Being best friends with a food connoisseur (Kate) has had its perks over the years. Naturally, our resident foodie needed a companion to join her in her critical crusade and lucky for her (or perhaps, more lucky for me) I’ve usually been on hand to accompany her, happily sampling anything she needed a second opinion on.
With that said I do not have as precise a checklist that comes with her expertise and breadth of knowledge in the food and wine world, but I certainly think I know what tastes amazing, what good service looks like and how great ambiance can enhance the whole dining experience.
So, when I went to Toronto this weekend to visit family and found myself at a unique downtown restaurant, one thing I knew for sure was that it was blog-worthy.
Le Papillon on the Park (translation: The butterfly on the park) is a Québéc inspired restaurant in downtown Toronto. Having gone to university with many Torontonians the idea behind this place struck me as strange. I had come to learn that French was a foreign language in TO and that French-Canadian traditions were more or less absent.
But with the owner’s roots in Montréal this Eastern Avenue spot features a true celebration of Québécois cuisine including menu items like poutine, tourtière and tarte au sucre for dessert.
Without even opening the menu, I felt as though this was a place I would like because of its charming interior. The restaurant is in a monstrous renovated brick house with an outdoor patio stretching along Jonathan Ashbridge Park. French doors open on the lower level for screened in diners to enjoy the summer air and blue-and-white-chekered tablecloths (oh so Québec in colour) help to make you forget you were just in bustling downtown Toronto a minute ago. Beautiful multi-coloured prints line the walls making you think more art gallery, less eatery.
As an appetizer, my brother’s fiancé, Amy, and I chose the salade “Papillon” which was my favourite part of the meal. The lemon tarragon dressing was to die for and the pieces of egg, asparagus and olives, accented with gruyere cheese were excellent. The salad was definitely not appetizer size so if you’re looking to get dessert you’ll need to pack a hefty appetite. I took a nibble of my mom’s escargot as well which was swimming in a delicious creamy, garlic sauce and my brother had a classic salade césar.
As mentioned, the menu includes several “français” items with an extensive selection of savoury crèpes. The crèpes were what the other three members of my party gravitated to while I chose the spécial du jour – a sweet and sour pork tenderloin served over a bed of jasmine rice. While I enjoyed my meal, I sampled bites from the crèpes of my company and would definitely choose one for my next visit. Very reasonably priced between $13 – $19 each crèpe was jam packed with savoury fillings. I sampled Amy’s “P’tit Poulet” which included sautéed chicken, asparagus, mushrooms (which I normally don’t like…) caramelized shallots drizzled with light Béchamel sauce and cheddar cheese. YUM!
Our food did take quite a long time to come out, but we were warned that the kitchen was experiencing delays when we sat down. With so much to catch up on and no one in a rush the elapsed time really didn’t put a damper on our dining.
To accompany our meal we had a bottle of a French cabernet sauvignon by F. Lurton entitled “Les Fumées Blanches”. Amy, a wine connoisseur of sorts, said it was the best white wine for the price ($27) that she’d ever had in Toronto. Oppositely, I have little to no wine knowledge and did not even browse the wine list personally, so I will say nothing more than that I enjoyed two amazingly refreshing glasses.
The only person who had room for desert was my bottom-less pit (joking!) brother, Daniel, who selected an old Québec favourite – the pudding chômeur (translated: unemployment pudding, stemming from the depression when families used basic ingredients such as brown sugar, butter and flour to make dessert). Taking a very miniscule bite I can agree it rang true to French-Canadian cuisine at its best.
The reason for our visit was that this is the venue my brother and Amy will hold the rehearsal dinner for their wedding which is taking place over the Labour Day weekend in September. The first marriage in our immediate family this is obviously a very exciting event and I could not think of a better spot to bring our two families together. My mother’s side of the family is French-Canadian so this was the perfect way to tie in some of our heritage into the big day.
I look forward to delving into some crèpes on my next visit and to share such a special day with my big brother and my sister-to-be… in a “coquille de noix” (nutshell).