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Nov 16, 2008 08:05 AM

Loire on Harbord

Just wanted to give everyone a heads up about a new spot in the old Olive and Lemon building. They just opened on Friday, I was there this weekend, and I have to say this looks like a really promising neighbourhood spot. The menu is primarily french (as you may have guessed from the name), but it has one thing its major competition across the street doesn't have (looking at you, Tati) - actual good service, even on the first weekend. Shocking, I know.

We tried the charcuterie plate (speck, pork rilette, chicken liver parfait, and a few other things I've forgotten) - very nicely done, the rich flavours you'd expect, and great presentation with the rilette in a little mason jar, for example. The mussels with chorizo and bell peppers wasn't as brothy as I would like, but the mussels were well timed. Our mains were steak and marrow - a nice alternative to steak-frites on roasted potato with a good sized marrow bone on the side, and the pasta with chicken in a truffle oil/jerusalem artichoke sauce. The pasta could have used a little more visual impact - very beige - and was a little undersalted, but nicely rich.

The room's very warmly decorated, with a nice buzz about it. Great cocktails to start, too! Over all, a bit uneven, but definitely a great new option in the neighbourhood. Best thing - nothing on the menu was over $25, and wine was all under $80.

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  1. Thanks for posting about your experience. I was wondering what was going to go into the old Olive & Lemon site. I love French food so I wouldn't mind checking Loire out (and the prices don't hurt!). I looked on their website but they don't have a menu up yet:

    1. I second this! Went to Loire (Harbord/Major) Thursday evening. For a restaurant that's just opened it was packed. Lovely friendly owners (a French sommelier and a French chef - and yes, you guessed it, both from Loire valley) and stuff. Very cosy. The music - a mix of good French oldies and unagressive new hits (may be even by Madame Sarkozy, I couldn't tell) was playing very softly and formed a good background. The flower arrangements were nice.

      A few good Loire valley wines by the glass ($10-12), but also a selection of really stylish creative cocktails - I had an amazing whirl of flavours in my glass (vanilla, litchi, angostura etc. - with a dash of nutmeg - a perfect winter indulgence): elegant and potent at the same time.

      The menu is pretty short, not much of choice, half a dozen of appetizers and half a dozen of main dishes (+ a couple of specials), and it is all about FF, French&Fusion. I tried charcuterie plate tooo - it was excellent. A touch of quince preserve, spiced fruit relish and tarragon worked wonders with the meat selection (although it was quite impressive by itself - the best rilletes I ever tasted - and I had a lot of these in France - precisely in Loire Valley). Monkfish with curried potatoes and cauliflower was cooked just right, cauliflower still retaining a tiny bit of crunch, flavour combination working well.

      How could I refrain from trying smth from the dessert menu after this? I chose a marshmallow pumpkin banana cheesecake - mainly because I have almost a dislike for these three flavours and really wanted to see, what the chef makes of it. It was pretty brilliant (I finished every bit my dislike of bananas gone in a jiffy) - and was accompanied with a wonderful candied ginger ice-cream.

      Well, this did settle the matter. These guys know how to do their fusion - because usually, you know, it's so easy to go wrong with this one.
      May be I will even risk frog legs in BBQ glaze next time I come by.

      Some random practical facts: the dinner (all things described + a glass of an elegant dry Vouvray 2006) cost $85 with tip, a bit too steep for me for an everyday experience, but quite ok for a festive occasion and worth it. It also seems that Loire is closed Mondays but the good news is that it has some interesting lunch possibilities on workdays.

      Having worked in the rb myself I am usually much more critical than that but honestly this was a perfect dinner experience. If I really must say something "contra" too I could spot only two very minor flaws, the bread was indifferent and the waiter didn't remove the empty cocktail at the first opportunity. And may be serving sizes are a little restrained for Toronto - but they are ok for a gourmet place, where on smply has to taste several things AND still have some place for dessert. And this was all, follks! I would say visit soon while they are in their prime and on their best behaviour.

      1. Please oh please let this place be good...

        I am DESPERATE for a local boite so I can stumble home after my fill of French wine and food...

        1. I have to agree with you - it is looking like a great neighborhood restaurant. I was not a huge fan of Olive + Lemon, but so far Loire Casual Gourmet is doing everything right. We went tonight (in the middle of snowmaggedon) and they fit us in without reservations. Service was great - friendly, attentive and unobtrusive (I used to waitress so I'm pretty picky about service); the room is very cozy and candlelit.
          The menu is short but incorporates a lot of local ingredients. Their take on the ubiquitous pork belly was delicious - fatty and warm with a crispy edge, with a little julienned apple to cut the fattiness. The burger (lamb is from New Zealand but beef is Ontario) was so much better than a pub burger - on the rare side, nice and juicy, topped with brie and served on Harbord Bakery's challah - an awesome neighborhood touch. The fries were delicious - not as good as Nota Bene's - but crispy and golden.
          For dessert we had the dark chocolate marquise, with a fabulous little scoop of mint chocolate chip gelato.
          Portions were on the smaller side, but really well presented and totally filling.
          Dinner for 2 with wine, tax and tip was about $100, so the prices are a little easier than Tati's across the street.
          I'll definitely be going back!

          1. I ate at Loire last night after reading some favourable reviews.
            My dinner partner and I found the food to be generally good, but there was a problem.
            For my main course I ordered Confit Duck Leg & Muscovy Duck Magret
            Cauliflower-Manchego Cheese Gratin, Collard Green, Bigarade Sauce.
            The duck was very good, but the vegetables were so heavily salted that they were inedible.
            I pointed this out to the waiter and asked him if he would ask the chef to taste to see if there had perhaps been a mistake in the kitchen. He returned to say that it was the salt in the sauce that had caused the vegetables to be so salty. I told the waiter that the sauce was not the problem, it was the huge amount of salt in both of the vegetable dishes especially the greens that was the issue, but he insisted that the chef had told him that that is the way the dish is supposed to taste. Sorry guys, this was a significant problem with an otherwise pleasant meal and, believe me, I do not exagerate this food faux pas. The heavy taste of salt was still on my lips even after my 15 minute walk home.
            Don't think I'll be back. There are too many eating places on the hood that do it right.