July 10: Lucien ★★★★
"The city's best new restaurant" according to Toronto life has been reduced to penny pinching (the bread costs $2-4) and to selling its soul on Groupon, Living Social and possibly others. I will admit that this was my sixth appearance at Lucien and the sixth time I did not pay the regular price. Food at Lucien is certainly fussy (what is sarsaparilla?) and detail-oriented. Every dish is meticulously crafted. Five or more ingredients are the norm, and while I value the risk premium, it often turns out to be too busy and incongruent. The small boutique dining room is dark and slightly foreboding (perhaps because of the oversized mirror atop the bar) yet the effect is a fantastical chiaroscuro to its more than ‘bright’ name. The restaurant recently opened its doors to the Bay Street lunch crowd, creating simpler dishes that can be comfortably consumed in an hour (thank you!). And with the simplicity came some back to basic cooking that reinvigorated the food to the restaurant’s glory days. The Carpaccio was deliciously salty, offset by crunchy sweet potato and apparently had a slight resemblance to iberian ham. The juicy chicken resembled a roulade in perfectly formed circles and sat confidently in a slightly weak zucchini ratatouille. The steak was oversized and a perfect pink. And while the “Nouget” came as an ice cream sundae (without any lemon but with shortbread), if all ice cream were this creamy, I’d be happy calling it “Nouget”. $26 for such generous portions and for ingredients I have never seen before (and non-existant on Google) is unheard of.
Cured Beef Carpacchio with Wild Ginger, sweet potato and sarsaparilla
Pan Seared Chicken, ratatouille, basil
Strawberry Frozen Nouget with lemon sorbet, thyme meringue, lemon balm