Chez’s Restaurant is, as the name suggests, loosely based on a French bistro but with influences from chef owner Mike Bradshaw’s stints cooking in various high-end hotels across Europe.
Apparently they have Frank’s to thank for recent renos that belie the cheesy chrome sign above the door. Beyond, it’s all glowing candlelight and dark wood, an open kitchen at the back.
Intimate two-person tables face the action of the kitchen over a bar. It gets steamy back here, maybe even enough for a date to remove a layer or two.
Beef cheek poutine ($15.50) is another surefire way to warm up. The beef cheek and curds are both smoked, and the meat is fall-apart tender. This dish was inspired by Bradshaw’s time in Paris, where beef cheek is a popular and expected flavour.
Roasted bone marrow ($18) impresses, charred directly on the grill, smoky and fatty.
It’s served with a bacon espresso marmalade that’s also warmed on the grill as well as a chimichurri and crostini made using Portuguese sourdough from Golden Wheat Bakery a few doors down.
Octopus risotto ($22) aromatically incorporates white wine, shallots, and thyme, the perfect level of chew from the rice complementing the seafood.
This one was inspired by Bradshaw’s London days, where he worked under the chef who inspired the movie Burnt (apparently, it’s pretty accurate).
A Bailey’s fudge brownie ($9) is served with a chocolate mousse and a raspberry coulis. Nicely not-too-boozy Jameson ice cream pairs well with it, or could also be enjoyed on its own ($7).
A smoked Manhattan ($17) is made with Gibson’s Rare infused with apple cedar, sweet vermouth, and bourbon bitters.
A peppercorn orange slice is bruleed at the bar.
The cocktail is presented in a deconstructed manner with the glass still smoking upside down over apple cedar chips, the booze separate in a mini carafe rimmed with black pepper and sugar.
Bradshaw’s seven years in England and three in Paris show at this sweet little labour of love. This stretch of Little Italy is full of heavy hitters food-wise, but Chez’s holds its own.