They say good things come in small packages, well the same can be applied to the wonderful and tiny jewel box restaurant, Chabrol.
Down a hidden alleyway off Yorkville Avenue, you can find this most special French restaurant called Chabrol. It is one of the first restaurants I wanted to try on my return to Toronto. This spot at 90 Yorkville was formally the home of Le Tros Normand that had been in that spot for as kind as I can remember.
Chef Doug Penfold has had many years in the restaurant industry even though he looks so young to me. He has cooked at some of Toronto’s top restaurants including Canoe, Avalon, Pastis and over the last nine years at Cava in the Yonge and St. Clair area, which he ended up owning and operating since 2014. I have enjoyed going there for years for their delicious Spanish tapas. Chef Doug has always dreamed of owning a French restaurant as he was classically trained in this type of cooking.
I had heard this restaurant was going to be tiny, but I was floored to see that is more like a shoe box. Ten seats inside and nine close seats around the bar. Come warmer weather he will be set up with additional seats outside. How the kitchen will handle more seats is beyond me. The whole restaurant including the kitchen (if you want to call it a kitchen) is only 400 square feet!!! I have seen home bathrooms larger than this room! He cooks with a narrow electric convection oven and two electrical hot plates, I kid you not. How he works his brilliant magic is beyond me. I hear there is a small prep kitchen out back, consisting of two boards. Here he rolls his own pastry. Actually, everything is made in house except for the baguettes.
Our waiter suggested a wine pairing with each course, and everything he suggested was bang on with the food we ordered. The list is all French wines.
We started with a silky foie-gras with a black currant jelly and served with a few slices of crisp buttery toast. We drank some sauterne with it which paired beautifully. Then we followed with the ttoro, which is basically a French bouillabaisse, with large mussels, shrimps, snapper and mackerel in an aromatic saffron broth. “Chabrol” roughly translates to empty ones’ wine glass, and near the end of our soup that is just what our waiter did, pouring it inside our bowl and we lapped it all up. The dish was wonderful and a nice size for lunch but for dinner could have been a little larger as a main course. The rosé from the Loire region went well with this course. We also had a vegetarian course of ragout of wild mushrooms and braised artichokes. I would have loved to see this served on a bed of creamy polenta, but this may be an impossibility because of the size limitations in the kitchen. It was also a touch too salty. We also had an excellent white wine from Clisson that would have paired well with everything we ate. For dessert, we had the homemade apple tart served with a lovely calvados sabayon which was poured table side. It was a showstopper and large enough to share for two. Make sure you pre-order this dessert as it takes about twenty minutes to bake.
On our next visit to Chabrol I had some succulent oysters on the half shell with a mignonette. For my main the papillote of white fish was served with sea asparagus, leeks, and Swiss chard in a vermouth beurre blanc. It was delicate and absolutely delicious. My companion really enjoyed her ballontine of chicken served with watercress soubise, fennel and roasted apple. This dish also got two thumbs up from her.
The creme brûlée which was torched in front of us was a little disappointing for me. The crust was a bit too thick and the filling a little too runny, although still tasty.
The restaurant really is adorable, and with the tables being set so close together it seems easy to get to know your fellow diners. It really feels like you are in a small Parisian bistro or wine bar.
I am so happy to have the addition of this new place in the Yorkville area. They are packing them in and reservations are hard to come by, so book early. Please note that you can’t rush things here, because if the size of the kitchen, so sit back, relax and enjoy this little urban oasis.