At Brunoise, it's all about the seduction of good food
Well, I’m tremendously, plumply pleased, sitting here with a belly full of warm fig tart. But let’s back up a bit…
There I was, just hours ago, lamenting the departure of my beloved neo-Mexican resto Fandango, when it slowly dawned on me that those who took over its Plateau location could make me just as happy, if not happier even.
Brunoise is a market-based neo-Euro resto, run by a couple of chefs who got their licks in at Mediterraneo. Michel Ross and Zach Suhl are the brawny brains behind Brunoise. These guys have got culinary muscle to go with their well-thought-out menu offerings.
When I was there with my savoury sweetie, Zach was out front with the servers, filling water glasses, educating us about the place. He said that instead of investing in $600 chairs and fine crystal, he and Michel decided to invest in their staff. The whole house cares about food, he said, and it shows. The service is possibly the best in town: prompt and attentive without being officious or rushing.
This doesn’t mean the setting is a slouch. Haute taupe, I’d say – neutral walls, simple iron and wicker chairs, white-clad tables. Sort of looks as though they shopped at one of the minimalist local houseware shops on the upper Main. The design, though, doesn’t detract from the food, which is, after all, the reason we’re here. And even though the clientele is generally attractive in that slightly older, well-heeled yet chic way, we’re not too swayed by the blonds.
We’re offered a little cup of soup to warm up with – a butternut squash and cream nectar topped with roasted sesame seeds. A hidden treasure lies at the bottom – a bump of acorn squash.
My own appetizer of eggplant caviar tart with roast red peppers on top and a thick slug of goat cheese beside was a tango of salt and tart, sweet and pungent. My companion’s slices of rabbit loin came with the tender greens it might have grazed on when alive, as well as marinated beets with their earthy undertones.
For a main I had a simple skate. Roasted, the delicate flavour of this humble fish shines through. It lay upon braised squid rings, sweet roasted fennel, and halves of big olives and small tomatoes – red cherry and yellow teardrop. Topping the dish was a tentacled crown of fried squid legs.
Monsieur’s dish of sweetbreads, lentils and a sauce of veal reduction came with asparagus (an odd choice for this time of year). Laid upon the sweetbread was a slice of prosciutto and beneath were caramelized shallots. "A great balance of flavours," my swain said between swoons.
Not done yet, we had a dizzy of desserts to choose from. I settled on the fig tart with sour cream ice cream. There was a hardened swoop of caramel swirl placed on top, as if it were ready for takeoff. A drizzle of Minus 8 vinegar made from ice wine (!) circled the tart, akin to an aged balsamic. Wow. Deeply satisfying dark flavours swirled together in my mouth.
My sweet’s tooth craved the vanilla panna cotta, a pudding concoction, with basil syrup and passion fruit (Zach said it’s their signature dessert). It has plenty of appeal, although I found it a bit sweet. Perhaps that’s because I couldn’t relinquish the perfection of my dark tart.
Prices are beyond good. I’d rather Zach and Michel put their profit into maintaining the excellent food and service than gussying up their décor or menu. They know that’s what will keep people coming back. With luck, my sweet fig tart will be waiting for me when I return.
3807 St-André, 523-3885
Table d’hôte, including dessert, but not tax, wine or tip: $50-$70