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] www.amuseboucherestaurant.com
UPDATE 08/19/2010: Amuse-Bouche has been permanently closed.