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Restaurants

La Societe

Posted by Megan Leahy / Reviewed on August 26, 2012 / review policy

La Societe TorontoLa Societe opened near Bloor and University back in June 2011. The name of the French bistro ensured it was no secret that Charles Khabouth - "King of clubs turned Emporer of hospitality" whose company INK owns venues the likes of This is London, Guvernment/Kool House and CUBE - was hoping to create the Cheers of Toronto's high society.

It could now be argued that this is the place where Toronto A-listers go for after-work drinks and birthday dinners. Bankers and Yorkville locals meet at their regular booths with wannabee fashionistas looking in. Or so the story goes.

La SocieteNot exactly the setting for brunch on a sleepy Sunday. While there was a short queue for a table on the upstairs patio (the street-level patio was closed) inside was all but empty. Diners were a mix of international tourists, out-of-town shoppers, and Tiffany clad girlfriends, with Yves Saint Laurent and Hermes bags dotting the backs of chairs. No celebrities in sight.

As a party of two we were sat immediately. A server was at our table within an instant to ask our preference for sparkling, still or tap water (how French!). Prices weren't overwhelming, considering the neighbourhood, still we decided to opt for the classic over the P.E.I. lobster benedict ($24) (though later we found ourselves regretting this decision when we saw the dish served to a nearby table).

La Societe TorontoTo start, we opted for the grape salad. The flavours simply did not mix. Too tart. Now, you might assume that pulling out a camera or a notebook at a restaurant would put the staff on their toes. This is why many reviews are done discreetly (and published without accompanying photos), namely to ensure service can be judged as usual. But, camera or not, I've come to learn quality of service is rarely affected. Could it be the plethora of food blogs out there? The fact that so many tourists log where they eat? Either way, bad service continues regardless.

Enter Assistant General Manager Blair Cowan, in himself justifying Khabouth's reputation for above and beyond hospitality. Within seconds of snapping the above photograph, he was over my shoulder inquiring as to the purpose of our visit - a seemingly natural response, but surprisingly rare.

Clearly passionate about the success of the bistro, Cowan shared that he had been invited to work at Khabouth's latest venture, the King Street saloon-styled Weslodge, but turned it down in order to watch over La Societe's growing success. Without ever being invasive he made a presence at every table, disseminating a jovial demeanor down through the staff.

La Societe TorontoBack to the food. The Societe benedict, with westphalian ham, toasted brioche, poached egges, and potato hash - the hollandaise was light while still creamy, and most importantly came out hot; the home fries were simple but salted more than usual, just to our liking. A rare occasion when such a decadent dish did not leave us regretting the indulgence (though we could have done with double a portion of home fries that without a doubt would have put us over the edge).

La Societe TorontoAs per usual, I ordered the French toast, a sandwich of thick and chewy bread stuffed with chocolate nougat, then dusted in icing sugar and topped with a banana puree, served with a side of berries and whip cream. When the plate arrived the first thing that came to mind was the fact that the dish was served without maple syrup. Before I could take the first bite Cowan had brought some over. Although the chocolate was locked somewhere in the centre, beyond a wall of thick crust, the caramelized bananas made up for any lack of sweetness. The dish passes much more as a desert than it does a wholesome breakfast.

La Societe TorontoThe food is not what draws people back to La Societe. Not that we expected larger portion size based on price considering Yorkville standards. But taste was just at par. There was nothing exceptional about the dishes.

La Societe TorontoInstead, the decor is why I've been sending people to check out what many would overlook as a pretentious establishment. The stained glass ceiling that umbrellas the cafeteria-sized dining area; a bar worthy of PJ Clarke's; having lived in Paris for a year it sent chills up my spine.

La Societe TorontoAll photos by Megan Leahy except bar photo by Jesse Milns

Discussion

20 Comments

b.craftie / August 26, 2012 at 09:51 am
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["... the grape salad ... Too tarte." If the salad is the one shown in the photo, it does not resemble a French pastry, so I think the reviewer means "tart".]

Thank you for the review.
I often walk by and the photo of the street-level patio is accurate. I believe I have not seen more than 4 patrons there and have wondered why. Perhaps they are all indoors, admiring the decor.


