Last Friday, chef Daniel Boulud officially opened the doors of his first Toronto venture, Café Boulud, the third restaurant of that name (there’s one in New York and another in Palm Beach), and the 14th in his ever-expanding empire. Taking a corner space in the shiny new Four Seasons flagship, the Café aspires to be a go-to local haunt rather than a temple to fine dining like Daniel, Boulud’s eponymous three-Michelin-star restaurant in New York. Still, as chef de cuisine Tyler Shedden tells us, the different Café Boulud locations “are not just carbon copies of each other—you can expect a different take on things here.”
The second-storey restaurant is outfitted in a palette of browns, with stucco accent walls breaking up the space (Rosalie Wise Design was behind the interiors). Contemporary pop art paintings by Mr. Brainwash liven up the walls, while glass works by Canadian artists David Calles and Sue Rankin peer out from shelves. Floor-to-ceiling windows occupy the south and west walls, with views giving out onto the corner of Bay and Yorkville. Boulud describes the restaurant as “casual fine dining”—there are no starched linens or crystal chandeliers. Below is dbar, Boulud’s new bar and lounge.
The menu at Café Boulud is a collaborative effort between Boulud and Shedden, a British Columbian who was previously in charge of the private dining room at Daniel. “We were given free rein to do what we like,” he told us, although the menu is divided into four sections based on Boulud’s “muses”: “la Tradition” (French cuisine); “la Saison” (seasonal produce); “le Potager” (the vegetable garden); and “le Voyage” (international flavours). The vitello tonnato ($15), from the Tradition menu, is a seared veal loin resting on a bed of lemon, anchovy and confit tuna mayo, with caper berries, white anchovies, frisée and celery. The poulet au vinaigre ($29)—a classic French dish from Lyon—features roasted Chantecler chicken breast and leg stuffed with foie gras, tomato confit and tarragon. For dessert, the vacherin ($11), from the Saison menu, is built from orange mousse and meringue and laden with wild cranberries and maple-caramel sauce. The new restaurant might not be drawing the same fevered attention as that other recent New York import, but given its aim of becoming a Yorkville fixture instead of the latest buzzy joint, that probably suits Boulud just fine.