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Bites Between Besties: Colette Grand Café

Who Are We? We’re BFFs whose love of stuffing our faces has taken us to the US and Europe in search of the world’s top restaurants. But recently, we decided to have some food adventures closer to home. We’re setting out to try one new (or at least new to us) Toronto restaurant every week for a year – or at least until we can no longer fit into our clothes.

And here’s the catch… we want to give you an authentic experience so all of our reviews are done anonymously.  As far as the restaurant is concerned, we’re just two patrons who take lots of photos of their food. Or are we?


This week it's Colette Grand Café, the huge new restaurant that just opened at the bottom of the Thompson Hotel.
 
Address: 550 Wellington St. W.
Vibe: Upscale and chic
Price: $$$
Closest subway: St. Andrew Station
Drink menu: Choose from the limited cocktail list or wall-to-ceiling wine display
Service: Friendly
Patio: Yes
Online: colettetoronto.com
Reservations: http://www.opentable.com/colette-grand-cafe-and-bakery
 
First Impressions: Toronto already boasts a collection of impressive French bistros (Le Select, La Coquine, La Société), but none are quite as large as Colette Grand Café, the palatial new restaurant that opened on July 31 in Scarpetta’s old space in the Thompson Hotel. The 200-seat restaurant offers a variety of spaces to soak up its Parisian vibe, including a wraparound covered terrace, a marble bar, a library lounge, and a bakery. It’s owned by the group behind The Chase and The Chase Fish and Oyster, though it barely resembles those bustling financial district hotspots. Instead, walking into Colette feels like you’re in Paris, thanks to its barrel vault ceilings, hand-painted tiles and wall-to-ceiling wine racks. Even before our first bite, we wanted to move in. 
 
colette veal
Tartare de Veau ($15)
We felt that the chef was trying to shake things up with this version of tartare by layering the sparsely seasoned veal, then the fresh herb pistou and finally a layer of chopped hard boiled egg. The meat and herb combination was lovely with just a hint of horseradish but the spongey egg fell a bit flat for us. We ended up scraping some of the egg off and then it was lovely.
 
colette frog legs
La Grenouille ($21)
We’re a bit embarrassed to admit that despite worshipping French cuisine, we’ve never eaten frog legs. Wow, we’ve been missing out!  Texture-wise, it was stringier than chicken, but taste-wise it was very similar and this preparation with a crunchy panko coating was fantastic. We probably weren’t meant to pick them up and eat them like chicken wings but we needed to get every last bite of meat, which was served with mushrooms and pea puree.
 
colette scallops
Les Petoncles ($27)
This was the unmitigated winner of the night. Amazingly tender scallops were served atop braised savoy cabbage and firm potato slices with chunks of bacon. It was really well balanced and although the mustard preserves were strong in some bites, it was altogether a great dish.  Unfortunately for now, it’s the daily special only available on Tuesdays so book your reservation accordingly!
 
colette duck
Duck Magret ($44)
A classic French dish and one that we’ve ordered dozens of times, this particular iteration of roasted duck breast was simple but delicious. The server recommended we order it medium-rare but we found the dish a little too rare and would order medium next time. Despite that, the meat was juicy and the confit leg was amazingly crispy and full of flavour, while the poached rhubarb added a jolt of flavour. It was a generous portion that we had no trouble sharing as a second entrée.   
 
colette dessert
Vanilla Ice Cream Profiterole ($12)
We devoured this dish of vanilla ice cream covered in cocoa nibs so fast that we barely tasted the caramel cream.  We did luxuriate in the warm chocolate sauce which they poured generously.
 
colette muffin
Egg, Bacon and Egg Muffin ($3.50)
The restaurant also boasts an ajoining cafe/bakery, with quiche, pasteries, macaroons and coffees to go. We couldn't resist this warm, savory muffin, which had a hard-boiled egg baked inside. 

Final Thoughts: We expect Colette Grand Café, along with the newly opened Montecito, to be one the hottest places to be during the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival, thanks to its chic vibe and valet parking. The crowd ranged from business casual to really dressy so if you’re looking for an opportunity to bust out special occasion clothes, this is a great spot to do it. Service was very attentive throughout the night and we especially loved that the sommelier materialized at our table mere minutes after the wine list was delivered. He offered great recommendations and followed up with a visit later in the meal to get our thoughts on his choice, which turned out to be excellent.