I must admit, I am quite enamored with all things French. In my younger and more naive days I would state, with great authority, to all who speak French: “Je suis fromage.” Yes, I know it means “I am cheese,” which, while nonsensical, still sounds beautiful. And that is how I think of most French foodfrom the high-end foie gras to the lowly frog’s legs and escargot. I love it all.
Which is why I was so excited to join friend Pauline Dong for lunch at Le Papillon On Front. Toronto’s first crêperie, the menu remains true to the tradition, with one page filled with a variety of delicious sounding crepes. The lunch item options have expanded, and now include a number of other options, both French and Québécois (steak frites, Tourtière) and some less so (pasta, Reuben sandwich, etc).
The design elements in the restaurant give a nod towards a French bistro, with Lautrec-esque posters dotting the exposed brick walls, warm wooden hues and burgundian red walls. The ceiling is high and the room is open, with a large bar just beyond the entrance. Pauline and I chose a seat by the front window, and with sunlight streaming in and Torontonians rushing to and fro during their lunch break, we chose our courses: escargot ($8.50) to start, and followed by the Tourtière ($14) for me, and the Asparagus crêpe ($16.50) for Pauline.
The service was on the slower side, so if you have only an hour for lunch, you may feel a bit rushed. However, if, like the French, you have the chance to linger over your food, enjoy a glass of wine, the ambiance of Le Papillon is certainly suited to that.
While the escargot was quite delicious (soaking in garlic parsley butter which I ended up sopping up with bread, the little creatures had a nice toothsome quality that was not overly chewy), my main was less than stellar. The side salad was fresh but unexciting (think bagged Spring Mix).
The Tourtiere, a classic Québécois meat pie, was really just a huge hunk of bone-dry ground meat (a blend of pork, veal and beef) sandwiched between a thin pastry crust. The side of house chutney only barely managed to keep me from feeling like the character in Shel Silverstein’s Peanut Butter Sandwich (although without *spoilers* asking for more).
In terms of the crêpe, Pauline reported that while it was tasty, it was not particularly interesting (even the plating elicited a yawn), and would be a better option as a light meal, given that it was only lightly-filled.
So, with a twinge of regret at a meal not quite to expectations, I bid you a fond “adieu”.
Le Papillon On Front
69 Front Street East, Toronto
Front Street Church Street