Chowfind of the Century- Bistrot 92 Eglinton Ave West, French French
1885 Eglinton Ave West
416 519 6050 - call ahead
A block and a bit west of Dufferin
Ample parking across the street Green P
A plain but nice room. Comfy chairs , white tableclothes.
I think that I am in France and 20 years ago.
Just came out from lunch and don't have time for a fuller review. I am typing from in front of Tim Hortons across the street.
Lunch was a French cooking $10 buffet at the crossed knife and fork standard with of course cheaper ingredients.
Soup, salad, mixed veg, potatoes, rice, fish, chicken, beef. Everything, everything is excellent. And I came two and a half hours after it opened!
Chef Guy Dongue is from Paris, born in the Cameroons. French was spoken exclusively among the staff. One of his cooking stops was Tour d'Argent. Even if he peeled potatoes there, it's OK.
Run, don't walk, particularly so that you will be there shortly after he opens.
The supper menu looks appealing. Four courses for $27.
You can find some pics of his food on the internet. Will post link later.
Thank you VV. Based on yours and other posters we did dinner here.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable meal. We did the prix fixe of course.
Carrot ginger soup
Crispy chevre salad
Duck confit with green beans and mushrooms
NY steak with mashed potatoes
Chocolate mousse w berry sauce (raspberry?)
Crêpes with Grand Marnier sauce
The escargot was a nice variation. The crisp chevre wrapped in phyllo/spring-roll and fried... terrific with the green salad. The soup was also a nice first course to warm up.
We enjoyed the entrées and the duck confit was very good. It was the crisped/fried style. Steak was cooked as ordered. Sides were excellent.
Dessert was a highlight for us. Crepe was perfect and the opinion on combining the chocolate mousse with it was spot on. Preferred the crêpes classically though.
Based on Vinnie's understated endorsement, my GF and I tried the place last night.
We walked into a deserted room. There was an older gentleman tapping something into a laptop computer at a table near the bar, but he didn't seem to be eating or drinking. We were there for a few seconds before Chef Dongue came out to seat us. (I learned later that his assistant had not come into work that day.)
Prices have been raised slightly - now $30 prix fixe, still a bargain, IMHO. No liquor license yet (I don't drink, so no biggie) but all that was offered was water. No soft drinks or juices - no big deal, but thought I'd mention it.
We started with the chef's amuse of lobster risotto. It was wonderful, fragrant and creamy, with just the right bite to the rice.
From the menu, we chose escargots Provencal and seafood puff pastry as appetizers. I'm accustomed to escargot Bourguignonne, with all its garlic and butter, so the offered dish of snails in a medley of sautéed onions, tomato, etc. was a bit different. It was tasty, but I would have liked some more assertive spicing. The seafood in puff pastry included calamari, scallops, and mussels in a very nice cream sauce. We cleaned both our plates.
For mains, she had the salmon and I had the lamb shank. After Vinnie's comment, we inquired about how well the salmon would be done. Made me realize how difficult it is to specify the 'doneness' of fish! Like Vinnie, I like my salmon just barely cooked (warm enough that it's not sushi, but still limpid and glistening). GF likes her more cooked than that, but no one that I know wants dry, overcooked salmon. In the event, we managed to communicate something, and the fish came out almost perfect. Just the last few bites were a bit underdone to her taste (perfect for mine, though!) so I happily helped her finish. She had the green beans with mushrooms side, which were delicious.
The lamb shank was tasty and tender. Since I rarely eat spuds anymore, I indulged in the Yukon Gold fries which were fabulous. Both meals came with broccoflower, carrots, and bok choy as garnish. Again, plates came full to the table, and were taken away empty.
For dessert, the warm apple tart wasn't available, so we chose the chocolate mousse and the Grand Marnier crepes. The pairing of the slightly cold mousse and the warm orange crepes made for an excellent shared dessert, and catcalls of "get a room!" from the septuagenarian quartet seated next to us.
Total bill came to $67, which is an absolute steal for such fine quality fare, IMHO.
Which brings me to my final comment: When we left at 9:30 pm, there had been a total of 8 diners in the bistro. The chef assured us he was very busy on Friday and Saturday nights, but the room only seats 32, so his upside is limited. I do urge my fellow CH'ers to give this man a try during the holiday season. As others have noted, it's not the hippest part of town, and getting there with the Crosstown construction can be annoying, but it's worth it, and I'd like to see him rewarded with a bit more business.
Maybe not the find of the century, but definitely a place to add to your list. Thanks, Vinnie!
Bistrot92 now has a liquor licence. He has beers and some hard stuff. Wine will come at the beginning of the week.
