A couple of years ago, Matisse restaurant, in the Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville, unveiled a renovation that transformed it and the adjacent lobby bar into a snazzy, modern space that is a night-and-day decor upgrade.
Sleek finishes — slate, natural walnut, marble — along with polished leathers and velvet, textured fabrics and warm metal accents foster an ambience that manages to be contemporary, warm and inviting. Understated vinyl wall coverings and Henri Matisse prints continue the air of refinement.
The food follows suit. One night, the kitchen sends out a hearty and deeply flavourful lentil soup scented with curry and loaded with chunks of moist chicken.
Crisp romaine and anchovy inflected vinaigrette highlight a generous Caesar salad. Another salad features sweet grilled pineapple and pomegranate seeds on a fresh lettuce mix moistened with peppercorn vinaigrette.
Red quinoa, mango papaya salsa and tender green beans play beautifully against a fat slab of mahi mahi. Mustard cream, Asian greens and turmeric rice garnish moist pistachio-crusted salmon filet. Similarly, medium rare rack of lamb is boosted by an intensely sweet blackberry jus reduction and silky celery root mash.
We share a hearty veggie main of slow-braised lentils, wild mushrooms and roasted root veg.
Made-in-house desserts continue the kitchen’s hot streak. There’s rich vanilla panna cotta, served in a tiny glass mason jar and accessorized with passion fruit curd and shortbread crumble. Light-as-air angel food cake, stacked high and layered with strawberries and whipped cream, is an early taste of summer. A sturdy chocolate crust anchors rich, dark, chocolate raspberry ganache tart.
Seating 56 people, the restaurant is available for buyout. A private dining room seats either 16, at one table, or 20 at multiple tables, depending on how the room is configured. In addition, the Matisse kitchen team caters onsite meetings and events.
— 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.