Over the course of the last several months of being stuck inside and only associating in our small personal bubble due to the Covid pandemic, one thing has become abundantly clear, dining at a restaurant is much more than just about feeding ourselves. Restaurants soothe our souls, make us forget our troubles, help us to celebrate life’s special moments, and become neighbourhood hangouts. Unfortunately, a number of establishments have been forced to close their locations, unable to survive the significant loss of revenue, and the ever-changing rules and guidelines. It is beyond sad, and I feel for my restaurant community.

There have been a few brave who have dared to open a new place during these uncertain times. One such restaurant is Maison T on 1071 Shaw, at the corner of Shaw and Dupont. Despite the difficulty of owning or starting a new establishment in “normal” times, let alone during a pandemic, on October 13, 2020, this newly emerged French bistro opened its doors.

Owned by Chef Masayuki Tamaru, a veteran chef who has had exceptional restaurant experience, being an executive chef at The Left Bank, Concession Road, Simple Bistro, Jov Bistro, Rouge, and Crush Wine Bar. He was also a sous chef at The Fifth and Jamie Kennedy’s Wine Bar.

The chef channels French classics like mussels, poutine, duck confit, soups, and steak and frites.

The space is warm, cozy, and inviting. Indoors has seating for 29, and that includes the ten spots at the bar. The decor is ultra-casual with gray tile flooring and simple leather and velvet banquets. Outdoors the tiny patio has a handful of tables and is draped in twinkle lights, trellises of flower boxes, and a cracked concrete floor. The service is genuinely warm and friendly and during this awful pandemic, a welcome relief.

The chef’s dishes use seasonal produce, quality meats, and fresh seafood. They are open daily for lunch and dinner, except Tuesdays. For brunch, we had a wonderful Croque monsieur that came with a side salad and crispy double-fried fries, done in-house. It was a satisfying meal for $11. The daily omelette was a lovely brie on the day we dined. The endive salad with Roquefort, walnuts, pears, and raisins in a black currant dressing is first-rate. The mussels in a Pernod sauce with julienne vegetables are on the smaller side, but a relative bargain at $11. The French baguettes were a hit and come from a bakery in the west end called La Bastille. The Japanese fried chicken at the next table had me straining my neck. I think I will try that next time. I’m glad the chef had a nod to his Japanese heritage.

We ordered takeout for dinner as well, and, if I am being honest that was less impressive. However part of that is to blame because we were not eating it fresh. I wasn’t enamored with the taste of the short ribs, although they were tender. The beet salad was nice, and the cauliflower soup was a good vegan option, although I personally prefer a meat stock. The trout was also a nice preparation. You’re not getting showstopping ambitious dishes, but you are getting classic, traditional homestyle French fare.

It is of interesting note that Toronto has seen a resurgence of French Bistros lately.

“Dining In” is supposed to restart in another month, but if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, and dining outside gets too cold, you can do delivery which is done in-house. (this has actually been put on hold until they find another reasonable provider, so it is takeout for now) The rate is $5-10, depending on your location.

Kudos to Chef Tamaru for opening a new place during these perilous times and for bringing pleasure to his patrons and community.

Happy dining,
Shanea

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