Maison Fou is a welcome addition to Toronto’s Bloor/Runnymede dining scene. The restaurant launched last November in the space previously occupied by short-lived Sparrow restaurant.
A clever redesign has brightened the shabby chic room — white-painted brick walls, pressed-tin ceiling, hardwood floors — by adding splashes of colour (for example, teal-coloured banquette padding) and an imposing antique side table that reinforces the highly pleasant casual-yet-sophisticated feel.
Chef James Petrin (ex-sous chef at Ossington’s Salt Wine Bar) brings a highly original and creative sensibility to the kitchen, backed up by rock-solid technique.
I was particularly impressed by chef’s take on gazpacho (playfully called Gazpach-Fou). Chilled jicama broth, subtly sweet, holds soft avocado, smoked shrimp and julienned celery root. The flavours are harmonious and sophisticated, perfect for summer.
Another new experience for me: watermelon radish, coloured bright pink/magenta. Chef slices it razor thin and tosses it with an understated cider vinaigrette, crumbled feta, diced cucumber, slivered fennel, orange sections and crispy shallots. The salad wows with inventive plays of flavours (sweet, tart, salty) and textures (crisp, soft).
What a pleasure to see tarte flambée — essentially an Alsatian-style pizza — on the menu. Chef loads it up with sweetly caramelized onions, crisp diced bacon and dabs of mild, house-made farmers cheese. Not to be missed.
Mains continue to show evidence of a confident kitchen. Sour cherry jus provides intensely fruity counterpoint to generous and tender confit duck leg. Along for the ride are ratatouille and velvety corn purée. And speaking of confit, chef sends out marvelously crisp confit potatoes, sweet shallots and earthy cubed bacon as support players for bourguignon-style beef brisket.
Lemon cream animates moist, pink-centred slab of pan-seared salmon further garnished with warm potato salad, fennel and bacon.
House-made desserts continue the hot streak. Boasting a silken texture halfway between flan and cheesecake, Parisian flan ups the decadence quotient via rich coffee caramel and minced hazelnuts. And then airy but rich and darkly delicious chocolate mousse, its pleasures kicked up by coarse grains of sea salt and shattered caramel. On the side, two tiny, perfect dark-chocolate truffles.
— Don Douloff has been a restaurant critic for over 30 years and, during that time, has critiqued more than 1,400 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.