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La Societe Bistro

After a long day of travel yesterday, my bf and I checked out La Societe last night since we live in the Collonade and I didn't feel like going far.

So, I have been watching them work on the renovation for a while now, and after seeing their soft opening last week,I was looking forward to checking it out for myself. Its a pretty large space inside, and a good size patio upstairs. They even have a bar and patio on Bloor St., right outside of our apartment's front doors. This is definitely going to be a busy spot come TIFF time.

We didn't have a reservation, but were seated promptly on the upstairs patio, a few tables over from Galen Weston, actually. Service was efficient and incredibly friendly. Our (super) cute young server was both professional, but very personable, which I appreciate, though some may have felt it was a bit "too much". For example, we told her we lived in the building, and the rest of the night was spent chatting about where in Toronto to buy an apartment in, as she was some-what new to Toronto. I like this type of casual approach to dining, but others might just want to be left alone, especially if lets say, they were on a first date and wanted to talk to one another, not the server. Not a problem for us, of course. She was also very attentive, and when she noticed that I was getting cold outside, she dragged over a heat lamp. Scored big points for me.

Okay, on to the food. I was pretty excited about the menu, there are a lot of options I can see myself being happy with in different situations, from comfort classics some some healthier raw seafood selections.

We shared the "Shrimp" which were 3 absolutely ginormous shrimp with a simple cocktail sauce. A tiny bit overcooked for me, but in general, a nice, refreshing start.

My bf had the Lobster risotto, which was a bit TOO al dente for my preference. But I felt it was a really good serving size and was nicely seasoned.

I did the Braised Short ribs with glazed vegetables. The short rib (one bit one) was perfectly cooked and tender, but the vegetables were a bit under and hard to even get my fork into. I also would have preferred a bit more caramelized sweetness or acidity in the jus as it was a little flat, and would have helped cut the richness of the short ribs.

To finish we went with the Banana Tarte Tatin with Rum ice cream. Well, this one was a no brainer because I love bananas (especially when caramelized) and tarte tatin is one of my favourite desserts. It did not disappoint, and was the best part of the meal. The pastry was perfectly cooked (too often I find it to be overdone and therefore very hard to cut with a fork and eat), and the rum ice cream was a lovely accompaniment.

So, for the app, 2 mains, dessert, 1 large bottle of Perrier and a tea, the total came to about $100 including tax and tip, not terrible for us. I didn't get the really check out the wine list, as I was recovering from a week of drinking and overeating while away. I was very happy with the service, and while the food wasn't amazing, it was great by Yorkville standards, and since its a very convenient dining option for us, I am sure we will be back again when they work a few of the kinks out.

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  1. Thanks for the review! This place is on my list to check out... Seems like a very "it" spot right now, which sort of makes me want to visit a bit less.

    5 Replies
    1. re: jlunar

      ha, yah.. I still would give it a few more weeks. If I didnt live in the building, I would have done the same.

      1. re: hungryabbey

        Noted! I can certainly cool my heels until the craziness dies down.

        1. re: jlunar

          What craziness?

          She walked in, without a reservation, and was able to get a seat. We drove by last night and the patio was empty??? This was around 8 p.m. Sounds very 'uncrazy' to me. I expected the patio to be chock full - where was everyone?

          1. re: millygirl

            Huh. I kept seeing a stream of tweets since the opening, but has the activity already died down? Or maybe everyone thought it was going to rain...

            1. re: jlunar

              When I saw them on opening night, I thought, Oh god, another one of those typical Yorkville establishments (too many beautiful people!!! ha.) But on sunday the inside was empty, and almost all of the patio tables were occupied.. but we will see how it goes throughout the rest of the summer for them.. it is a great patio for people watching, and really, one of the only places actually ON bloor st. in yorkville.

    2. Heard they also have a seafood tower similar to NYC's Balthazar. Anyone checked it out yet?!

      1. I went with a girl friend of mine for brunch today. Made a reservation but apparently the patio is first come first serve, like most places. We still managed to get a seat on the patio because it was early, but there were only a couple of tables that were occupied inside.

        The interior of the restaurant is gorgeous and you could tell they spent a lot of money on making the place very much like a true bistro - dark wood, tiled floors, and even a seafood "bar" where lobsters and clams were sitting on ice. If only the food were just as good. To start off, they were "out" of a few items - like crepe and I believe a mushroom soup. Huh? It was just the beginning of the day and they were already out? My friend ordered the eggs benedict florentine, which she said was lukewarm. She thought it had been sitting there for a while. My choice of the grilled chicken sandwich was ok, but a tad on the greasy side (for my taste). The server was friendly, but forgetful. (She asked if we wanted fresh ground pepper but never returned with it.) Points though for checking on us though.

