream, deep fried, sitting in a chunky fruit sauce. Very comfy, very good. Enough to share.

              Not every thing is as good. One evening I had the oxtail.($15 with a soup). A complete bore.
              Indifferent and not enough meat, very bony, and under a brown sauce- gravy that didn't do anything for the oxtail. The otherwise nice vegetables didn't go with the oxtail. The plate did not hang together, and I could have done without some of the parts. But at least it was only a strike out, not an inning ending double play. Sort of OK plate, and at $15 with a good soup, you get to bat again before you take the field.

              Hiros special talent- where he shows a bit of his own hand- is with soup, vegetables and fish. He generally flavours very lightly, but definitely and in a satisfying way. You can put Hiro into the stock pot, but he stays Japanese. But a natural mix. I suppose the Japanese in their own culture are masters of the aesthetic which is the hallmark of good French cooking-- seemingly not enough, but at the end (of the meal), just right..
              My recommendation of fish, etc. is not to say that that Hiro's meats are not good- some are- but the oxtail was disappointing and hard to understand how it could have come out of the same kitchen as the salmon or lamb strudel.

              1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                thanks for the tip VV. I have only been once and we all ordered beef dishes and were very happy with them. The beef was extremely tender and perfectly cooked. Not in any way chewy, dry, or fatty. But I will try to aim for a fish dish next time to compare.

                1. re: hungryabbey

                  Have the salmon or pickeral for a first try, rather than the kingfish.
                  I have had them all , and with pleasure. But kingfish is a mackeral type, and must be really fresh. I am afraid that something will happen and I will have steered you wrong.
                  It is not surprising that the fish paltes are so good: Hiro is of course Japanese