Avoid Eglinton, whether you come from the east or west. Subway construction is causing road constrictions and huge delay. Take St Clair, Lawrence, Glencairn or Castlefield. to Dufferin, then turn west onto Eglinton.
No problem finding convenient parking.
The food at Bistrot is simply delicious. We had the $15 lunch special yesterday. Both appetizers, the carrot and ginger soup and the avocado tartare were excellent. The filet of sole in a cream and mushroom sauce we perfectly cooked. The accompanying vegetables were crisp. The dessert, coconut cream pie was outstanding. The value was terrific. I agree. ... Run don't walk to this gem of a restaurant.
Don't be surprised if the average poster here dismisses the place due to it's location or coolness factor. They flock to the corner of Carlaw and Logan for pizza, but I bet not 5 posters ate at Aravind while it was open, and they served up some top notch Indian food like nothing else in Toronto. It's all about the glitter.
Did you sit at at Vinnie's table or was he occupying it?
frogsteak. It's like this. If I wanted to have a successful "eatery" in Toronto I would open a
(a) stupido burrito place
(b) yucky burger joint
(c) beer -chickenwings - TV screen garden, or
(d) AYCE sushi, $12 lunch
Note that French cooking isn't on the list. In fact
French cooking isn't at all in fashion in Toronto. But there are two places come to mind and they are long established; they had me there three times the same trip. The first time, that time, and the last time. They are like a child playing dress up.
So real French cooking is not in fashion in Toronto. There is even less demand for it from the locals at Eglinton west of Dufferin. As for the rest of Toronto, Toronto diners, unlike French diners, do not travel. Maybe to Clubland and the like.
Chefs are notoriously bad at front of house; indeed there seems to be an inverse relationship. The chef-owner at Bistrot92 is a very good chef.
An example of the discrepancy. He called his place Bistrot 92. Does the "92" mean anything to you?
How about Bistrot with a "t"? Maybe the operator is a Mexcian reminiscing about the reign of Maximillian but not speaking French. (Maison del Casa de Bistrot House, see Calvin Trillin). There is a Mexican store next door.
Bistro with a "t" of course is correct French, but guess what doesn't show up if you do what almost everyone in Toronto will do on Google, type in "Bistro 92" without a "t"?
Bistrot 92 has been open only a few months and is still building up clientele.
So the answer is, the place is not very busy even though it deserves lineups.
Brief points from subsequent visits.
For $10 at lunch I eat as if in France. So I go frequently.
Highights from lunches subsequent to my first post were
(a) onglet, tasty and remarkably tender, with sauteed onions
(b) a very nice African influenced chicken dish with cassava
(c) an excellent onion soup, done without cheese
(d) spice infused rice (That I should go back for a second serving of white rice!)
Sunday brunch $10.
There are different eggs preparations with sausage, bacon, ham or smoked salmon; veg-herb omelette; and on the side - potatoes rissole´(hash brown potatoes, sort of) and a bit of mixed fruit, toast.
I had a herb-veg omelette. Beautiful.
Just for you sadistick, one night I had a pasta, the herb veg without the shrimp. It was a complete pleasure; I cannot recall having had a better pasta dish. The chef told me that he has had Italian cooking experience. So have had a lot of Italian ( and Albanians, and here Siri Lankans.) This was talent.
Another night, lamb shank with a spiced sauce, different and delicious.
But remember that the chef is a person and not a machine. One lunch was quite OK, but relatively mediocre. If you get unlucky on one trip, return.
Response to y'all
Missbingbing, Juno. The century is still young, the reasons for gastronomic excitement in Toronto are so few. I do gush a bit when I find someone good.
Sadistick. Virgin sauce is not a cream sauce. It is a literal but bad translation of "sauce virginale", which is a French cooking term, meaning in its own juices. Someone, correct me if I am wrong.
brushfire. I ask a restaurant owner where he is from in order to get an idea of what the cooking is like.
The chef at Bistrot92 is black. He is located on Eglinton west of Dufferin. I was reaching for a reason why he would locate a French restaurant there. I thought that he was seeking a clientele with an African food heritage and his cooking would be so influenced. I asked for the region; where he is from. My question was entirely gastronomic and not at all racist.
My way of asking for the information may be obtuse in these times of great sensitivity, but the direct question comes naturally to me. I was born in Poland as were my parents and I have a Polish surname (Widimanzhidowicz). However, in Poland I am Jewish and not Polish even if I trace my ancestry in Poland back to the first Jews who came to Poland in 966.
I should change the form of the question, though. I was on Lawrence East. The menu had Afghani, Iranian and "Lebanese" Items. I asked the question. The owner was really mad at me until I explained why I had asked.
Strawberries are not in season, but they were tasty and not like sliced styrofoam. The salmon was correctly cooked, but you have to like it that way. I don't.