        Not sure if it's just because the place is new, but there is definitely room for improvement. If one is going for drinks and people watching, they also have a beautiful setup on Bloor St. itself with a marble-looking countertop and expensive-looking bbq grill. It would be really great to see if the food improves...but at this rate, I'm not expecting lineups as one would outside of Balthazar in NYC.

        1. Okay, so I went earlier than expected! Pretty empty inside at 6:30 on a Sunday, but the patio was kickin'

          hungryabbey, you're gonna cry. They took the tatin off the menu :(

          They also took off the sous-vide steak (replaced with a regular flat-iron steak or something). I was eyeing that as part of their prix-fixe and then went with the braised short-ribs you had when I heard they didn't do it sous-vide anymore.

          Overall, okay. Not great enough that we'd gamble on the seafood platter next time, but there will be a next time, in about 6-8 weeks once they refine things.

          flickr: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjv6NDmB

          5 Replies
          1. re: jlunar

            Gotta say, this is one of the best looking restaurants in the city. Very Balthazar, Minetta Tavern esque. Biting Keith McNally hard, but can you blame them? He has a winning formula that generates a lot of $.

            Good job on the design. I'm not expecting much from the food but I'll give them a shot on the interior design alone.

            1. re: aser

              The decor takes me back to Paris. The food, though, sweeps me right back to Toronto (and not in a good way). Classic-esque dishes, poor execution.

              Like erly, we had a lot of apologies and a lot of dishes comped, but I'd rather have a good meal than a mostly free meal. Service, while nice, was not knowledgeable.

            2. re: jlunar

              You are fortunate that the sous-vide Steak is off the Menu.
              They can't get it right.
              Our sweet server,, but with very little knowledge told us that it can't be done less than med.
              It came very well done and cold.
              Our Friend did not even send it back, because at this point there had been so many errors with our order to the point that we just relaxed and enjoyed the Company.
              Our first apology came from the Manager, even before our first course was served.
              We needed to ask what he was apologizing for.
              We had several subsequent visits from him, and each time told him not to worry, as they had only been open for 2 days, and we understood.
              The Dover Sole was good, as was the Onion Soup.
              Everything else not bad,
              Only one Dish was sent back, wrong Dish which was given to me, which I would have kept anyway, except that it was an extremely well done Ribeye.
              Our shock was that when we received the Bill, more than half the Meal was Comped.
              Probably will give it another try far into the future.

              1. re: jlunar

                Oh damn.. that is unfortunate re: tatin. I wonder why...

                They need time to work out the food kinks... i hope they do at least, because its so convenient and a nice environment, and there is nothing else in the neighbourhood.

                1. re: hungryabbey

                  for both the tatin and sous-vide steak,we were told that it was because people weren't really ordering. I think that was just a line, really. The steak sounds (from your experience) like there were production issues. Not sure about the tatin - would have liked to try it.

                  I ordered the mignardises/friandises for dessert. The gelees were good, truffles alright, but man, the macarons were terrible! Bad enough for me to send a quick note to them about it. Maybe it was just the ones I had, but they were really damp.

              2. Went for lunch today with a friend. Decor is very French Bistro like, not unlike Balthazar NYC. Someone here said this was one of the best looking restaurants in the city. I wholeheartedly agree, very beautiful!

                Service was appropriately attentive, everyone was friendly and nice. Food needs work. I ordered the $15 burger. The bread tasted like something bought day-old from Loblaws and the meat was way overdone and dry as bone. My friend ordered the Quiche which she said was lukewarm but otherwise OK. The comp the burger which was very nice.

                I've heard that Charles Khabouth is more flash than substance and, unfortunately, this first visit didn't suggest anythiing different. The restaurant is still very new but it's got a long way to go and at the steep Yorkville prices they're charging, they better learn fast.

                1 Reply
                1. re: syoung

                  Charles likes to build places to see and be seen. Food is always secondary which is a shame b/c he hires great designers and always ends up with beautiful spaces.

                2. I went to La Societe last night for a birthday celebration, and the experience was amazing, from start to finish. Aesthetically, the restaurant is just beautiful - every detail is a feast for the eyes. The service was outstanding, and the food was authentically French. This restaurant is a welcome addition to the city, and I hope that lots of people get out to enjoy it. The bar is beautiful, too - great place to have a drink after work and/or before a show. Lovely!

