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At a loss

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lamaranthe Aug 26, 2010 10:42 AM

A dear friend of mine (from Montreal) is coming to Toronto mid Septembre. A reuion I want to celebrate. I'd like to take her to one of our best French restaurants, nothing extravagant but classy, emphasis on very good fare and service. No hotel restaurants. Preferably downtown. Should it be Black Hoof, Didier, Beerbistro, Quince, Quanto Basta et al ? Or, for fun and good food, The Marrakesh Express - 49 Front St. E. - I'll appreciate your suggestions. Thanks!

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The Black Hoof
928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

Quanto Basta
1112 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4W, CA

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  1. l
    lowchen RE: lamaranthe Aug 26, 2010 11:35 AM

    since I see Black Hoof and BeerBistro in your list, Ill volunteer a non traditional French resto-George. awesome food and ambience.someone from MTL would enjoy.

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    The Black Hoof
    928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

    1. Herb RE: lamaranthe Aug 26, 2010 11:36 AM

      Of all the restaurants you listed, only one — Didier — is French. As for the rest, that's certainly an "eclectic" bunch. I'd do Le Select. It's safe and not terribly pricey.

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      Le Select
      432 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5V1E3, CA

      1. d
        dubchild RE: lamaranthe Aug 26, 2010 11:38 AM

        I'm not sure I consider those our best "French" restaurants. If it's open go to the Black Hoof, its similar but a million times better than, the much celebrated, Au Pied du Cochon.

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        The Black Hoof
        928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

        17 Replies
        1. re: dubchild
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          jamesm RE: dubchild Aug 26, 2010 11:45 AM

          Absolutely recommend Black Hoof. Quite possibly the most unique dining experience in the city right now. Plus you can bar hop down Ossington afterwards, if you are so inclined.

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          The Black Hoof
          928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

          1. re: dubchild
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            phoenikia RE: dubchild Aug 27, 2010 11:08 AM

            I find that statement hard to believe, dubchild. I love APDC, and I don't believe any restaurant in TO could ever be a million times better than APDC ;-)

            Chacun à son goût ;-)

            1. re: phoenikia
              Splendid Wine Snob RE: phoenikia Aug 27, 2010 11:33 AM

              Agree.

              With multiple visits to Au Pied De Cochon, and having tried almost everything on the menu, its a pretty unique place. If you go in the spring, the seafood is amazing. I find the problem is that people try it once, order the duck in a can, (or other Bourdain recs) and walk away.

              Not only that, its been doing the "excessive meat" thing a helluva a lot longer than the Black Hoof.

              Does the Black Hoof change their menu at all? I haven't been keen on trying it since the only things people seem to rave about are the charcuterie platter, and the raw horse sandwich-both of which I have had plenty in the past. Can anyone chime in on some current interesting menu items at the Black Hoof that don't involve foie, bone marrow or charcuterie?

              1. re: Splendid Wine Snob
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                phoenikia RE: Splendid Wine Snob Aug 27, 2010 12:10 PM

                Agree that APDC's seafood is amazing. I also like their desserts.

                I haven't been keen on trying the Hoof because I'm sick and tired of charcuterie, and I don't tend to go out of my way for foie, marrow, or doughnuts/beignets made of marrow.

                1. re: Splendid Wine Snob
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                  bytepusher RE: Splendid Wine Snob Aug 27, 2010 01:04 PM

                  Black Hoof does change the menu, constantly, while there are a couple things that they don't take off like the horse sammie (which I don't think is all that exceptional frankly) most of the rest of it does move around a lot. It's unfortunate that the postings here tend to focus on the only two things on the menu that never change. I've had a very nice scallop dish and a smoked sweetbreads dish that I thought was unique. However I wasn't impressed with their handling of octopus, both times I tried an octopus dish it was mushier than it should be.

                  I don't think ApDC is a reasonable comparison at all, aside from the fact that they are both named after a pigs foot and are pork friendly the similarity pretty much ends there. In practice they are very different both in approach to portion size and approach to flavour. There's probably more fat and calories in a salad at ApDC than there is in the entire menu at the Hoof. ApDC is at it's core just refined Quebecois farmhouse cooking. Cusine wise the Hoof comes from a very different place, I think the approach is in more Spanish and Italian but it's not "tapas" in that there are no slavish renditions of the canonical tapas bar standards.

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                  The Black Hoof
                  928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                  1. re: bytepusher
                    Splendid Wine Snob RE: bytepusher Aug 27, 2010 01:14 PM

                    Thanks bytepusher. I've been to the Hoof Cafe which I quite enjoyed for a couple of small plates and delicious cocktails. What I really want to do is head there for brunch and also try some desserts.

                    Although I haven't been to the Black Hoof, I absolutely agree that a comparison to APDC is not exactly fair. ADPC is really a restaurant of Quebecois cuisine taken to excess and extremes. Nonetheless, I will have to check out the Black Hoof at some point.