I don't think that it was "balls" that caused the owner to choose the location. Homer nodded.
Juno. The liquor licence is in process. I am told next month.
JonasBrand and others. Why don't you try the place first? Even I do this before I condemn.
Two lunches and a dinner.
I asked Chef Dongue´ where he was from. He said Paris. I said, no, no, I mean originally and he gave the same answer. I said that I know that his family wasn't in Paris when the Romans conquered Gaul. He laughed and answered, Cameroon. I heard only French spoken by all who work in the restaurant. The cooking is as if in France. The dishes, the style, the standard. Allowing for the differences in the availability of ingredients at a reasonable price and the differences in the customers.
The background of the chef -proprietor as he told me. And as I understood: I speak with a pronounced accent. He trained at L'Ecole Rien de Grand in Paris.
From there he went to La Tour D'Argent for a year. (I never understood why "tower" is a feminine noun. At least "minaret" is masculine.)
Then he went to Bistro St. Ferdinand for about 10 years. BSF is rated 2 toques. (Gault Millau, which claims to rate solely on food).
He came to Canada in 2008.
He started at Hotel Place d' Armes in Montreal, then went to Casino Lac Lemeay in Gatineau which touts itself as offering "Games, fine dining or buffet, 5 star hotel and shows!"
From there he went to the Rivermede Golf Club in Aylmer PQ where he was Executive Chef.
He came to Toronto recently and opened a restaurant on Eglinton, second block west of Dufferin. Chef Dongue´ is of the view that it doesn't matter where you open as long as the food is good and the price is reasonable. He does have ample parking across the street in the Green P surface lot.
I had driven by a number of times and noticed the restaurant but was not lured in even though I bite easily. I thought that his overhead illuminated sign is not attractive nor alluring. Defiant is a better word. Catering and take out were advertised and the lettering line is not level. Take out? Then he has three big stickers on the window and door advertising a dial- a-meal delivery service. With all this, what could I expect at Eglinton and Dufferin? I stopped finally - there was parking in front of the place, so what the hell. However he was closed for Thanksgiving. I saw the menu posted; it looked good. The chairs looked realIy comfy; maybe this guy does understand something. I saw chafing dishes through the window. Buffet! Hey! Gotta try! Not much to lose. And the posted menu did look good.
I think that Chef Dongue´ has been in a silver tower too long. He has always been in a places where he could assume that the customers would come, often for some reason other than the food and were even captive. Furthermore, in France a very good place in a cheap rent district is as if a shrine to which one goes on pilgrimage.
His job was the food and that was it. He works hard at the food and is good at it. As for the quiet decor and the bizarre sign, to put words into his mouth, we are here to cook and you are here to eat, so now let all of us enjoy. Ne worry pas tes brains (apologies) that I didn't borrow $500,000 to open. I certainly am not: no big loan, no terror. As for you, patron, enjoy good food at low prices. And come back soon.
He must think that he is in some other city, any other city.
The ideal first date restaurant to take a woman who has even only a bit of a brain. Ambience is nice enough, food is excellent, service is gracious, prices are very reasonable (yes, the woman gets a menu with prices printed nowadays), chansons on the stereo. Impress her with your savoir -faire. And it's not too much of an investment. As for more, it is a test of her character how she does on the lack of glitz in location and decor.
Ideal to be a regular as well. A comfortable, controlled elegance in the cooking. I had a desire to return the next day and did. I think that the chef can crank it up, but I don't want him to. My body can't take that kind of food often. Like the Horowitz in Moscow recording, how frequently can I listen to it?
Lunch buffet, $10
I uncovered the chafing dishes. I saw the beautifully diced vegetables on top of the fish. I said to myself- uh-hah….. I started with his soup, a hard squash ("pumpkin" in some countries). After the first spoonful I said, OH YEAH! Everything else followed consistently.
Puree of "pumpkin". An excellent soup and an excellent starter soup.
Next day. A split yellow pea. Excellent but much more substantial.
I took a second bowl both days.
A simple green salad, with a bit of tomato, cucumber. Topped with julienned green apple or with sliced strawberries. Nothing wrong with the dressing, but not to my taste.
One day a beef Provençal, generous with good black olives and pearl onions. Excellent
The next day a modified beef bourguignon. Good as a beef stew, pas de lardons and vegetables, but not the knock -out of the prior day's beef Provençal.
Basque chicken, legs and thighs, both days. Chicken gone to heaven. I didn't need to bother with the other dishes in order to be satisfied. Lord, give me self- control, but not yet.
Sea bass (I am told) one day, in a bit of sauce. "Bass" means all kinds of different fish in one country, let alone in another, so I don't know. Next day, sole also in a bit of sauce. Very good compared to what you could expect, but fish doesn't hold well on buffet.