                  1. Lunch at 1:30 on a Saturday and the place was EMPTY!!! The patio was busier, but there were only two other tables with couples on the inside. We could actually hear ourselves speak.
                    Yes, the servers are gorgeous, slim and smartly attired, the ceiling is splendid and the tile floors spectacular.
                    But if you happen to be interested in actually eating, you may be out of luck (more on this later).
                    As for the comparison to Balthazar, the decor misses the mark in several ways. If I recall correctly, there was a sense of occasion in that place. Sparkle and colour were everywhere, not just in the crowd. This place seems overwhelmingly brown. There may be a lot attention to detail, like in the menu font, but it's like nobody took a step back to get the overview.
                    The oversized central arrangement of fake blue hydrangeas and delphiniums, right when real ones are blooming all over the place, completely kill the feeling of authenticity and look chintzy. It's summer, for god's sakes! After spending so much money, isn't there anything left over for a couple of little blossoms on the tables to brighten things up? Remember the fountain and flowers at the old Le Provencal?
                    As mentioned by others, it's all show, no go where the food is concerned. A few bistro basics, but they're out of this and they're out of that. On Sat. lunch! And it's very pricey for what you get.
                    Our egg dishes were fine, good omelette (looked like a pancake...is this a new trend?) and quiche, nothing special, though. But they were out of a couple of desserts and our default profiteroles were stuffed with icy, second rate ice cream (they'd run out of their homemade stuff and sent out for something else....why not pop over to Greg's and get something edible?). The chocolate sauce was brown...no flavor of chocolate at all. They comped it when we expressed chagrin, admitting to the deception. Biggest problem....no black tea. At tea time! Again, send someone over to Whole Foods around the corner. Not every customer craves Camomile.
                    Here's where you know you're dealing with amateurs in the French bistro department. No fresh strawberry tart....in the middle of local strawberry season!
                    No reason to go back, if you ask me.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: syam5

                      Yup,syam5 - you bring up a very good point re: strawberries. What a shame. I was really looking forward to this place and will try it for myself but I sure hope they improve.

                    2. I went last night for dinner around 7:30 and the place was 90% full including the patios & dining room (did not check the bar area), We ate inside as it was a bit muggy. One thing with all the hard materials in the place is that it does get very noisey when teh room is full. We were sat at a table for two and between the bread basket and menus and place settings the table was packed. I can understand that in a bar table but a dining room table should have a bit more space. every time something arrived we had to shuffle dishes around... sides, butter, bread, cocktails etc.

                      The server was freindly and like others said maybe a bit too freindly and made a couple of mistakes on describing dishes but he was very attentive.

                      We started with the Tuna Tartar and the Duck liver Pate... Portions were very generous and my duck was excellent. My date found the Tuna to be cut too large and a bit chewy but she loved the flavours.

                      For mains we had a cassolet and a seafood dish (forget the name) basically clams, mussles, shrimp, fish in a light safron broth... The cassolet was served on a cerampic dish taht looked like a frying pan... the beans were done well and tastey, the duck was a bit too cripy on the outside and a touch too salty, porkbelly was excellent and the sasage was a bit dry... The seafood was cooked perfectly and the broth excellent. The only think I find is that when they use Shrimps as large as they do they tend to be a bit chewy.. they look great but I woudl prefer smaller more tender ones.

                      We skipped dessert...

                      All in all it was fine for a safe dinner but nothing really exciting... would hit that patio or maybe the bar on a stormy night for cocktails, people watching and maybe some apps..

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: RogerDoger

                        The seafood dish is called ' La Marseiiaise', their mutated version of the traditional Boullabaise.

                          1. re: Charles Yu

                            Is not any modern interpretation of Boullabaise then just a "mutated version of the traditional Boullabaise"? Unless a Toronto restaurant would source ALL of it ingredients from Marseille any Boullabaise would be "mutated" and not "Traditional".

                            1. re: RogerDoger

                              The traditional Boullabaise(s) I tasted in the south of France use ONLY fish ( especially Congor Eel, Rascasse and Scorpion fish ). No shell fish and/or bi-valves were involved. The fish were de-boned and served on a separate plate. If it wasn't for the saffron and lack of tomato, the LSB version with its shell fish components resemble the Italian Cioppino more.