                2. re: phoenikia
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                  dubchild RE: phoenikia Aug 27, 2010 11:44 AM

                  Actually I measured with a refractometre, added the salt, times the weight, factored in the velocity (minus any drag from the wind coming through the door), and multiplied by the price difference and it worked out to almost a million times better. I rounded up because we were sat by the door.

                  1. re: dubchild
                    Splendid Wine Snob RE: dubchild Aug 27, 2010 11:51 AM

                    Yes, yes dubchild...but can you speak about what dishes you recently ordered at the Black Hoof that are worth trying please??

                    1. re: Splendid Wine Snob
                      Underdog Rally RE: Splendid Wine Snob Aug 27, 2010 12:19 PM

                      The menu specials change every so often, as do the contents of the charcuterie. Cured meats are still their staple, but they do experiment with other ideas. One of the things that surprised me about the Hoof Cafe is that while meat is the focus, that's not all they do well. I may be alone in this, but I actually thought the fantastic french toast is a star on its own, and could have done with the hunk of foie gras on top.

                      Other foods I've enjoyed there: Suckling pig, grilled tongue, numerous cocktails. Others can review items like bone marrow strawberry beignets, pig tails/head, and calf brain ravioli (granted, not everything is a success). I think what makes the Black Hoof stand out for me is that it makes these items accessible, without the price tag or excess of a place like APDC.

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                      The Black Hoof
                      928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                      1. re: Splendid Wine Snob
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                        dubchild RE: Splendid Wine Snob Aug 27, 2010 12:26 PM

                        Since you said please and for the benefit of the OP, I've enjoyed the sweetbreads, the lamb belly (even though the carree was better), the beef tongue sandwich is a must, the testina, even the lemon and lavender tart. I always get the charcuterie because it's good to share, but I find the other dishes the real reason to go. The horse sandwich, I find, is overwhelmed by the olive oil. I haven't been in a while, but they do make small changes to their menu. I've never had a bad dish, everything is always correctly seasoned, and service is stellar. At about $50 pp, I wish we had more restaurants like this.

                        1. re: dubchild
                          Splendid Wine Snob RE: dubchild Aug 27, 2010 01:15 PM

                          Thanks. I hear that lemon tart is fabulous! See, even snobs can say please ;)

                  2. re: dubchild
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                    William Taft RE: dubchild Aug 27, 2010 02:32 PM

                    Not to be the hyperbole police, but I'm also a bit surprised by this.

                    What dishes did you try at PDC?

                    1. re: William Taft
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                      dubchild RE: William Taft Aug 28, 2010 06:29 AM

                      I bought the APDC cookbook almost a year before visiting the restaurant. As a book, I thought it was an incredible package that communicated a real spirit to the place. Some friends, whose opinion on food I don't completely trust, had mentioned they were underwhelmed by the place. They did recommend the deep fried foie gras (comis?). I forget what my GF ordered, but she wasn't into it. I had the mentioned foie gras, the foie gras poutine, some cassoulet like dish, and the poached pear. The fried foie gras was great, a one bite explosion of deliciousness. The foie gras poutine was salty and the gravy had either cream or reduced foie, which made a heavy dish even heavier. My cassoulet like dish had mashed potatoes rather than beans, various cuts of pork, including pork belly, and blood sausage. Again the dish was salty. The mashed potatoes tasted like they were 50% potato and 50% butter. Obviously, I ordered heavy dishes, but they managed to make them heavier. I couldn't finish my main and looking for some relief, I ordered a light dessert. The poached pear sat on, if I remember right, some creme anglais and there was no flavour or attempt at any presentation. A spoon was brought as the eating utensil and it couldn't cut through the pear. I thought the thing was going to shoot across the room if I tried eaten it with this spoon, even while holding the thing with my hand, it was that hard. After about ten minutes I managed to flag down the hostess, because getting our server was impossible, to get a knife and fork. I was told by the hostess the place is always busy and as far as I could tell, our server was responsible for 6 tables, but despite it seemingly being a regular night, service was just not there. The vibe which was captured in the cookbook, wasn't in the room. This was my one and only visit. Maybe I ordered the wrong dishes, maybe it was an off night. A couple of weeks later, some friends who both chef and whose opinion I trust, reported a similar experience. I ran into a gentleman visiting Toronto from Montreal who seemed into food. I recommendd he try the Black Hoof as a way of comparing. His response was Quebecers don't go to APDC, there are better places for that kind of food, it's mainly for tourists.

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                      The Black Hoof
                      928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                      1. re: dubchild
                        Splendid Wine Snob RE: dubchild Aug 28, 2010 08:07 AM

                        I thinks its *become* a place for tourists. But I know plenty of people from Montreal (trust me) who do eat there. It depends what day of the week and time you go. I also suspect that with the huge popularity of the place, the time of its "heyday" so to speak, has perhaps passed...

