Faim de Loup
Toronto, ON M6H 1A5
Occupying a tidy little corner spot at College and Dovercourt is Faim de Loup, a new modern-French restaurant from chef and owner Jeffrey Yap, who cut his teeth at Scaramouche and under acclaimed chef Mark Best at Marque in Sydney, Australia (some may recognize chef Best as the charming Aussie who placed second on Netflix’s The Final Table).
The space was formerly a Levetto, a fast-casual Italian joint with five locations across downtown Toronto, Vaughan, Waterloo and Aurora. Now the kitchen has been slowed down and scaled way, way down to just two — Yap and his general manager, Aravind Kozhikott — serving 16 guests, including four at the chef’s counter.
What’s unique here is that the evening service will actually top out at 16 guests; no tables turned over, no rush for guests to make their reservation for fear that they may have to wait for another table upon arrival. Instead, it’s just a procession of meticulously prepared dishes and a boundless expanse of time to linger and enjoy them (though the lights do go off eventually.)
And although it sounds intimidatingly intimate, the atmosphere is not: Yap was lucky to have found a space with more windows than walls, ensuring a steady flow of natural light and plenty of people-watching along colourful College Street. The décor is warm yet regal, with plush leather banquettes the colour of blueberries, all anchored around a large modern-abstract painting by the French artist Laurianne Simon.
On top of benefitting from the logistical conveniences of operating a restaurant with only one other employee, Yap was also drawn to the concept of the Japanese “kounta seki” bar, where a handful of patrons are casually seated around a chef’s counter.
“I really liked that small scale, intimate atmosphere,” he says. “That appealed to me when I started thinking about what ended up being this place.”
Faim de Loup offers a five-course tasting menu for $80 and a seven-course menu for $100, with optional beverage pairings for an additional $50 and $70 respectively. The dishes reflect Yap’s penchant for clean, pared down French-inspired flavours, and rotate based on available ingredients and chef’s whims.
At time of writing, he was serving sweet and succulent Newfoundland snow crab, floating in a pool of creme fraiche, with slivers of cucumber, poached rhubarb and celery, all culminating in a delicate little starter combining the texture of a salad with a light, savoury broth scented with fine herbs.
This was followed by a cod from Haida Gwaii, supplied by Hooked. This dish was inspired by the French cassoulet, traditionally a rich and hearty casserole with sausage, duck confit, bacon and beans — “A meat fest,” he calls it. His much lighter version swaps out the bulk of the meaty protein with a generous serving of seared black cod over white beans that have been cooked in pork stock. Pork crackling and chives are sprinkled overtop, resulting in a balanced dish that combines soft unctuousness of the beans and cod with the crisp of the sear and crackling, in proportions befitting a luxuriating city-slicker and not, say, an 18th century French farmer.
He follows this with a stand-out mushroom dish, a play on his idea of the forest floor: chunks of porcini-cake mingle with oyster mushrooms, sautéed kale, sorrel, and roasted garlic over powdered kale.
Also resembling a forest floor is his tart-shaped dark chocolate ganache, super-silky soft and filled with raspberry jam, a milk chocolate pastry cream and créme fraîche, all sitting under a blanket of flax-seed crumble manipulated to look like tiny tree branches.
Their beverage program focuses on pairings, with wines from primarily Ontario VQA and France, but they also offer an assortment of beers, aperitifs and digestifs.
With its limited seating, visually attentive dishes, and tiny staff, Faim de Loup is a place that is equally suited to Instagram-chasing food tourists and special occasion regulars, who can expect something different with every visit, yet retaining the same level of personal familiarity.