                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                I did not see it listed on the menu as "an authentic traditional Boullabaise"...

                                But even Julia Child who lived in the south of France for a long period of time includes shellfish in her description of the traditional Marseille Boullabaise. But as you know a "traditional dish" in one town could be spat upon in next town over the hill for adding or subtracting one ingredient because that is not "Their" tradition... And in places like Italy and France it could even be family recipe to family recipe that are different even though each has been handed down for centuries and the cooks consider them the only authentic version... then again maybe the places you had the dish were serving mutated versions?

                                1. re: RogerDoger

                                  I've done more reading that I would ever really care to admit in regards to boullabaise, and from what I can tell, the only common element people can actually agree upon in terms of a traditional boullabaise is the fish called rascasse. Everything else seems to vary including the debate of shellfish or no shellfish.

                                  Personally I prefer one with shellfish but served where the broth and fish are presented separately.

                                  Regardless, I have yet to try a really stellar one in Toronto and at one point Cru under Greg Argent had the next best thing - a good quality Italian style Cioppino.

                                  Maybe some day someone in Toronto will blow my mind but until then I will save this dish for when I'm traveling.

                                  1. re: JennaBean

                                    @RogerDoger. The places I went to include Chez Michel and Chez Fonfon. The latter, located in a fishing port in the middle of Marseille was known to be the 'guardian of the traditional Boullabaise' They used at least 5 types of fish in their 'fish soup' No shellfish was involved. According to the owner/chef, 'addition of shellfish is voluntary but is seen as snobbish by pure Boullabaise purist. So, mutated version?! I doubt not!!

                                    @JennaBean. Yes, I heard good thing about Greg Argent's Cioppino. However, so far, in Toronto, my favourite is still the Soupe de Poisson at Pastis! I love to follow it with their gorgeous calves liver with red wine reduction and lardons and then finish off with their dark chocolate profitoros! Yummmm! A simple but almost perfect dinner!

                                    1. re: Charles Yu

                                      To bad Pastis is now closed for their annual summer holidays otherwise I would be there now....serious cravings thanks to you Charles!!! Although liver is not my thing. My other items on the menu are....LOL

                                2. re: Charles Yu

                                  Families can't even agree on what constitutes a traditional authentic boullabiase in Marseilles so I'm curious how the one you had was any more authentic than the other variations, other than the fact you had it.

                          2. We have been there several times already (5 to be exact). It's the most beautiful restaurant in Toronto. The decor & ambiance are addictive if you like the bistro/brasserie environment & the staff is nice although you can feel their pressure when the place starts hoping. The patio upstairs is an instant classic.
                            Food wise, it is what it is. Don't expect to be amazed nor totally disappointed. Go there for the fun of pretending you're in Paris for a few moments. The French fries are to kill for, and they serve a very fresh (new) Kronenburg 1664 Blanc on tap which is excellent. The wine list is ambitious with good & bad choices and lots of Vintages items at a X3 markup (choking). The seafood platters could be more creative & the steaks could be improved. The sourdough bread is excellent. White chocolate toppings creme brûlée also is very good.
                            The bar/lounge area is gorgeous. If your food expectations are average, you will have a good time there because the scene is part of the experience. It's a restaurant that has a personality.

                            15 Replies
                            1. re: MichelinHound

                              I would rather have good food and not so nice decor.. (not that the decor is so great, Le Select is not much different)

                              I can close my eyes as I eat really good food and its much easier to pretend I am in Paris then to try to turn off my taste buds as I stare at the ceiling...

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

                              1. re: RogerDoger

                                All three Toronto newspaper restaurant reviewers have now trashed La Societe in their writings, yet still have awarded La Societe multiple stars.

                                What gives? Is there collusion? Is there something I don't know? How can one shred a restaurant but still give it prizes? Where is Kates when we need her?

                                      1. re: iMarilyn

                                        Kates needs to get back into the saddle really soon. Waiting for Labour Day will kill us.

                                      2. re: linalool

                                        The Pines is the lodge her parents owned. She is directly involved with the camp.

                                    1. re: Dean Tudor

                                      Not quite. Ms. Pataki of Toronto Star gave it 3 out of 4 stars. http://www.toronto.com/article/693053...

                                      1. re: syoung

                                        3/4 stars and notes that basically the entire meal was a bust with the exception of the terrine/pâté (next time I'm there I'll ask if they're made in house) and the fries (+ the decor).