                        Actually the last time I was there, I also noticed service had slipped quite a bit.

                        I am convinced the only way to eat heavy meat laden food at APDC is to order an apero and perhaps one dish early in the evening or go with a group and order half of what you would normally.

                        I've never ordered the cromesquis, but I have enjoyed so many of the "lighter" seafood dishes. And I love the various wild game tartare he's had on the menu along with the jarret d'agneau. I also love the poutine, its so over the top, but poutine is over the top to begin with.

                        In any case, to get back to the OP's question as to where to bring his friend from Montreal, perhaps the Black Hoof would be interesting. I haven't been, but it is one of the "hottest" restaurants in Toronto (and on this board) right now. Perhaps taking a Montrealaise there would give her a good sense of what Torontonians consider great in terms of food.

                        1. re: dubchild
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                          tjr RE: dubchild Aug 28, 2010 08:26 AM

                          The deep-fried foie gras croquette-esque things are called "cromesquis."

                          1. re: tjr
                            d
                            dubchild RE: tjr Aug 28, 2010 09:37 AM

                            Cromesquis, I have to remember that. Thank you. Isn't a comis the dude who helps out a chef. But I guess anything deep fried tastes good.

                            1. re: dubchild
                              t
                              tjr RE: dubchild Aug 28, 2010 09:53 AM

                              The cromesquis at APDC are pretty good, but I had an absolutely transcendental one at Pierre Gagnaire.

                              You're right though -- deep-fried foie gras can't possibly be bad.

                    2. p
                      phoenikia RE: lamaranthe Aug 27, 2010 11:06 AM

                      I find the food at Beerbistro mediocre and usually disappointing.

                      You might want to consider Pastis, which is owned by a Frenchman and gets favourable reviews. http://www.torontolife.com/guide/restaurants/bistro/pastis-express/

                      Jacques Bistro du Parc is another decent French option, especially if you and your friend like omelettes.
                      http://www.jacquesbistro.com/Bienvenu...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: phoenikia
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                        MeMeMe RE: phoenikia Aug 27, 2010 11:11 AM

                        Pastis! Delicious every time.

                      2. sloweater RE: lamaranthe Aug 27, 2010 11:45 AM

                        How about Gilead Bistro? I had a great dinner there on Wednesday.

                        1. l
                          lamaranthe RE: lamaranthe Aug 27, 2010 03:40 PM

                          Thanks to all. I was at a loss.. and it's getting worse after all these comments! You brought up quite a few good places. Unless I am mistaken Au Pied de cochon is in Montreal. My friend is a true Montréalaise, so I want to take her to something different. I am surprised there are no comments about Didier, Quince, Quanto Basta.or Marrakesh Express. What about Splendido?

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                          Splendido
                          88 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1G5, CA

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: lamaranthe
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                            phoenikia RE: lamaranthe Aug 27, 2010 03:45 PM

                            Quince is quite good for a neighbourhood bistro. I liked the daily soup on my last visit. I like Quince, but I would be more likely to take a visitor to Pastis.

                            I have not eaten at Didier, Quanto Basta, Marrakesh Express or Splendido.

                            Didier does not find much love on this Board.

                            Splendido finds plenty of love on this Board.

                            Recent thread on Quanto Basta: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/720626?
                            tag=quick_reviews;review23225#5758724

                            The Moroccan restaurant located at 49 Front Street is called the Sultan's Tent / Cafe Maroc, not Marrakesh Express.
                            Thread on Sultan's Tent/Cafe Maroc: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/390684?tag=post-box-content;2471254#2471254
                            Another thread on Sultan's Tent/Cafe Maroc: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/679792?tag=post-box-content;5313587#5313587

                            You are correct that APDC is in Montreal. The discussion about APDC arose when dubchild suggested that The Black Hoof was a million times better, or almost a million times better, than Au Pied de Cochon.

                            You might also want to consider Simple Bistro, on Mount Pleasant. Simple Bistro currently offers a 3 course prix fixe for $40.
                            http://www.simplebistro.com/Home.html
                            dinner menu: http://www.simplebistro.com/Home_file...

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                            Splendido
                            88 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1G5, CA

                            Quanto Basta
                            1112 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4W, CA

                          2. z
                            Zengarden RE: lamaranthe Aug 27, 2010 03:58 PM

                            I did not see anyone mention Batifole. Would that be a good spot for a nice French meal? Not in the downtown core but in Chinatown East.

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                            Batifole
                            744 Gerrard St E, Toronto, ON M4M1Y3, CA

                            1. curnonsky RE: lamaranthe Aug 28, 2010 10:02 AM

                              It might help us if we knew your age group. A 20-something's idea of "fun" rarely appeals to someone in their 50s.

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