416-901-9581 | $16-26 entrees
L’ouvrier is a brand new ‘kitchen-bar’ near Dundas and Bathurst that deserves some attention from the Toronto food-ite community. With its doors just opening this past Wednesday, I expected the experience to come across as slightly unpolished. In the case of this gastronomic tribute to the Canadian working-man from the early part of the 20th century, any roughness about the place actually contributed to the thoughtful ambiance
The space is very airy and the décor has an austere quality to it. Most of the tables were hand-made by the one of the founders using materials salvaged from the remodeling process, and you get the sense that whoever conceived this restaurant had a clear vision for what they wanted to accomplish. It is encouraging to see a new restaurant take on a bold motif and execute on it through every last detail.
(Photo Credit: Simone Olivero, Toronto Life)
To describe the menu, I would have to use a phrase that I previously thought was entirely oxy-moronic when used in reference to food: distinctly Canadian. While Canada doesn’t have a pronounced culinary identity, this chef has borrowed ingredients and flavor profiles from a variety of different cultural pallets and combined them to create a unique and stimulating experience. The prominence of tartare on the menu is a good indication that the chef has designed the menu to fit with the rustic theme of the restaurant. Each dish is as interesting as the last and the pricing is very reasonable given the creative quality that has gone into the menu’s conception.
I started with the oysters alongside cider rye mignonette, horseradish, lime and sriracha served on a chilled slab of rough slate. While this appetizer was enjoyable and the oysters were fresh, the real prized starter for this restaurant is the steak tartare crostini dish. Don’t miss it.
Main course consisted of roast salmon with a host of South-East Asian-influenced flavors – lemongrass, coconut milk, Thai basil, coriander, lime and chili. The fish was cooked to perfection and the flavoring was well balanced and highly complimentary. The portions are small, so make sure you order an appetizer and dessert so as to not leave too hungry.
The dessert menu was small, but the chocolate brownie served with crème fraiche was a superb experience. The strangest aspect of L’ouvrier is the inclusion of a 5-cent candy bag as the third option on the menu. Interesting idea, but I couldn’t imagine anyone following up a fine meal and bottle of wine with children’s candies. I’m interested to see how long this stays on the menu, because it never should have been there to begin with.
In looking for a great restaurant, I tend to favor authentic experiences and L’ouvrier delivers on this aspect. The concept is novel and the ambience is unpretentious yet creative and detail-oriented. The menu has a lot to offer and deserves multiple return trips. Highly recommended for any fine-dining occasion.
Couldn’t find any, guess we’re first!
Posted by: Eli, Visited September 24, 2011