Mashed olive oil potatoes one day. Fie on all the potato pudding like mashes. Fie on the "pre- made" restauranteurs.
Next day a potato and sweet potato dauphinoise, adjusted for the fact of the sweet potato
I'm Polish, what can I say more than I had two helpings each day and I would have been happy if my meal were only potatoes and soup.
Mixed veg both days, but the pieces were large enough that they were to be enjoyed individually. Carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, baby shanghai cabbage. Delicious, as if individually made servings. I don't know how the chef managed to hold them in the chafing dish.
Rice first day. Good
I went to supper one evening.
Prix fixe, five courses, $27
Hors d'oeuvres- chef's selection.
The chef had scallops and seafood that day. My family hasn't eaten shellfish for about 3,200 years. I got a bad reaction when I had thought myself smarter. Like, man, the world is coming to an end. So I passed.
I asked for some bread and the cranberry sauce from the duck leg dish. Delicious.
I got the green salad, same as lunch, julienned green apple top. But with a beautiful light oil, vinegar and salt dressing. Truly an appetizer.
Salmon on a bed of veg.
The salmon was cooked solid with a crisp skin. Correctly cooked in a particular style, but I prefer salmon melting and glistening. What you might call undercooked. In any event, I thought that it needed a wet topping for anyone's taste- the diced tomato salad on the plate would have been ideal. Perhaps this is what the chef intended, but there should have been more of it and it should have been put on top of the dish so dumb me wouldn't have to figure it out.
I cannot remember having better veg than the veg bed. Green beans, with thinly sliced mushrooms and shallots. And lots of it. A small split carrot beside the fish. A couple of spoons of tomato salad- which was delicious of its own right - at the edge of the plate.
I would gladly have the dish again, but only if the fish were cooked my way. I don't care if I see skin and it is not crisp, indeed, I will eat it anyway.
Otherwise, the veg with the leftover potatoes dauphinoise from lunch would be fine as a dish. I'm not a vegetarian; it's that the veg and potatoes were that good.
My world's best mousse was a bitter chocolate cloud at a Michelin cited working mans brasserie- E´toile d'Auvergne- in Avignon. The one now was good and correct, but it went in the other direction. Been there, done that, lets try something else. But you may like it that way and rave the way I rave bout my fave.
The first time for lunch I went two and a half hours after the food had been put out. The food held very well.
The chef would be excellent for catering and private parties.
The place claims to be open seven days a week and have good hours. It has been closed some days for vacation. Call ahead. However staff is busy in the morning and the answering machine has been failing. If there is no return call, call in the late afternoon or evening.
The buffet lunch is run Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday only, 12 to 3 pm.
re: Vinnie Vidimangi
I suspect the OP, in using the tongue-in-cheek phrase "Chowfind of the Century", was just being drolly over the top. It doesn't seem like something that'd interest me for lunch, but maybe worth a shot if I'm in the neighbourhood around dinner time - and perhaps be able to compare it to Le Paradis and other modestly-priced bistros. (You can eat quite well for $27 at Le Paradis, though you won't get five courses.) Alas, Bistrot 92 doesn't seem to have a liquor licence, though.
Well first and foremost I would not classify Scaramouche as French (though not sure what Scaramouche has to do with this...).
Second, FWIW, have you ever had the pasta dish at Scaramouche? It is fantastic! Just from the pictures alone (I know, I know, book by its cover bla bla bla) I cannot guess the same for Bistrot.
Then again, that Virgin sauce sounds awfully tempting.......
What Scaramouche has to do with it is that it's classified as French without being constricted by the conventional menus of so many French in Toronto. To write a place off because it has 2 pasta dishes on the menu seems overly harsh. I don't understand the logic.
Personally, if VVm liked the place enough to go three times, I'd consider it worth a shot if i lived nearby or were in the neighbourhood. Three is sufficient experience to fairly rate a restaurant. I'll keep in mind that I like my salmon rare as VVm does and let staff know. Most people want and therefore most restaurants serve salmon I consider to be overcooked.
re: Vinnie Vidimangi
We tried Bistrot 92 based on Chowhound comments. I hope they manage to build up a clientele. They are really trying hard, and on the whole although the ambiance is lacking the food is better than Le Paradis. The amuse bouche was lobster risotto and would have been at home at Scaramouche. The best were the appetizers and sides. The mains were all good but not exceptional - but we are talking $30 for 4 courses. They are getting a liquor license at the end of the month, and I hope this helps them survive. In a more central location I think they would. The room is spartan, but I think they are doing what they can on a limited budget. With a few inventive tweeks Bistro 93 would be a destination place.