RESTAU­RANT RE­VIEW

Plus Chante­cler 2.0 shines in some places — but needs work in others

North Toronto Post - - Table Of Contents - JOANNE KATES

Joanne Kates gets her Mo­tor City munchies on as she re­views the Detroit-style deep-dish on of­fer at De­scen­dant Pizza

DE­SCEN­DANT 1168 Queen St. E. $60 Din­ner for two

Had you told me that I would fall head over heels in love with a form of pizza that has as much crust as top­ping, I’d have told you to go get your head read: Be­cause I’m such a fan of the in­creas­ingly thin cracker-like pizza crust that’s cooked for 90 sec­onds at blis­ter­ing heat — so that it crack­les dryly in the mouth.

This new (to us) form of pizza is called Detroit-style and is on of­fer in an unas­sum­ing 22-seat hole-in-the-wall in Les­lieville. They take res, but the place is pop­u­lar, so go early or late. The small room has quite lovely paintings on the walls, some­times big colour­ful hearts and flow­ers.

Now all it needs is some more as­sertive rock ’n’ roll to while away the time wait­ing for your pie, be­cause this one ain’t quick — es­pe­cially when De­scen­dant Pizza is slammed with both take­out and eat-in or­ders. Which is usu­ally.

Af­ter rolling out the dough, they put it on a deep steel pizza pan, with a mix­ture of grated brick and moz­zarella on top. The sauce goes on af­ter it comes out of the oven. The re­sult is that when the pizza bakes — which is rel­a­tively lengthy — the cheeses, with their lus­cious fat, caramelize and get all golden brown and crunchy and greasy. This is the kiss of heaven for cooked dough.

I could just eat the crust and be happy. All four tall crunchy sides, ’cause th­ese piz­zas are rec­tan­gu­lar! More cor­ners, more crunch!

The top­pings are as much fun as the crust. House favourite Truff-Ghi is ooey gooey cheeses, gar­lic that’s been roasted long and slow for sweet­ness, onion mar­malade, crem­ini mush­rooms and smoky ba­con.

And the fun just keeps on com­ing: The Good Old Days, with mar­i­nated roasted red pep­pers, house-made fen­nel sausage, red sauce, basil aïoli, pars­ley and grana padano.

Their ter­rific house-made ranch dress­ing ap­pears with ri­cotta salata and a pile of toasted peanuts and grapes both red and green to turn salad into an event. A very fun event. Al­most as much fun as their house desserts, which change weekly.

Pray for le­mon thyme pos­set, a small Ma­son jar hold­ing su­per-creamy le­mon mousse topped with crum­bled gin­ger snaps. The most in­dul­gent pos­si­ble end­ing to a car­ni­val of carbs.

CHANTE­CLER 1320 Queen St. W. $80 Din­ner for two

Meh.

This is how I’m feel­ing about the new Chante­cler. And it shouldn’t have been like that, given my long-term re­la­tion­ship with old school French cook­ing. I even still adore quiche! And French onion soup! I never met a but­ter­fat I didn’t love, and in my own kitchen if some­one dares chal­lenge the con­ven­tions of French cook­ing, there’s hell to pay.

So I was near to ec­stasy when the ul­tra hip­ster Park­dale boîte Chante­cler an­nounced that its new chef, Jesse Mutch, was do­ing old school French, with nary a sign of foams or toasted rice top­pings. Chante­cler’s owner, Ja­cob Whar­ton-Shuk­ster, made ref­er­ence to Mon­treal’s L’Ex­press, which I al­ways loved for its trad bistro cui­sine. He had strug­gled with the restau­rant’s fu­ture, clos­ing week­days for a while af­ter the de­par­ture of his part­ner, chef Jonathan Poon, who opened Bar Fancy in 2014.

Chante­cler 2.0 has noth­ing to do with the Asian fu­sion let­tucy thin­gies of chef Poon, but the room is un­changed — still a small and in­cred­i­bly sweet bistro with thick wooden ta­bles, some high­top, some reg­u­la­tion height, white tile floors a la française and a cheer­ful at­mos­phere with friendly ser­vice.

Din­ner starts off scrump­tious with clas­sic French cheese puffs — gougères. They’re ten­der and warm and melt-in-the-mouth. Fines herbes butter gilds the lily nicely. Then cometh a small souf­flé dish of French onion soup. Too small to ac­com­mo­date suf­fi­cient broth un­der its very good cheesy roof. A sim­i­lar mal­func­tion be­falls the snails in puff pas­try. There’s a rea­son why trad French chefs al­ways had to ap­pren­tice for years and prac­tice tech­niques over and over and over again. It’s an ex­tremely tech­ni­cal cui­sine, even at the bistro level. So snails in puff pas­try with mushroom sherry cream sauce sounds fab, but if the pas­try is tough and the cream sauce un­der­sea­soned.…

The duck and crepes main course is bet­ter, fea­tur­ing per­fectly pink ’n’ ten­der duck breast with leg and thigh blessed with crisp skin (hurrah!) and ten­der flesh. We love that, but why are the lit­tle chive crepes fridge-cold? And the so-called plum pre­serve doesn’t taste plummy. Bet­ter is the B.C. snap­per with mus­sels. De­spite the snap­per be­ing slightly over­cooked it’s a fine dish thanks to per­fectly cooked mus­sels and Pernod-scented tomato cream sauce.

Sides of frites with mayo and green beans with hol­landaise and al­mond crum­ble are two of the best things on the menu. Way bet­ter than the le­mon par­fait dessert, whose le­mon cream is denser than the cit­ric cloud we ex­pected. We’re count­ing on chef Mutch to do bet­ter soon. Much bet­ter.

Joanne Kates trained at the Ecole Cor­don Bleu de Cui­sine in Paris. She has writ­ten ar­ti­cles for nu­mer­ous publi­ca­tions in­clud­ing the New York Times, Maclean’s and Chate­laine.

Clock­wise from top left: The lively in­te­rior at De­scen­dant; their Good Old Days pizza; the bistro look of Chante­cler; and their steak tartare

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