An Amuse-ing Evening in Toronto

I’ve been working on the Frommer’s Toronto 2009 guidebook for the past several weeks, and one thing that has impressed me is the continuing strength of the city’s restaurant scene. Being a travel writer who has celiac disease has its drawbacks, but it does give me a unique perspective when evaluating a restaurant. I can’t sample certain dishes on the menu anymore, but I have a better perspective on how accommodating a restaurant is willing to be and how helpful the staff is.

Every year I have to compile a list of Toronto’s “Unforgettable Dining Experiences” for the book. In the new edition, the restaurant at the top of my list is Amuse-Bouche. Located on a mostly residential, quiet downtown street, it’s a cozy bistro with a charming patio out front. I decided to review it after sampling some of the chef’s work at the first Cross Town Kitchens dinner. When I called Amuse-Bouche to make a reservation, I mentioned that I have celiac disease, and I was assured it wouldn’t be a problem at all.

Imagine my surprise when I got to the restaurant, identified myself, and had a plate of warm bread set in front of me. “We’ve been baking all afternoon,” the waiter announced with a smile. “Gluten-free bread!” A couple of other staff members joined him and described the process and the several gluten-free flours they’d mixed to create a delicious (albeit slightly crumbly) bread. It was delicious and when I’d finished it all off they asked if they could bring out more. How could I say no? (I do lose control in the presence of really good gluten-free bread.)

The meal I had that evening was excellent. An amuse bouche is technically a small taste at the beginning of a meal that showcases the chef’s creativity and whets your appetite for more. Even after all that bread, I found room for dishes like the black cod ceviche with pink grapefruit and pineapple caipirinha sorbet. It was unusual to have so many strong flavors on a plate at once, but to have them come together harmoniously was a great achievement. And the excellent service I experienced at the restaurant made a lasting impression. (Before you ask, no, the restaurant staff had no idea I was reviewing it.)

Amuse-Bouche [address] 96 Tecumseth St. (one block north of King Street West), Toronto, Ontario, Canada [tel] 416-913-5830 [web]

UPDATE 08/19/2010: Amuse-Bouche has been permanently closed.

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