Cluny is a modern French restaurant brimming with all the hallmarks of a classic Parisian bistro and a whole lot of joie de vivre. It just opened last week down the block from its sister restaurant, El Catrin , in the Distillery District
The interior, designed by Munge Leung with graphics by Biography , is a spectacular interpretation of traditional design offset by modern elements. It's evident that no expense was spared; patterned floors and bespoke furnishings add rich textures throughout, while even the serviceware is gilded with the house name.
Wine bottles are displayed in floor to ceiling cabinetry, a chef's table wraps around an Art Nouveau-styled raw bar and there's a bread bar complete with butter-warming compartments located centrally in the dining room.
Executive chef Paul Benallick ( Canoe , Auberge du Pommier , Stock Restaurant ) oversees an expansive menu that lists small plates, cheese courses, raw bar selections, entrees and desserts. There's even a whole section dedicated to steak frites which is offered with a choice of top cuts like hanger ($19), striploin ($29) or bone in ribeye ($39).
Ahi tuna tartare ($17) is hand chopped and pays tribute to a classic salad Nicoise. Served in a little vessel adorned with egg, French beans, white anchovy, black olives and roe, it's accompanied by herbed aioli and crostinis.
Served in a mini cast iron skillet, there is duck poutine ($16) featuring thick-cut potatoes roasted in duck fat and topped with duck confit, Etorki cheese, duck gravy and a sunny side up duck egg. Texturally, it's a little one-note - I can't help but wish those potatoes had taken a turn in the fryer to add a crispy component.
Buffalo fried sweetbreads ($15) is a playful dish, done in the style of chicken wings only fancier. Fried to a crisp but still tender on the inside, the nuggets are tossed in a fiery red sauce and served with heirloom carrots and a little pot of smoked blue cheese dressing.
The veal meatball tomahawk ($23) is perhaps my favourite dish of the night. The giant meatball is formed around a veal shank before being braised in tomato sauce and served with pillowy Parisian gnocchi. Compared to the rest of the menu it's a humble dish, though well-executed without relying on luxurious ingredients to impress - though there is always the option to add-on a slab of seared foie gras ($9-12) or have fresh truffles (MP) shaved over top (as you can do with any item on the menu).
The cocktail list offers selections like the Guillotine ($14), a frothy refreshment comprised of Maker's Mark Bourbon, hazelnut and ginger liqueurs and citrus.
Cluny can currently accommodate 180 guests, though that's set to expand with the addition of a private dining room for 60 and patio for another 180. Also, still to come is an adjacent patisserie that will offer a retail outlet for house-baked sweets.
Currently the restaurant is open Monday to Thursday from 5pm to 10pm, on Fridays until 11pm and on weekends from 3pm to 11pm.
Photos by Jesse Milns.