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Le Select Bistro and The Fat Belgian (downtown Toronto)

If you've eaten dinner at either or both of these places in the past few months, please let me know what is memorable and superdelicious and what should be avoided at all costs. I tend to order the "weirdest" stuff on any menu. If I saw any sweetbreads, escargots, or other such delicacies, I'd be tempted to go in that direction, so stop me if they are incompetent!

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  1. As a "regular" at FB, stick to the "basics" - Moules Frites. I love their fries. Though they are not in the same style as the frites in Belgium (or France), where I happen to be at this very moment. I've tasted practically everything on the menu and their moules frites seem to be the most consistent. The appetizer with beef and brie is also pretty good, but the beef is not always as tender as I like.

    1. No comparison...Fat Belgian is only ok ...was very disappointed....Le Select by comparison is stellar...also Le Select ambiance service and location is superior...Miranda

      1. I can only speak for Le Select (have never been to FB) but I find LS both authentic and consistent. And Mr. Rabbit is prone to ordering the "weird" stuff (sweetbreads, cheeks, various gutty things) and he reports that LS does well with these French classics. Also, they have a lovely zinc bar and a superlative wine list.

        I have a full review (from April 08) with some photos here:

        2 Replies
        1. re: Rabbit

          Rabbit, I always enjoy your blog links. Thanks!

          1. re: Rabbit

            I made sure to sit at the zinc bar to enjoy an aperitif and a boiled egg before my friends arrived.

          2. Also haven't tried FB, but in response to your request, recently tried the bone marrow at Le Select. Served a la Flintstone, one large bone on a rectangular plate with celery, sea salt, and toast. Very simple, perfectly executed. Also tried the Cassoulet, and found the flavours quite good, but the skin on the confit wasn't crisp.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Snarf

              WOW! Sounds right up my alley. I've only had the bone marrow at Thuet in the past.

              1. re: Snarf

                Sadly, they are out of bone marrow until Friday (supplier issue).

                1. re: Food Tourist

                  Tried the marrow. Unfortunately, I think I find marrow to rich for my tastes. I tried really hard to enjoy osso bucco in Italy, but to no avail. This version was quite 'bland', as the only seasoning was from the roasting itself (the bone), and some fleur de sel on the side. Great presentation though.

                  1. re: BokChoi

                    You're right, it's a fairly basic dish. The presumption is that the richness of the fat within the marrow is where you get the depth of flavour. That richness can also be offputting. It can also be cut by a deep glass of red wine, such as a Rhone Villages.

                    As you note, marrow is not a dish that has seen much in the way of creative presentations or ingredient combinations. Could be fodder for someone's creativity. Maybe some white beans, toaster rosemary, marrow on a crisp crouton. Hmm

                    1. re: Snarf

                      Snarf, thanks for the suggestions.

                      I think the Italian preparation method of the Osso Bucco is more to my liking. It incorporates many more flavours and textures and this, I think, helps remove the heaviness inherent to the marrow itself. At least one is not forced to consume bite, after bite, after bite of translucent 'fat'. But to be honest, even OB was too rich for me at times during my visit to Italy.

                      LS did serve it alongside the croutons, which did add a nice textural contrast. But I think they still need a little something else to 'cut the fat'. This dish ate like a main - I was almost ready to cancel my second course after attempting to consume this marrow. I hope they take your suggestions into consideration.

              2. I'd recommend the braised beef cheeks at Le Select. Haven't tried the Fat Belgian though.

                1 Reply
                1. re: GoodGravy

                  My friend asked me what to order and I suggested the beef cheeks to her, based on this rec. She was thrilled with her dish! I tasted a small piece and enjoyed it, too.

                2. Food Tourist,

                  I went to Le Select for the first time a few weeks ago. I found them to be 'solid', but nothing to write home about. I also went to Le Paradis (for the umpteenth time) last week. They would serve 'similar' food, but in terms of pricing, Le Select is almost twice the price. A typical dish at Le Select is about $28 (sure, the ingredients cost more - confit leg, etc.), whereas Le Paradis will set you back $16. Would I say that Le Select is 2x better (taste-wise)? I'm afraid not. I sampled the Beef Cheeks and the Cassoulet. I was underwhelmed, unfortunately, by both. I had honestly expected more (just from its reputation and from Chef Ramsay's sound-bites), but it was just "OK" for me. But to each their own, just though I'd toss in my two-cents. I have not been to FB, so I cannot comment there. My dining companions loved it all though, so I did save face, since I was the one organizing the dinner!


                  5 Replies
                  1. re: BokChoi

                    I agree about the better value at Le Paradis and the disappointing cassoulet at LS. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, my friends sometimes choose restaurant destinations without my input or approval! (This often results in lacklustre food and poor value for money, not to mention one of my friends frequently picks restaurants with poor health inspection track records.) Last night's dinner at FB was cancelled (the guest of honour couldn't get a babysitter), but Tuesday is still on at Le Select with the girls.

                    1. re: Food Tourist

                      Democracies are quite difficult, aren't they? LOL. Good luck and let us know how your meal goes. Hole in the walls sometime have the best food, but health concerns are often on my mind when I dine in them.

                      1. re: Food Tourist

                        Dear Food Tourist,
                        LS is one of my favourites. I love the ambiance and the food is always great. I am sure you will enjoy your night witht he ladies ther. It is a bit more expensive that Le Paradis, but so much nicer.
                        Last time there, I had the cocks combs and they were delicious. I have to disagree with Bokchoi. I've been there many times and LS never disappoints.
                        Let me know what you think after Tuesday.

                        1. re: froglegs

                          I enjoyed the cocks combs appetizer (interestingly prepared with mushrooms in a thick reduction with strong thyme). What an unusual dish!

                          1. re: Food Tourist

                            The cocks' comb was the strongest dish I tried at LS. That said, it was still just 'okay' for me. Great texture though. At $12, I think I would much rather have an appetizer at Nota Bene. But I guess I am just not a Bistro person anymore. Perhaps Paris has saturated my love for Bistros (in Toronto at least).

                    2. Have dined at both in the last month...Le Select is superior in every way food ambiance service...Fat Belgian is ok...fair food in a fair space....Miranda

                      1. Overall, I really enjoyed Le Select. Good service (he allowed us to linger for 3 hours and even brought separate cheques upon request), warm and noisy atmosphere (perfect for our girls night) and solid food. Loved the Unibroue Chambly Noire but not as impressed with Viu Manent carmenere by the glass. No complaints about the food and some of my companions are known to be highly critical (including me). I absolutely adored my lamb neck main and its accompaniments. I've never heard of this new chef but I'll be returning for sure...just wish it was a tad cheaper a la Batifole or Paradis...but totally love the convenient location and tons of street parking right in front. I was amazed that the restaurant was packed on a Tuesday evening! They obviously have a successful formula.

                        1. LS has a great atmosphere, it is unpretentious and welcoming. I have gone a few times for Steak Tartare, it has been delicious every time!

                          1. I'm a little late to add to the thread, but I thought I'd pipe in.
                            I've had much better experiences at Le Select than the Fat Belgian. I really like Le Select's beet and chevre salad. I think it's one of the better deals in that part of town, and wouldn't hesitate to return if I was looking for bistro food or a place to take a plain eater.
                            The Fat Belgian really came across as a rip-off. The portobello burger is a definite avoid. I wasn't impressed by the cheese plate, the frites, or the mussels.