Le Select still good?
I am visiting Toronto for 4 days, and have previously (easter 2008) very much enjoyed Le Select, not least because of the ambience. Is it still at the same location and more importantly, does it still have the same decor? And can you give me any suggestions on what's good this season?
I am going to JK Wine Bar tonight. The fries and the venison poutine just blew me away last time. The tuna bits in a sweet tomatoey sauce were dark meat and not good at all, but a few hiccups are to be expected, I guess.
Went to BeerBistro last night and enjoyed the great selection, waiters, ambience.. the sticky lamb ribs were very greasy, they had not been trimmed. I would have liked some form of starch with the meat.
These are three places I particularly enjoyed eating at, can you suggest anything in this vein please? I am staying very close to Eaton, and would like to be within walking distance or at least a short cab ride away. Dinner and lunch options would be appreciated!
I absolutely love everything about Le Select.The food, the atmosphere it's all lovely. Their Croque Madam is so rich and delicious. I chose to give them another try and they exceeded my expectations. Only complaint is the coffee is always cold.
432 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5V1E3, CA
Went to Le Select last night and had a great time.
Trying to decide between the beef cheeks and lamb beck, on the server's advice I ordered the deboned lamb neck stuffed with some kind of mushrooms and served on a bed of vegetables (cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, zucchini, baby onions, salsify, and green beans - not french beans but like navy beans, just pale green in colour instead). Very flavourful and the vegs were perfect! However, I am a carb fan, and a spoonful of mashed potatoes at the bottom of hte plate would have been great..
Partner had the bouillabaisse, which I sampled. I thought the consistency was a little too thick and the flavour not awesomely seafoodish. The fish had skin on it (had not been fileted) which made eating it quite problematic. No sign of rouille.
Had three cheeses and a glass of Muscat Gres de Languedoc - the cheeses did not seem spectacular, and the dessert menu did not appeal at all.
However, the ambience was great on a cold winter night, the place is charming and the servers knowledgeable and friendly. I will enjoy returning..
For consistency of standard bistro food, few restaurants in Toronto can match Le Select. Service can be excellent or harried depending on who you get, but overall, for me it is one of the easiest places in Toronto to go to for a good (rarely spectacular but almost never disappointing) dinner. Only issue for me is the noise level which can sometimes be overwhelming.
The bouillabaise at Le Select generally comes with one or more toasts pre-spread with rouille and cheese - perhaps your partner ate it before you had the chance to notice. I agree that it is a thicker soup than most but I don't find the skin on the fillet to be particularly problematic - they always serve it that way.
JKWB... I have to say, I was not impressed at all this time around.
We went there on a very cold weekday evening, and found the place about 80% filled at about 7.30 pm. There was plenty of space at chef's table, and we promptly grabbed a spot and prepared to enjoy.
First round was the famous fries.
"Local organic fries with artisan cider vinegar" - 6$.
The portion we got was overfried - dark in colour, too crispy, about 60% of it was made up of chips that were about 1" in length, very oily and very salty. Nothing sublime about these - they reminded me of school cafeteria fries, and even McD's chips would have gone down better. When I complained, the server told me that the number of tiny fries was standard in any portion (what do they use, midget spuds?!) but that she would ask the chef to fry them less. Second portion came around, and guess what, they were oily and oversalted and full of small bits as well. The citrusflavoured mayo and chunk of lemon that used to come with the fries has been changed to a bottle of vinegar and bland mayo. All in all, I found these fries to be pretty gross and not at all what I've previously experienced. I am a salt hound, but even I was floored by the level of salt used. I'd give this a zero out of 10 (0/10).
second round was the poutine.
"Local organic fries as lamb ragout poutine" 9$
2005 Stella di Campalto Sangiovese 11.90$ for 3 oz.
I made the mistake of ordering the poutine fast, before checking on the standard of the fries (I was at JKWB, right?). The poutine was simply gross, there is no other word for it.
It was made of the abovementioned overfried, salty and oily fries, minced lamb sauce, which tasted very greasy and did not seem to be flavoured in any way that would make the lamb taste stand out, and some kind of salty grated hard white cheese. The overall look was not stimulating, and the taste was pretty horrific. 0/10.
The wine did simply nothing for the dish - it was like chalk and cheese, and pretty expensive wine it was too. 2/10.
By this time, I decided to stop ordering the wine and continued with water so as to keep my palate clean and make sure I was really tasting the dishes without interference.
The chefs were working away and totally ignoring the customers, no banter, no explanatory conversation. We did however get a sliver of marinated whitefish with grated parmesan over as a kind of amuse-bouche. It was pretty good. 5/10.
Partner ordered the sea bass next.
"Wild striped bass with braised greens" 12$
2006 Hidden Bench "Nuit Blanche" Sauv blanc/Semillon 8.40$ 3 oz.
The small slab of fish was well-done, and was fine. Nothing sublime over it, nor the wine pairing. 6/10.
The menu that evening was not very interesting, to my mind, and it was difficult to figure out what to order next. While I find the idea of a constantly changing menu fun, it must be a huge hassle to figure out every single day, and on this day there was just too little variety. Why don't they just keep a handful of tried and popular dishes, that one can stick to in cases such as this? It was too cold to go elsewhere, and so I decided on one more dish and then we'd head back to the hotel.
Partner chose "Artisinal cheeses" 15$ and the only beer in the house to go with it.
