Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bonjour Brioche, Toronto ON Canada

Let me be the first to admit that I am a big fan of French bistro-style breakfasts - I rank Keller's Bouchon and Francois Payard's options as well as Butler and the Chef amongst my favorite breakfast/brunch spots of all time. With those things noted and the fantastic reviews of Bonjour Brioche listed on myriad Toronto review sites the decision for Sunday Breakfast was easy - especially since Bonjour is closed on Mondays. Staying only a half-mile west of BB's Queen East location and waking as early as ever I first decided to go for a run in order to build up an appetite and then after a quick shower I found myself at the restaurant's side entrance only 5 minutes after the doors opened at 8am.

Making my way into the small space I was surprised to find the restaurant already half full - and by the time I left at 9:00 there was already a line of 10 waiting outside. Taking a seat near the window I browsed the small shop's interior which features approximately 15 tables, a delectable looking pastry case, a chalkboard of specials, and a small coffee cart full of newspapers and magazines - towards the back was a kitchen with doors wide open where one could see two chefs working dough while another manned the grill. Greeted by my pleasant server I received the small menu and coffee was poured (this time only equal was available, unlike A+U's where only splenda can be found.) A relatively standard blend for which I was originally double charged I must admit that given the plethora of coffee shops in Toronto, the restaurant coffees could use some work.

Browsing the specials I have to admit some sounded interesting - particularly the chorizo bread pudding and the fig tart, but given the wonderful sounding options on the standard menu I instead opted for one sweet and one savory. Placing my orders and receiving a refill on my coffee I picked up a copy of one of the local music magazines and read until my orders arrived - only approximately 15 minutes, impressively, given the hustle-bustle of the restaurant. Served piping hot and direct from the kitchen my server asked if I needed anything else and after getting a glass of water and a third mug of coffee I was left to enjoy.

Starting with the savory - a small but succulent croque madame was presented and featured a few thin slices of black forest ham and Gruyere cheese atop a buttery brioche and topped with a single fried egg. Adequate but certainly nothing to write home about the dish was largely a success due to the quality of the brioche while the other ingredients did their job merely adequately. Served along with the sandwich was a very nice green salad topped with a mild oil and vinegar. Having had incredible croques at Bouchon, B+C, and Payard I have to say I'd not order this sandwich again or recommend it to others - it was simply too ordinary and small.

Somewhat disappointed by the croque I next delved into the Baked French Toast - and I most certainly was not disappointed. Having had a number of excellent French Toasts - both "normal" and "bread pudding style" - in the past couple years I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this ranks in the top three along with the version at Brenda's French Soulfood in San Francisco and that at The Country Club at the Wynn in Vegas. Featuring the same buttery brioche as the croque but absolutely saturated with cinnamon and an eggy custard the toast was served with a wonderfully flavorful and warm side of pure Canadian Maple syrup and the layers of flavor simply melted together forming a singular flavor that harkened a cinnamon bun, but better. Crisp on the outside, spongy within and ample in portion due to the density and decadence I slowly enjoyed this dish and rather wished I'd have opted for two sweets instead of the croque - really, an astounding dish showing that when done right something "simple" can actually be sublime.

After the great French toast I briefly considered picking up some pastries for later in the day but instead decided to show some restraint given my later eating plans. Paying the modest bill after the double coffee-charge was removed I was pleasantly surprised that I felt in no way rushed to pay the bill or leave despite the line. Finishing up an article in the paper about The Swell Season I made my way to the door and was bid farewell by two of the servers who appropriately offered a au revoir from Bonjour.

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