About a year ago, Matisse restaurant, in the Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville, unveiled a renovation that has transformed it and the adjacent lobby bar into a snazzy, modern space.
The airy room is contemporary, warm and inviting all at once, thanks to sleek finishes — slate, natural walnut, marble, polished leathers and velvet, textured fabrics and warm metal accents. Continuing the air of refinement are understated vinyl wall coverings and prints of Henri Matisse paintings.
Overseen by executive chef Michael Picken, Matisse’s kitchen is better than ever.
One night, there’s superb parsnip soup, sugar sweet and velvet-textured from a touch of cream. It’s the very essence of parsnip distilled into liquid form.
Anchovy inflected dressing adorns crisp romaine leaves in a commendable Caesar salad, while avocado and orange play beautifully off a bracing walnut/mustard dressing that moistens kale leaves. A light saffron cream animates perfectly cooked scallops garnished with fennel chicory salad.
Mains show similar flair. Highlights include striped bass, pan-seared until its flesh is moist and its skin crisp, ably partnered with lemon-zinged potatoes, wilted spinach and tomato olive relish. Sizeable venison osso bucco wears a thick, intensely flavoured juniper berry reduction; along for the ride is silken celeriac-potato mash and roasted root veg.
A trio of strong desserts sends smiles around the table. There’s sophisticated pecan flan, anchored by sturdy crust and not-too-sweet nut filling. In another, feather-light meringue tops intensely citric lemon curd perched on graham cracker crumbs, the raspberry garnish only adding to the pleasure. Finally, there are moist nuggets of bread pudding extravagantly garnished with sliced bananas, rum, toasted pecans and caramel.
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.
— Don Douloff has been a restaurant critic for over 25 years and, during that time, has critiqued more than 1,300 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.