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La Palette Review - Very Long

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La Palette Review - Very Long

Willis | Dec 7, 2005 10:00 AM

Thanks to all the Chowhounds who gave La Palette a good review!

I went last night and was really happy to find one of Toronto's true gems. I apologize if the descriptions are a little off (probably should have had coffee instead of the second bottle of wine after dinner, but hey, what are you going to do :)?)

My dining companion (MDC) had the Celeriac, Parsnip and Butternut squash soup (more accurately described on the menu as a puree because of its deliciously thick consistency). Three flavours so traditional to soups, although usually as individual offerings, this blend was exactly what the doctor ordered on a blustery December eve. I was tempted by this myself, but passed because I was worried that the parsnip (which I love) would overshadow the subtle flavour of the other two (which I also love). I am not sure if it was the chef's choice of proportion between the three, or his choice to use a vegetable stock base instead of chicken (my guess, didn't remember to confirm with the server), but all three were discernible and delicious ($6).

I started with the Duck Liver Pate with Cranberry compote & honey ginger reduction. I consider myself something of a pate connisseur, finding it difficult to pass up in most good restaurants. Short of the ambrosial version that I had at Eigensen Farm (Michael Statlander's), this was some of the best that I have ever tried. The pate itself was dark, smoky, and warm on the tongue. The "jelly" was none of the thin processed gelatin that tops so many inferior offerings, but a deliciously rich composition of duck fat that elevated the taste to new levels. Balanced with with the sweet tartness of the sides and some toasted crusty baguette, this dish is truly a find ($8).

MDC followed with the duck confite. Not my personal favourite, but described as perfectly cooked and seasoned. The taste that I had was moist and tender, not gamey or oily at all. Roasted root vegetables seemed an appropriate accoutrement ($18 for one leg, $24 for two...begs the question - is it really fair to leave a one legged duck running around? go for the double portion)

Continuing my carnivourous path, I chose the selection of three grilled meats for an entree. The boar was exceptional. Both tender and flavourful, I think I may well have a new favourite red meat after trying this dish. The ostrich was fabulous, with none of the toughness or overly wild flavour so often associated with this flightless foul. It was harmonized beautifully with a red wine chocolate sauce that neither overpowered with sweetness, nor underwhelmed with an exotic ingredient included for menu appeal only. The balance was such that on first tasting, MDC couldn't identify that mystery flavour, but when I named it, the recognition was instant. The lamb chop was the only slip of the plate, and indeed the meal, being so rare as to be blue. While this treatment is my preferred state for beef, I find it does nothing for lamb. IMHO, lamb is bland when undercooked. The fat wasn't crisp enough to provide that delightfully browned crunch and actually detracted from the dish with it's ovine oiliness. Being the glutton that I am, I found a good home for it anyway. An assortment of bread pudding type stuffing with whole roasted garlic cloves, al dente haricot verte, pureed root veg and a smattering of raw pomegranate seeds finished the dish well. ($28)

We matched this with a bottle of the 2002 Rasteau Syrah Grenache blend from the Rhone valley ($45). The bottle was slightly chilly for our taste when it arrived, but opened up well as the evening went on. (This was listed on the menu provided. We didn't see the note at the bottom that there is a more extensive wine list available on request).

Take note, this probably isn't the place to take a first date, unless you met him/her on this site. The decor is euphemistically described as "quaint", and the paper napkins/mismatched cutlery do nothing to add to the effect. The out of the way location and small dining room make for a different experience than most top eateries, but MDC's comment that the food quickly makes you forget all that was well made.

Service was friendly without being involved. Could have been slightly more attentive, but our difficult to reach location behind another table (like I said, tiny dining room) probably had something to do with that.

Total cost including tax and generous tip was $150. Great value any way you look at it.

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