After being stuck indoors for three months due to Covid-19, I looked forward to the city of Toronto finally opening up outdoor patios for drinking and dining. Dining at Lapinou Bistro was my first dinner out. It’s a charming French Bistro located at 642 King Street West. We had a choice of sitting directly on King Street, or down an alleyway between two buildings. The latter is the better choice because it’s quieter, the marble tables are larger, and there are couches and wrought iron patio furniture to sit on, as well as a beautiful fountain and twinkle lights that make for a more pleasant atmosphere. You can also hear the delightful soundtrack that plays mostly French romantic tunes. I did peek in the dimly lit, 80 seat main dining room, where the focal point is a 360-degree green marble bar. The design also features wood plank floors, brick walls, couches, and vintage oil lamps, with a casual-cozy feel to the room. There is a wine cellar on display and an open kitchen in the back.
The chef is Jamie Ullrich of Nota Bene, Estia, and Byblos North, so be assured he knows his way around the kitchen. The owner, Hanif Harji, hired a very professional team – I found the staff to be engaging, knowledgeable, courteous, and also put us at ease. The menu is designed with a QR code system that you can peruse at your leisure and scan from your personal phone when you are ready to order.
Although the menu options are paired down during Covid-19, everything we ordered had dynamic and vibrant flavours, from the freshly baked Parker House rolls (the best I’ve had in the city) to the ham which is cured, brined and smoked in-house and topped with a creamy, cheesy, and crunchy celery remoulade. We also enjoyed the asparagus salad, with a soft poached egg and toasted hazelnuts. The two mains that we selected were the halibut with charred tomatoes and a piperade, and a tender beef short rib cooked to perfection, with an Asian element to its sauce. There were three dessert options and we went with the one that incorporated fresh Ontario strawberries. The restaurant uses fresh and locally sourced ingredients from artisans and nearby farms.
The wine list is thoughtful with mostly French selections. and a generous selection of champagnes and wines by the glass. There is also a full selection of cocktails, and I was very pleased with my Negroni.
They sanitize the card machine in front of you when you receive your bill. They also provide hand sanitizer to each patron as well. I’m usually wary of restaurants in the entertainment district because honestly there are so few that are any good, but Lapinou is an exception. It is one of Toronto’s best French restaurants.