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Jan 24, 2009 08:14 PM

Melanie's Bistro - Good food at great value!!

Our party of four went to Melanie's Bistro for dinner tonight. Place was quaint and cozy. Even though the restaurant was packed, however, service through out our meal was most friendly and efficient. Three of us ordered the crab cakes with apple slaw and spicy aioli ($10 ) for appertizers. Unlike description by some previous posters, our crab cakes were served piping hot. The cake has almost zero fillers and tasted fresh and delicious. An apple and celery soup of the day ( $5 ) was surprisingly good as well. Our Coq au vin entree ( $18 ) was flavourful but could use a bit more sauce. Star of the evening was the Cornish game hen special ( $20 ) which was served with garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed spinach and a 'to die for' port marinated cranberry meat jus. For dessert ( all $6 each ) we ordered the dark chocolate mousse cake with 'tri-berries' compote as well as a peach crumble cake a la mode. All desserts including the ice cream were home made and yummy. A steal at $6!!
For once I agree with Toronto Life awarding it a 3*. Comparing to another bistro like Batifole ( 2.5* ), I found Melanie's food is tastier, more refined, better presented and better value. The last meal I had at Batifole a few weeks back was pseudo-disaster. Food was sloppily prepared, rough at the edges and not that appealing in both presentation and taste. BTW, IMO, Melanie's food is also better than the 3* Trattoria Zucca, which I find over-rated and somewhat mediocre. For decent Italian, Mistura or Il Mulino are better choices!

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  1. Good to hear, Charles. Sorry about Batifole, though. I'm surprised about your crab cake experience; did you find chunks of crab in them? Mine were like dense sponges that could easily be held in the hand without any trace of crab, aside from the overall flavour.

    I think what I'm learning from your experience and the Toronto Life review is that, for mains, it's best to go for the specials or the meat dishes, rather than the pastas, which I think are more run of the mill and, in my opinion, don't warrant the Toronto Life *** rating.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Full tummy

      Hello Full Tummy,
      The crab cake was indeed prepared a little 'denser' in texture than most. However, we did notice its composition to be shreds of crab meat rather than 'chunks'. The latter version are typically found in the US since they are usually made with lump crab meat. I doubt if Melanie uses imitation crab meat or salt cod as fillers since the taste and texture will no doubt be different.
      With regards to their pasta dishes. According to the table next to us, the 'Spicy seafood linguine' special last night was very tasty with tons of seafood and good value at $16. At least for THAT pasta dish, it was not run of the mill. Yes, you might be right! For something a bit more special, better to order their specials of the day.

      1. re: Charles Yu

        Thanks, Charles. Yes, I agree it is made with real crab. I just felt there were a lot of other ingredients making up the "dough", and not as much crab. It seems that what you meant when you said fillers is fake crab; I agree I didn't detect any fake crab. What I meant when I said fillers was just that there wasn't much crab in the crab cakes, that it was loaded up with other things that don't necessarily add to the flavour but bulk it up, like flour, bread crumbs, etc. I do expect some of that in a crab cake; I just felt that Melanie's had too much.

        I will definitely go back soon and avoid pasta. Am looking forward to it, in fact. I do really like the place...

    2. The original comment has been removed
      1. My experience with the crabcakes at Melanie's was enjoyable - tasty and hot. This was at brunch. It's a great neighbourhood brunch spot.

        Melanie's Bistro
        1870 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4C1J4, CA

        4 Replies
        1. re: JamieK

          I remember having cod cakes at brunch with eggs; is that what you had? Or do they have the same dinner appetizer with the brunch?

          1. re: Full tummy

            With eggs. It was the Newfoundland special.

            1. re: JamieK

              The Newfoundland special has been on the menu since they've opened, and I've had it two out of the three brunches I've had at Melanie's. But, it's made with cod cakes, not crab cakes. They are quite delicious and flavourful.

              1. re: Full tummy

                Oh, that's right. It's been a while. Yes the cod cakes were good.

        2. Well, I recently ate dinner again at MB, and I stayed away from the pasta. For mains, hubby and I shared the steak and a stuffed chicken dish. Perfectly cooked rapini on both plates, yummy mashed potatoes, sauces were great. Definitely a notch above the pasta--why? Maybe I'm just tired of pasta... The steak was actually about an inch and a half thick and cooked to specification (medium rare), nicely charred. Not the best meat, for sure--don't know how long it was aged and how, or where it came from--but it was good value for $20.00.

