“We talked about opening an itty bitty restaurant forever” says Jacob Wharton-Shukster, co-owner of Parkdale’s latest restaurant, Chantecler. “But it’s tough with a shoestring budget!” Named after Canada’s only heritage breed of chicken, Chantecler is the brainchild of Wharton-Shukster and chef Jonathan Poon (Noma, C5, Delux, Colborne Lane), who serves what the pair have dubbed “progressive Canadian cuisine.” After meeting at Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar in 2005, the friends worked Toronto’s restaurant circuit (and Poon did a few stints abroad) before seeking out a space to call their own (during their frustrating search, Poon launched a Monday night dinner series at the Bellevue in order to keep fresh). When this west-end spot finally came on their radar, they snapped it up immediately.
With French, Italian, British and Asian influences, the menu is made up of nine dishes and two desserts, and features local and seasonal ingredients prominently (“Jamie Kennedy changes how you work forever,” says Wharton-Shukster). The chicken consommé ($14), a real source of pride for Poon, makes use of an entire Chantecler chicken: the bones are used to create a traditional consommé stock, the breast is cured and smoked and the legs are rolled into a roulade, which is poached and sliced. The whole thing is loosely arranged in a bowl with shaved button mushrooms, hen of the woods mushrooms confited in chicken fat, diced coriander, green onions and an egg yolk, with the rich broth poured tableside. In keeping with the pair’s seasonal approach, the menu will change monthly and remain small. The exclusively natural wine list—a collaborative effort between Wharton-Shukster and Woodlot’s Jeff Connell—features picks from the Niagara region and the Loire valley.
A stone’s throw from Grand Electric, the intimate dining room seats 26. With an L-shaped bar running along the room, diners can watch as each dish is painstakingly put together. A vintage Moffat stove is perched in the back corner, and glass panes on the wine cabinets hail from a 1970s Montreal bank. The original off-white tiled floors have been matched by newer additions above the stove, which spell out “Chantecler” in black. The restaurant is already drawing eager crowds—we get the feeling that Grand Electric won’t be the only place on the strip with a line-up for long.
Chantecler, 1320 Queen Street W., 416-628-3586, @ChanteclerTO