Didier Leroy is a French chef who does not bend to the whim of foodie fashion and taste trends. To simply call Didier a French chef is like saying that a Porsche is just car.
Fifteen years ago when he emigrated from France to Toronto for the love of a woman (and how French is that) his first kitchen was Bistro 990, then Auberge Gavroche and on to the city's finest French restaurants. Didier knows that there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything-and he chooses to do things the right
way. He does not compromise the integrity of his cuisine or his carefully thought out presentations to suit the trendy diets of the day.
After all his years in other people's kitchens, he and partner Tory Edwards, have found a space of his own. They have certainly raised the cachet of the Yonge/St.Clair area. Enter the spacious restaurant, and you will smile. For at this time when décor seems key to the opinions people have of a restaurant, it is clear that no trendy decorators hand has been at work here. The feel is decidedly European, with classic, handsome pale wood walls, starchy tablecloths and subdued lighting from chandeliers and wall sconces dimmed by small pleated shades. At Didier, we come for the food rather than clever decorating fooferas. And, clearly, we are not alone in our opinion, for the room is filled with fans of fine French cuisine.
The dinner menu is short and to the point: five first dishes and five entrees. I usually don't eat all the bread, but this fresh baguette and a spread of silken sweet potato glissed with a little extra virgin olive oil from Provence is too appealing to leave even one crumb.
A salad of artichoke hearts, tomato and quails egg gives a trio of tastes that is enhanced by luscious, light vinaigrette.
Tonight's Tartare de poisson du marche is salmon. Chopped ultra-fresh fish has been mixed with some crunchy shallots and capers and formed like a glistening pink patty on the plate, then capped with a jewel-like layer of black caviar. Memo to myself: This is a dish to have with a glass of white wine at the engaging bar in the front. Or the innocent, yet powerful oeufs en cocotte perigourdine, which retains its personality in its translation to eggs in a ramekin with foie gras and truffles. Princely food.
I wonder if the young couples sitting next to us loudly discussing, nannies, wood floors and other dramatic topics are aware that they are invading our space. One does not have to shout here, the music is soulful French vocalists.
Loup de mer vapeur, is steamed Mediterranean sea bass, given the Francoise 1st treatment. Who but Didier would take the time to wrap two fillets around each other and have them clutching a bunch of tiny French green beans. Careful steaming and velvety white wine and mushroom sauce, tasting of all its subtle ingredients make this a noble dish.
Duo de Canard is a slow roasted duck leg with dark, juicy texture, and the magret, or breast is roasted medium rare and sliced. Brilliant red wine sauce brings out the flavour.
The staffing is interesting-all young women with slightly shy, sweet smiles which belie their ironclad loyalty to Didier and what his kitchen is all about. When we ask our server to substitute the glazed turnip, she tells us firmly, but nicely, that it depends on what the chef feels is appropriate for the dish.
The dessert menu lists all our French favourites: crÃ¨me Brule, profiteroles, soufflé glace, but when tarte tatin is on the menu, I can only say, yes please. All the richness of butter, apples, sugar and spice on a crumbly pastry crust is big and bold enough to share.
Everyone in Didier's world loves classic French cuisine. Naïve? Maybe. But if the joy of eating that is evident here tonight is a barometer, his world is unfolding as it should.