                                        1. re: tjr

                                          The review strikes me as having the same spirit as someone making a harsh comment, then adding a smiley face at the end.

                                          e.g. The fries are good, but otherwise, La Societe sucks :)

                                          1. re: Wench Foraday

                                            That's it exactly, Wench...

                                            Stars do not jibe with the texts.

                                            1. re: Dean Tudor

                                              No, they don't jibe, do they? While I don't think it's collusion, there may be some kind of rule whereby the reviewer feels free to tell the unpleasant truth in the text as long as they award enough stars for the establishment to claim a good rating. It's definitely misleading, and ultimately, you gotta do your homework.

                                        2. re: syoung

                                          i remember when the Toronto Star reviewed Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. They gave it 1 star. A week later, it was smashing box office records. The review was suddenly bumped up to 5 stars.

                                          So yeah, take their reviews with a grain of fleur de sel.

                                          1. re: atomeyes

                                            they were right to give SW:TPM only 1 star...as for La Societe...all the stars should be for decor and none for food

                                            1. re: ingloriouseater

                                              au contraire couple of colleagues have visited this place and gave the Prix Fixe 4 and 5 star (out of 5) respectively. I think I will form my opinion after I have tried it myself. As for the reviews in the newspapers hmmm I never believe them as I think sometime the advertising/repute of the chef has some sway.

                                  1. I thought the room was beautiful, the food was the definition was 'meh', the service amateurish. I will try it again- but i'm not in a hurry to go back.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: ingloriouseater

                                      Agreed. The restaurant itself is beautiful, they redid the floors, the ceiling, everything. Our waitress told us it cost about $4 million. So it should look amazing.
                                      We went for brunch yesterday, and it was okay, nothing spectacular, but the french toast with the bananas was probably the most memorable.

                                      1. re: frostie

                                        Nothing has changed. Pretty room, food pretty bad.

                                        We were there tonight ONLY because it was close to Kroener Hall otherwise I had zero interest.

                                        Mr. MG's steak frites were just plain awful. He ate maybe a 1/4 of the steak and that was it. Nobody bothered to ask why. Everything was just bleh.

                                        Not a good food weekend to say the least....

                                        Mr. MG is sitting beside me saying "oh no, don't tell them we were there...they're going to think we're idiots!!! But I added the disclaimer it was close and convenient.

                                        1. re: millygirl

                                          Ugh. Bad food weekend, indeed. What a bummer. The last time I went to Koerner Hall, I went to Caren's Wine Bar for dinner and it was lovely as usual. Maybe next time?

                                    2. I wanted to like this place. Really. From the eager reception you get without a reservation in the heat of Sunday brunch (together with an abbreviated five minute wait), to the very attentive waiter with the CBC Parisen accent (you may remember him from such other accents as Smiling Keg Guy, Terroni no Substitutions, and Would You Like that Supersized?), you know that they have been trained to make you feel like taking a crowbar to the recession clip on the wallet and strapping on a multi-course Gallic feedbag. The presentation of the place is beautiful, and the attention to detail goes a long way, but seems to stop somewhere between menu design and execution. The ingredients are right for the classic French Onion soup, but the cheese combination seems to bland, and melted, rather than baked. The burger (yes, I did. Hell, if it's on the menu, they should be prepared to stand by it) was perfectly cooked, but it was going to dry while still healthily pink (too lean?). The counter point of the undersized brioche bun left one handling either knife and fork, or bare-handing the meat, neither of which seemed right.

                                      The crowd seemed to be many groups of families or glammed up post-hipsters who appeared to be genuinely enjoying the scene. Maybe this is the new Fran's.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Snarf


                                        Hell, you're a bistro for the love of G-d!!! If nothing else you should be able to do a killer steak frite. Honestly, just looking at it turned me off. You could tell it wasn't good. They must realize the food is crap? Even the frites were just so so.

                                        Give me Pastis any day.

                                        1. re: millygirl

                                          Oh Steak and frites are bad? My friend highly recommended them as part of the set menu and I was planning on going there soon to try it out. Hmm I guess I will have to stick a proper steak house to get my fix in the winter.

                                          1. re: elvisahmed

                                            Or hit any of the tried and true bistros ( Le Paradis -pave de boeuf or bavette instead of steak frites, Ici, Biff's, Bistro 990, Globe, Earth, Pastis, Mogette, Simple, Le Select, Weezie's and so on) offering decent, if not good, steak frites for half the price of a steak at Barberian's or Jacob & Co.