Fronted by a cobblestone courtyard patio, just steps off Toronto’s eclectic King Street West restaurant zone, Brassaii is blessed with a delightful hidden-gem quality that’s only amplified at weekend brunch.
What’s more, the brunch menu, under executive chef Ivan Bailey, brims with creativity and shows a kitchen fully in command of technique. Witness a velvety soup, brimming with intensely sweet acorn squash flavour, garnished with squash chips, whipping cream and minced chives.
More impressive still is a salad built on baby kale and quinoa draped in translucent slices of delicate house-cured salmon and chunks of buttery avocado.
The kitchen is a whiz with egg dishes, too. For example, there’s chef Ivan’s three-egg omelet, stuffed with piperade (the classic Basque mix of silken red peppers and tomatoes), goat cheese and fresh herbs.
In another winning combo, two flaky croissants support fat slices of peameal bacon topped with perfectly poached eggs. Drizzled over the eggs? A textbook Hollandaise sauce.
But the best of a strong lineup of mains is chef’s brilliantly creative take on the croque monsieur, the fried ham and cheese sandwich that is a classic Parisian snack food. Here, thick and rich béchamel sauce, speckled with sweet lobster, sheathes fat slices of pressed-together bread oozing melted Swiss cheese. This dish alone warrants a return visit.
Dessert sends us home on a high note. Apple crumble, loaded with tender, cinnamon-scented fruit and crowned with a sturdy streusel crust, is one of the best versions I’ve encountered around town.
Presented on a thin cake base, chocolate mousse is silky, rich, dark as sin.
Named after the French-Hungarian photographer who rose to fame in France between the two World Wars, Brassaii boasts a welcoming room that radiates a casual/chic loft-like feel, punctuated by painted white brick walls, hardwood floors, wood beam ceilings and tastefully selected antiques and modern light fixtures.
— Don Douloff has been a restaurant critic for over 30 years and, during that time, has critiqued more than 1,500 eateries. In 1988, he studied the fundamentals of French cuisine at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris, France. During his time in France, he furthered his gastronomic education by visiting the country’s bistros, brasseries and Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine. He relishes exploring the edible universe in his native Toronto and on his travels throughout Canada and abroad.