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Restaurant Toroli: Turning Japanese

Turning Japanese

Back in black: Gindara cod and lotus
Photo: Melora Koepke

French-trained chef Taka makes beautiful, bright fusion on the Plateau

Before the city’s relatively recent Japanese food renaissance (which includes a couple of great new sushi joints, some robata, one real-life izakaya that sends me over the moon every time I eat there), there were few Japanese joints worth visiting. One of them, for a while, was Maiko Sushi on Bernard on the inside edge of Outremont.

Chef Takashi Sakurai, a French-trained Japanese chef who worked in a French restaurant in Tokyo before working in Japanese restaurants in Montreal including Maiko, recently opened Toroli, an adorable little bistro in the Plateau with a unique, and intriguing, concept: French/Japanese fusion food.

The tiny and adorable space just east of St-Denis on Marie-Anne is festooned with a cow-hide pattern and a side mural of a little veal saying "meuh." We said "aww" and settled in to watch the world go by our window table while poring over the very promising menu.

Toroli, which is onomatopoeia for the Japanese sound of a rich sauce dribble, offers several tasting menus which are more like table d’hôte menus, offering you a choice of dishes for a set price. We both felt like treating ourselves, and while looking for Japanese flavours in French food, we went for the classics: The "miso folie," a slab of foie gras on a piece of duck, with a potato tangle on top.

But first, the soup was a delicate miso with seasonal foraged mushrooms "found" at the market. Then, I ordered an extra of the house special maki, a riceless roll with fresh crab and marinated salmon. The "decadent" entrée was a perfect piece of gindara (black cod), crispy skin but soft, sweet, perfect flesh, with a spoonful of sautéed lotus root as a crunchy garnish. The miso-marinated, then pan-seared foie gras was really good, but I wondered if the miso made the crust less crusty after its brief flash in the pan. But the roasted duck medallion underneath was tender and skinless. The sauce, mind you, felt more French than Japanese, and didn’t quite live up to the fresh, clear, bright flavours of the introductory dishes. But still, there was something about the menu that makes us want to come back and try everything else.

Dessert was a tiny teacup of crème brûlée, and a sponge cake made with the yomogi (Japanese artemisia), which increased our desire to come back for more.

Restaurant Toroli
421 Marie-Anne E., 514-289-9292
Dinner for two, before taxes, sake and tip: $70-$100
www.toroli.com

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