Concession Road on St. Clair West is the newest endeavour from Harsh Chawla and Derek Valleau, the duo behind Pukka . It's a boundary-pushing French restaurant where haute cuisine is peppered with fun global flavours.
Formerly the address of the short lived Bywoods , the interior is divided in half between a more casual bar space and the dining room. The former is outfitted with high top tables, while the latter is a minimalist space featuring stark white walls and black banquettes.
Like Pukka, sommelier Peter Boyd has been enlisted to create the wine list which features plenty of consignment labels at varied price points. The bar also mixes signature cocktails like the Essen'ciel ($11), a blend of sweet vermouth, Drambuie and preserved lemon.
The menu from French-trained, Japanese chef Masayuki Tamaru is an amalgamation of cross-cultural influences. To start, there are seared hokkaido scallops ($13.75) paired with sweet components like apple and fennel puree, and accented with an aromatic vanilla-infused chili oil.
Grouper and ocean trout sashimi ($15.75) featuring alternating layers of supple raw fish follows. It's dressed in green peppercorn vinaigrette and topped with a quenelle of garlicky broccoli remoulade.
The selection of entrees offers a similar range of classic dishes plus a few surprises that you might not expect. The fish stew ($26.50) falls into the former category. It's a lovely rich broth nuanced by saffron, fennel and Pernod, and studded with scallops, shrimp, mussels, and tonight, a combination of sea bass and monkfish.
Less expected is the JFC, or Japanese fried chicken ($19.50), some version of which seems to be a requisite on every Toronto menu of 2015. The dish features Mennonite-farmed chicken marinated in sesame oil and sake before being crusted in cornmeal and deep fried.
It's a lovely dish served with a tomato and preserved lemon mayo over mashed potatoes with seasonal veg, but I can't help but wonder if this will become a menu fixture (the neighbourhood is after all blessed with the presence of The Stockyards ) or if it is merely an example of how this kitchen is not tied to old hat French food.
For dessert there are seasonal features like a rhubarb soup ($8.75) perked up with fresh mint and swimming with white wine gelee and vanilla bean ice cream. Batons of almond meringue finish the dish while adding a crunchy component.
Reservations are welcome, but walk-ins are also encouraged. Look forward to a front patio while weather permits, plus the addition of a soon-to-launch late night bar menu, and s'lunch on weekends served between lunch and supper.
Photos by Jesse Milns