Last week I wrote about how I ended up at a (wonderful) Turkish tourist trap. This week, I’m fessing up about falling for a gimmick. Not just any gimmick, mind you. There’s a short list of chefs whom I admire and will follow to whatever new venture they dream up. Toronto’s Marc Thuet is on that list. I’ve dined — gluten-free — at his various restaurants over the past few years. That’s how I ended up at Conviction.
What’s the gimmick? The name provides a clue: all of the kitchen crew and serving staff at Conviction have served time in jail. The concept is so cute that there’s a reality show being filmed about the restaurant. A sign out front warns that entering the restaurant implies a willingness to appear on-camera. (In fairness, I should add that filming was going on while I was there, but the TV crew wasn’t intrusive at all.) Still, dining at a place that boasts about the illicit pasts of its staff raises a few eyebrows — and questions. My practical friend Stephanie, who suggested checking out the restaurant, texted me before we met there: “Bring cash. We are NOT paying with credit cards!”
There are a few things you can count on at any Marc Thuet restaurant. One is a charming setting; two is impressive service; and three is fine food. All three are in evidence at Conviction. The dining room is an airy white atelier enlivened by red chairs, crimson flowers, and scarlet chandeliers. Service is thoughtful and helpful; while my server didn’t seem to be familiar with celiac disease, it took only a few minutes to coordinate with the kitchen about what I could have for dinner. The food was fantastic: I started with a simple green salad made special with the addition of a well-aged sheep’s milk cheese, and then had Ontario-raised lamb with ratatouille. The menu is short, but everything on it is farm-fresh, or made from scratch on the premises.
I’ve suggested the restaurant to a few people since, and have heard only good reports. I’m gaining confidence in Conviction. The next time I dine there, I may even pay with a credit card.
Conviction [address] 609 King Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada [tel] 416-603-2999 [web] www.convictionrestaurant.com
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Some fiction news: My short story “Insatiable” was published by the online journal Beat to a Pulp. BTAP’s editor, David Cranmer, interviewed me, and asked me about the Gluten-Free Guidebook, among other things. Also, my story “Beast” just took first prize in a crime fiction contest called the Watery Grave Invitational.