By: Shelby Morrison
It’s the re-invention of Cafe Boulud.
When the restaurant first opened inside Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto, the general consensus amongst critics was lukewarm. Chef Daniel Boulud and his team have recently revamped the menu and decor.
After 2.5 years of service, Cafe Boulud closed in June of this year and re-opened this September after a $2.5 million-dollar renovation – just in time for The Toronto International Film Festival.
Before the renovation, the decor was a bit stiff, cold, and a little too modern. To transform the space, restaurant designer Martin Brudnizki (Soho Beach House Miami, The Ivy, Drake One Fifty, Cecconi’s) was brought in. He remodeled the space into a more welcoming and warm environment.
The old plain black chairs were replaced with cozy leather seats in orange and green. The walls were covered in Hermès herringbone wallpaper and food prints. The decor is now more comfortable yet luxurious, with a French brasserie vibe.
As for the menu, it has been re-worked with more French influence andinspiration from Chef Boulud’s life. Between his roots in Lyon, France, where he has studied, worked and travelled, the menu now represents Chef Boulud and his vision for Cafe Boulud more accurately.
I was thrilled to attend a media dinner at the newly opened Cafe Boulud to taste the revamped menu and to check out the new digs. The beautiful decor made me feel like I had gone back in time, but in a classic, yet modern way. The comfortable leather seating and wooden floors felt very welcoming and hospitable. I was greeted with a lovely Gin and Tonic with a slice of lemon and rosemary, which had been lit on fire for extra flavour.
Cod Croquettes and anchovy crostini were being passed around for a nice, light start
After being seated, the wonderful meal began with Beignets de Calamari – beer battered calamari, pickled hot pepper and spicy kaffir lime sauce. The batter was perfectly crisp yet not too overpowering, and paired well with the creamy, spicy sauce.
Steak Tartare was served to the table, which was flavourful and wonderfully seasoned. I do not usually eat escargot, but they did look and smell tempting. I did have one which was covered in garlic and parsley butter. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this dish.
A Charcuterie Board was served for sharing which contained adventurous meats including pate with chicken liver and pork, a mixture of goose, duck, foie gras and cranberries, a small sample of pulled rabbit with eggplant, tomato confit and basil. This dinner definitely brought me out of my box just a little bit.
For the main course, there were two items on offer, with every other person getting a different dish. I decided to split the two dishes with my neighbour in order to try a little bit of everything.
We shared the Pacific Halibut with cauliflower and capers in a parsley-lemon butter, as well as the Grilled Lobster with bok choy in a ginger beurre blanc. The fish was light, which paired well with the buttery cauliflower. I really enjoyed the lobster and tangy ginger sauce as well.
For the table, we were brought a Quenelle de Brochet, which was a canelle, made from eggs and pike – in a cognac lobster sauce. This was definitely a hit at my table, with the rich egg and lobster sauce melting in your mouth.
There was such an abundance of food at this dinner, and yet another course was on its way! This time it was Cavatelli Ricotta, which was tossed in a lamb ragu, with pecorino and pureed broccoli, as well as veal stew with herbs and green vegetables. The cavatelli was almost perfect (a little salty) but still incredibly tasty with the lamb and broccoli sauces. The veal was juicy and perfectly cooked, with a fresh addition from the vegetables.
Lastly for the table was Rotisserie Chicken and Potatoes. I was incredibly full but still really enjoyed the juicy chicken and seasoned, crispy potatoes and onions.
To end off the meal, several desserts were brought out for us to try. The Steamed Meringue with maple caramel, crème anglaise, and raspberries were light, creamy and satisfying. My least favourite was the Rotisserie Golden Pineapple, which was served with a rum-caramel, raisins, and homemade coconut sorbet. I really enjoyed the sorbet, but found the sauce to be too rum-heavy which was unpleasantly overpowering.
The next two dishes were definitely crowd pleasers, especially for their presentation. The Grand Marnier Soufflé was served right out of the oven and drizzled tableside with orange crème anglaise. The rich, yet smooth flavour was a huge hit, with a little added sweetness from the sauce.
My favourite dessert of the night at Cafe Boulud were The Profiteroles. When delivered to the table, we were not exactly sure what it was. A chocolate dome was served, and then followed by warm chocolate sauce, which was poured over the chocolate. This is when the inside of the dome released mini profiteroles filled with ice cream instead of the usual cream. The dark chocolate and pecans were a rich, yet satisfying end to the meal.
For one last sweet ending, a basket of Madeleines were delivered to the table. Perfectly sweet and fluffy, this was a lovely treat.
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Cafe Boulud, with a surprise appearance from Chef Boulud. He explained many of the dishes, in which you could hear his passion for food and his restaurants shine through. He is charming, funny and incredibly friendly. Cafe Boulud really emits true French cuisine with a twist, in a comfortable and welcoming environment. It’s definitely worth a re-visit.
— Shelby Morrison