On a nondescript St. Lawrence Market District street corner, one of the area's top fine dining establishments hides inside a historic brick building. Lucien's almost industrial-looking facade is a stark juxtaposition to an interior where chandeliers and velvety red curtains contribute to a refined yet welcoming space. Customers dine flanked by an elegant marble-topped bar and a sectioned wall behind which the kitchen staff can be spied conjuring up the restaurant's acclaimed dishes, all made form locally sourced ingredients.
Experienced restaurateur Simon Bower crafted the eatery's attitude and decor while chef Etienne Lemieux created the menu, which stars such gems such as grilled bincho octopus and red deer bresola. Lucien's genial milieu exudes the elegance of fine dining in an unstuffy, cozy setting. The establishment has won numerous awards for its overall quality, being praised as "the city's best new restaurant" by Toronto Life magazine and placed among enRoute magazine's top 10 restaurants in Canada. Meals can be capped off with an artisanal cheese plate ($17) or sake cherries jubilee ($12).
The chefs at Absolute Restaurant pride themselves on perfectly creating and plating modern French bistro cuisine. Their culinary handiwork is present in dishes such as braised lamb shank with saffron risotto and roasted chicken with smashed fingerling potatoes, shiitake mushrooms, and thyme jus. Chefs carefully craft sauces—without the use of thickeners or additives—to drizzle over seared wild scallops and well-marbled striploin steaks. Guests can dine inside at wooden tables or outside on black wrought-iron patio furniture to enjoy the weather or catch a glimpse of the sun’s shadow.
With glimmering wine glasses, white napkins, and fresh flowers scattered across its wooden tables and countertops, Bistro 243 personifies a cozy-yet-stylish French bistro. The intimate restaurant serves elegant lunch and dinner dishes daily, with entrees such as mushroom risotto and chicken stuffed with spinach and brie further channeling European pleasures. On weekends, diners stop by to sip on mimosas from the full bar while enjoying brunch selections ranging from omelettes with smoked salmon to sandwiches with pulled pork.
Café du Lac offers contemporary Quebecoise cuisine created from Quebec-based ingredients (when possible) in an intimate bistro setting for dinner and brunch. The dinner menu pits a charcutiere plate of house-cured meats and foie gras ($18) against three flavours of poutine—including the heart-stopping all-dressed poutine with cream sauce, curds, beef short ribs, and foie gras over a crispy pile of frites ($20)—in a delicious battle for culinary domination. Entrees include a wild boar burger topped with monterey jack and foie gras ($21), a duck confit served with a potato gratin and drizzled with a rich cranberry sauce ($25), and a pan-seared Canadian black cod with celery root puree ($26). The Sunday-brunch menu (served 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.) features fresh-made crêpes ($7+) as well as oeufs ($9+) and omelettes ($7+) of several savoury styles.
Table 17 uploads upscale cuisine with a seasonally changing dinner menu of fare made fresh from local ingredients and inspired by European cooking techniques such as the Denmark Dice, the Fosbury Flop, and the Ballroom Blitz. Appetizers include a shiitake consommé ($8) served with farro and winter vegetables, and shared plates such as the polenta ($14) and the restaurant's acclaimed hot balls ($11.50 for a full size)—namely the goat-cheese hot balls with wildflower honey—have the appetizing ability to reunite jilted lovers split over differing Lost theories. Recent entrees have included rainbow trout ($24), venison osso buco ($25), and an 8 oz. thick-cut top sirloin ($21). Leave vacancy in your stomach shelter for desserts such as the Italian classic, tiramisu ($8), and the house-made cheesecake ($8). Return wine to cool, dark quarters by downing a glass or bottle of palatable type-A grape blood.
Loire Casual Gourmet draws its inspiration from France's Loire Valley, the childhood home of chef Jean-Charles Dupoire and sommelier Sylvain Brissonnet. Like his-and-hers shoulder pads, cuisine and wine are best when paired, which is why Loire's staff has sippable samples to accompany dinner and dessert. Palates are prepped for a culinary tour de taste with appetizers including an Ontario goat-cheese cake in a pistachio crust ($12), a half dozen market oysters ($19), or a rainbow-trout tartare in yuzu dressing ($14). Entrees run the surf-and-turf gamut, ranging from five-hour-braised short ribs ($25) to a seared sea scallop adorned with parisian gnocchi ($27). A wide selection of reds and whites bequeath sumptuous tastes and aromas, from floral to earthy to supernova. Team up a hazelnut crème brûlée or warm banana bread drizzled with dark-chocolate-caramel sauce (both $10) with a 10-year tawny port ($12) for a decadent denouement.