What arrived a bit later was a big plate with five small chunks of cheese. One was a crumbly mass of cheddar, a sheeps milk cheese, a goats milk cheese, a cow milk cheese and a blue cheese. Together with house rice crackers (salty and not very crispy), a few organic dried apricots, a few toasted walnuts, a tiny bowl of liquid honey. The plating was good, and partner liked having something decent to eat after the previous catastrophes (fries, poutine). However, the cheeses were rather bland, with the blue cheese the only one providing any bite. Also, I've never understood the rationale behind serving all the junk together with cheese - the walnuts totally erase the taste of the cheese, the apricots go in a totally different direction, and the honey?! Too much weirdness going on there for me. So the cheese plate was ok, but IMHO needs re-thinking to provide a good spectrum of flavours and consistencies that COMPLEMENT each other. 4/10.
"Entrecote of beef with northern woods mushroom ragout" 14$.
The waiter lost my order. After waiting for 20 mins,during which the chefs began slowing the (to begin with) somewhat relaxed pace, I asked about it. She apologised, took the order and went over to speak with other customers. After waiting for fifteen minutes I decided to give up and ask for the bill, and lo and behold, my entrecote arrived.
A compact slab of meat, very rare indeed, sliced thickly, on a bed of various mushrooms. I had not been asked how I'd like the meat and the server asked if I'd like it re-heated to make it less rare. This, after it had been sliced and plated. Luckily, I like very rare meat, so I tucked in. But by this time, I'd mentally shut off my taste buds and was preparing to leave, so it was perhaps a case of too little, too late. The meat was perfectly done (for very rare, that is). The meat was tender and flavourful, well-cut, and just a little sinewy (why, oh why). Its hard to saw at a chunk of beef when its lying in a rounded bowl! The meat did not seem to be flavoured with anything other than salt (bit too much of it again), and while a good cut of meat works well with this treatment, I expected a bit more in terms of marination or treatment during cooking.
The mixed mushrooms were pretty bland. I'm not sure if they had been preserved in a liquid, prior to being cooked - they seemed very flabby and tasteless and slippery, with very little of the good mushroomy yumminess and consistency I associate with them. 6/10.
Rather annoyed by now, I paid up and left. The place was still somewhat empty - and no wonder.
Overall, I was definitely most unimpressed with dropping so much money on a meal that was so unworthy of it. In contrast, Le Select may be not very innovative, but our meal was executed well, the servers are efficient, the ambience is good. I'll take eatable food and consistency over fancy-schmancy overreaching any day, specially at these prices. Despite french food being generally rather heavy, it was nothing to the amount of grease (and salt!) I ingested at JKWB. During my previous visits to JKWB I was never exposed to as much salt as on this visit. The service at Le Select was also better, with no patronising attitude on the part of the waiter. Give JKWB a miss until they get their act together.
I hope my review was of help, thank you all for your recommendations during this and previous visits!
Attached: menu JKWB Jan 15.
Thanks for this very thorough (albeit rather disappointing) report. JKWB used to be such a great and reliable option. It's really sad to hear that it seems to have gone decidedly downhill. I know it's no longer part of our regular rotation and I doubt we'll be going back soon after this report. Sorry about your disappointing meal, 'spoon... but I appreciate your feedback!
I am a fan of Le Select. I find the food consistent (consistently good), the wine list is epic, and I love sitting at that zinc bar. It's not one of the the city's absolute best, but it's one of my go-to spots and I've always enjoyed my meals.
It would be great if you could report on your dinner at JKWB. Feedback has been mixed lately and some seem to think it's slipping. My last two meals there were one good-as-ever, one decidedly disappointing.
I was disappointed last time at Le Select. However the room is beautiful. Crush on King St. W is nice, Joseph and Co steakhouse if you're on an expense account. There is a rest on Yonge St called, I believe, superior that is v. nice. And my all time favourite, Kaiseki Sakura on Church just north of Wellesley, Enjoy Toronto and if you havetime during the day, def go o Kensington Market. La Tortillaria is marvelous.
I heard a report that the gelateria in the Toronto Life building at the corner of Yonge/Dundas is really good! I was kinda surprised to hear that but this is from someone who knows gelato.
I'm not sure if the weather tomorrow for example will have you wanting gelato but there you go :)
Went last to Le Select this past October. I thought both service and food were decent. I am sure it's still in the same spot.
I work very close to Eaton and will be checking out a relatively new resto called Forte Bistro (York & Richmond) tomorrow evening. I read good reviews on Chow and am excited to give it a try.
And I second Nota Bene for dinner as I've never been there for lunch yet. There are enough reviews of NB on this forum.
I go to Mercatto on Bay (Bay & Adelaide) once in a while for lunch, and their pastas are fairly simple and good. It's a typical lunch feel in the business district, so a bit loud at times, but it doesn't bother me much.
Le Select hasn't changed — some love it, others not so much.
The hot new restaurants:
Nota Bene — a bit stuffy for me, but rather grand and not far from the Eaton Centre.
The busiest new spots are all around Ossington, about a 15 minute cab west of downtown.
Delux — Cuban French fusion.
Pizzeria Libretto — upscale pizza, pastas, loud and very busy
Foxley — Thai Portuguese fusion, great sticky ribs
The Black Hoof — all charcuterie on Dundas east of Ossington.
The last three don't take reservations, so show up early or wait in line.