WE ARRIVE WITH a basketful of preconceptions. What to expect from a place where the only identifier is a miniscule scribble on the overhang of an awning? An acknowledged hot spot for the young and gorgeous, the question is — is there anything for us foodies here to eat?
The menu is a mixed bag, ranging from bar snacks, through small and large plates. Le Petit Castor does something unwise that I find annoying — they charge $3 for bread and spread that, at this meal, is a boring hummus and a dairy-free pear butter. To be sure, the loaves do bear the Thuet pedigree, but it is stale. If they want me to pay for this, it had better be perfect.
Three kinds of poutine are offered ($9 for plain and $18 for lobster), but we opt for the retro fave Devils on Horseback. This translates into five dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon. The kitchen has achieved the near impossible by cooking the bacon wrappers to a perfect crispness without sacrificing the sweetness of the fruit or creaminess of the filling ($10).
LE PETIT CASTOR
1118 Yonge St.
Dinner for two excluding
tax, tip and alcohol:
House cured salmon is served with capers, crème fraîche and “blinis.” Everything looks right, and the salmon is of high quality, but this is not the Russian Tea Room, and the three “blinis” are dry and leaden ($9).
Mac and cheese is this year’s darling, and each boîte contributes its own spin, Castor’s being the addition of pulled brisket. The beef pulls without being stringy and is juicy from a long marinade. The pasta serving is huge, but the white cheddar that binds it is so compelling that it all vanishes ($17).
Grilled yellow fin tuna with niçoise garnish is grilled to perfection, with each slice singed around the edges and rare in the centre. The niçoise could use a little oomph and has not really partnered well with the fish. Frites arrive as a side order and are wicked.
The dessert list is short, and we are content to share one and go for my old favourite, crème brûlée. Everything looks normal, but instead of the usual crackle, when I hit the top, it goes squishy and then silent. The sugar topping has not been sufficiently torched, and without the amber top, it is just pudding.
Verdict? Mostly good. Despite the pretty people buzz, there is solid culinary happenings afoot. Some attention to detail would help with the fine strokes. And, I’m thinking, free bread!