Winterlicious 2015: Cluny Bistro Review

And the Winterlicious journey continues! This time in a wonderful French bistro at the heart of Distillery District. While Distillery District may not be as magical as it is during Christmas Market, it is still one of the most beautiful spots in Toronto – a perfect setting to house a French bistro.


Cluny is beautiful. Clean, simple, elegant, yet warm.  The bistro plays heavily on its Parisian theme which adds to the dining experience. The semi-open kitchen hides behind a display of the raw bar, and it was a joy to sneak a peek behind the scenes. In the middle of the dining area is a large granite counter filled with bread which would be served at the beginning of the meal. We were promptly seated, and was greeted by a friendly server who would provide us with a warm, attentive and very friendly service throughout the night.


A selection of breads were offered to us including slices of white bread, multi-grain bread, and an olive and chipotle pepper loaf.


For our first course, my friends ordered the Tomato & Saffron Braised Calamari with basque style stewed peppers and fennel. This dish wasn’t my favourite. The stewed peppers and fennels were delicious, but the flavour didn’t quite translate onto the calamari. I also found the calamari a bit over-braised for my liking. As a fan of grilled cephalopods, I missed the chew.


For my appetizer, I ordered the Pressed Chicken Terrine “Nicoise Style”. The dish was a fun play on a salad nicoise, featuring anchovies, tomato jam, olives and a garlicky hollandaise as the boiled egg equivalent. The chicken terrine by itself was not remarkable, but was delicious when combined with all of its accompaniment. The acid from the pickled beans and tomato jam brightened the dish, while the briny punch from the olives and anchovies intensified flavours. The garlic hollandaise provided a much needed zing, and the smooth yolky sauce rounded out contrasting flavours and made the dish cohesive. It was a well composed, carefully plated dish. I preferred the Chicken Terrine over the Calamari.


For our main, we each ordered a different dish. I had the Beer Braised Beef Cheeks with a Celeriac and Barley Stew. The beef cheeks were tender and succulent, with a pronounced hoppy flavour from the beer. The roasted brussel sprouts were a nice addition. An overall enjoyable dish.


One of my friends ordered the Barbecued Steelhead Trout. The skin had a nice crisp and the fish was seasoned well. We particularly enjoyed the roasted heirloom carrots, which was beautifully seasoned yet retained it’s natural sweetness. The almond sauce was subtle, and I did not detect a strong almond flavour with the small bite I had.


My remaining friend ordered the Alsatian Choucroute. Although the online menu promised a “Alsatian Choucroute Sandwich with Frites”, the dish on the menu tonight had no mention of a sandwich nor frites. This was decidedly our least favourite dish, and the “lemon” of the night. The pork belly was dry, and the sausage, pork shank or sauerkraut wasn’t really worth mentioning. I would recommend ordering the other options on the menu.


Although the mains failed to impress, the night ended on a high note with Cluny’s delectable selection of desserts, all of which were wonderfully presented and delicious. My friend ordered the Lavendar Blackcurrant Macaron. Although I’m not a fan of lavendar as a scent, it’s peppery, yet floral flavours worked magic on the macaron. Mixing the macaron with the sweet berry sorbet and the perfume of the strawberry coulis made every bite delightful.


My other friend ordered the Granny Smith Sorbet. Offering a bright, refreshing and oddly addictive finish to the night. The sorbet was fun, lighthearted, and reminded me of frozen apple sauce.


For my dessert, I ordered the Roasted Hazelnut Profiterole. A rich, decadent end to the night. For those who adore dark chocolate, this is your dessert!! The dark chocolate ganache is divine. And yes, pairing hazelnut and dark chocolate is a cliche, but what a wonderful cliche! The chocolate chantilly and the crunchy cookie bits adds a little playfulness to the dish. For those who enjoy richer, heavier desserts, I highly recommend the profiteroles!


We ordered green tea and french pressed coffee with the desserts. Cluny’s coffee is a wonderful roast, and I highly recommended it, even if it is for the drama of having a french press at the table.


Overall, I had rather positive experience with Cluny. Some of their appetizers and mains failed to impress, but the dessert, atmosphere and friendly service more than made up for it!


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