          We shared the cheesecake for dessert, and it was a bit of a disappointment. While it was beautifully garnished with a berry compote, the compote was missing a hit of could've used some port, perhaps. And the cake itself was bland and not sweet enough. I appreciate that when desserts are made well, you can get away with using less sugar, but this was too much "less". A sweeter, richer compote would have provided better balance.

          Am planning to try the Valentine's menu which appears to be much more ambitious than the regular menu, and I'm hoping the dishes are well-executed. Will let you know.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Full tummy

            It's fantastic for us that Melanie's is just up the street from us and East York is sort of lacking in good places to eat. We went there ecently and had some awesome food. My husband had the steak (just as described, thick and tender medium rare), but he said it was one of the best he's had. I had the coq au vin and really enjoyed that too. Unfortunatley they were out of decaf so I couldn't finish my meal with a nice decaf cappuccino (I've had those here and they're delish). I think they could have improved on the ambiance though--no table cloths (thought they had those before), lighting was too bright and our candle was burnt out. Our waiter, though nice enough was not that attentive. But we do like this place. The brunches are good and it's so close and we want to support local businesses.

          2. Just posting regarding the crab cakes under discussion. I recently ate at Melanie's again, and my companion decided to order them. This time, they were completely different than the first time we had them. Don't know if they changed the recipe, or if my previous experience was an anomaly, but they were definitely different. These were denser, more like the cod cakes I've eaten at Melanie's brunch, with very visible shreds of crab (this was not the case the first time I had them). They were definitely enjoyable and worth the money. I must say I am feeling more contented to have this little place in my nabe.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Full tummy

              We had brunch at Melanie's for the first time today. Very nice little spot. I had the denver omelet which was very nicely done. It had finely chopped tomato, red pepper, green onion and cheese (sorry don't recall what type), It came with some ww grain bread, a few potatoes and a little bit of fruit salad. Mr. MG had the chicken club sandwich which he enjoyed. The coffee was really good and the service excellent. Our only complaint was the fries, they could do much better in that department. Frozen, and not crisp enough.

              Our waiter told us about the Tuesday night dinner special. Two courses for $20. Sounds like a very good deal to me. The fennell crusted salmon caught my eye. We will definitely return.

              The atmosphere is just so so but I like that it is very clean, and they seem very nice and eager to please.

              1. re: millygirl

                Oh, sounds good. Yum, yum. Haven't been for brunch in a while. Will have to get back soon.

                1. re: millygirl

                  We've been there, i think, 3 times for brunch since the beginning of the year simply because the food is good and the atmosphere is right for us at this time in our life. We have an infant and Melanie's is large enough to accomodate us and our car seat (this is not possible at many of the Leslieville brunch spots we used to frequent.) The food is delish (newfoundland cod cakes are my fave)

                  In fact, it appears to be the nabe hangout for young families as we are not the only ones with little people.

                  1. re: Apple

                    Have you had any of the dinner items Apple? And what about the burger?

                    1. re: millygirl

                      We've eaten dinner there only three or four times (this is pre-baby only) - For dinner - I've had the pasta - fusilli & penne - I think... it was okay. My husband has had the bolgnaise & the steak... I think he enjoyed it.

                      For lunch - I've had the turkey sandwich & salmon BLT (the latter was a special of the day and quite yum!!) & my husband has had the tikka wrap and the burger. All not bad. (Although my husband thought the tikka chicken was a bit dry and would probably opt for one of the sandwiches again. He doesn't remember the burger as anything spectacular or terrible for that matter.) The salads are usually a spring mix which is usually light tasting and fresh.

                      Overall - it's a fine option for the 'hood. I wouldn't drive out of my way to hit MB... but as far as neighborhood restaurants go, I am glad it's there. It's well priced, family friendly (though it doesn't cater to children, per se...) and a very reliable & tasty option when we don't want to cook or when we are meeting friends for a casual meal. Melanie is a nice lady and happy to see us everytime. For this, we are very happy to spend our money here.

                      1. re: millygirl

                        I've had dinner there but it was a while ago, about a year. I had the shrimp linguine and remember it was quite good, tasty sauce and filling too, I ended up taking some home with me. My friend had the butter chicken and loved it, no leftovers there, every saucy morsel sopped up.

                        I don't remember seeing a burger on the menu but I just checked the online menu and it's only on the lunch menu. And it seems the butter chicken is now only on the lunch menu as well.