Rob / August 26, 2012 at 10:29 am
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b.craftie... I'd say the lack of people on the patio would merely be based on the time you walk by. Most evenings after work it is pretty busy...

But the review is accurate. I also send people here for drinks at the bar and the decor. Unfortunately the food has been hit or miss, lacking a consistency needed for a good restaurant. INK always hits the mark with the design and decor of their spaces. Now they need to ramp up the quality behind the scenes in the kitchen and hire well-known chefs who can maintain the quality on a day-to-day basis. Otherwise the reputation the are starting to garner of glam but no substance will stick.

I must say though that the front-of-house staff and service have always been very good and attentive, although they have been known to get a little flustered when the owners show up...
The Lonely Troll / August 26, 2012 at 10:45 am
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'we were sat immediately' You don't said?
Rene / August 26, 2012 at 11:21 am
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Is there anyone editing - add 'wannabee' and 'the Flavours' to the already mentioned typos.
Sophia / August 26, 2012 at 12:24 pm
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**whipPED cream.
David / August 26, 2012 at 02:16 pm
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Wow who wrote this...the grammar, spelling and sentence structure are awful.
Bloor / August 26, 2012 at 02:39 pm
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I live nearby and I want this place to be good, so I can frequent it. Sadly, everyone I've asked agrees that the food is mediocre. I hope they get their act together.
squirms / August 26, 2012 at 03:32 pm
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Rob,

INK's rep has stuck with me. I really try to avoid all of their resto's. I can't say that I have ever had an exceptional meal @ any of their establishments and thus Weslodge & La Societe are on my to avoid list (until I hear something positive about them).
Salt / August 26, 2012 at 03:38 pm
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Just to make a small correction: The French will never *ask* if you want tap water. And should YOU ask for it... well, most'll look at you like you come from Mars.
joe mama / August 26, 2012 at 04:56 pm
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After reading the article in Toronto Life highlighting how where you're seated distinguishes your "status", I quickly concluded this was an ultra-douchey place and decided I would probably never go.
PDG / August 26, 2012 at 05:47 pm
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Megan, you need to edit your work. Also, I'm not sure whether you actually liked the food. Once you write a piece, sit on it for a day or so and think about what you've said. This text is rushed, and kind of biased. I've been to this restaurant, and it's wonderful. I took photos, and it wasn't a problem.
Tania / August 27, 2012 at 02:00 am
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>>having lived in Paris for a year it sent chills up my spine.

I second the previous commenter: this article needs some editing. At the very least, you should read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dangling_modifier#Dangling_participles_and_participial_clauses
Soupy / August 27, 2012 at 06:54 am
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I prefer the reviews of Guest Contributor.
Me / August 27, 2012 at 07:56 am
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My girlfriend took me here for my bday last year. I was secretly very disappointed. The food was very mediocre and it cost her a fortune.
Queen's Park / August 27, 2012 at 09:02 am
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Bloor and University? They don't even meet.
muchacho / August 27, 2012 at 02:36 pm
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If someone took a photo of food I served, I would slap them. Seriously, don't forget to lick your knife.
jaydee / August 31, 2012 at 01:20 am
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desert? ohhhhhhh DESSERT.
Doug / October 7, 2012 at 01:09 pm
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I have swore off INK as another other than a brand for bad restaurants, and sadly La Societe is no exception. I live in Yorkville, and was a guest at the restaurant last year when it opened. I excused the bad service and low grade food, because it was new and just finding its footing. I recently went back for dinner two nights ago, and was not surprised that INK had maintained its reputation as one of the worst mega companies sheltering businesses that have no right to call themselves fine dining. La Societe is a poser, a bum with a Chanel suit on. The food is drenched in butter and seasoned with salt to mask the mediocre quality. The managers come to your table so often, that you get asked the same question 5 times, and your food gets cold form responding. Other than that they watch their staff runs around and offer no assistance. I counted 4 or 5 "managers" in the dining room, and not one seemed to be doing anything. The room is very pretty, the ceiling is gorgeous, but it is not worth the price of admission. I see this place falling apart quite quickly. Soon to be filled with the clientele that fills all of INK's establishments. No one that cares about food, will be fooled by this for long.
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