Monday, April 21, 2008

Thuet? Ferme La Bush

Thuet- 609 King St. W (

Picture it: France, 1968...Psychedelic notions of Acid binges meets Ontario Cottage Country meets artsy sculpture-esque fine-dining, napkin-for-the-corner-of-your-mouth-type setting. Yeah, I know. Huh? you ask...Exactly. Meet Thuet, one of Toronto's up-and-coming high end popular French Restaurants in the downtown core, with chef/artist/juxstaposer Marc Thuet leading the way. This place is not for the weak at heart, or stomach for that matter...Be warned.

After reading Now Magazine's restaurant issue, Thuet was plastered on the cover with their signature Steak Frites...Coming in at the top of Toronto's newest eateries, I was sold... The article recommended the dish, basically steak and fries, along with a few other notable signature dishes such as the onion soup. I knew what I was getting. I've heard good things about this place and thought we needed a change from our usual Italian Bistro or Trattoria. So let's French it up.

It was raining like hell, and cold as usual, making finding this place even funner (word?). Finally, after parking miles away (should have cabbed it), we finally found Thuet, located near the likes of Susur, Lee and Tangerine Lounge, in the trendy King West district.

Thuet is a very posh place, once you walk up the stairs you are welcomed into a dim-lit, almost spooky type of atmosphere, with low lights, candle-lit tables very interesting decor. They offered to take my jacket, and I refused for some reason, maybe I'm just not used to that kind of service. Once I reached my table I thought "shit, is this the type of place that frowns upon jackets-on-the-back-of-chairs?" After a quick glance at surrounding tables I realized it was okay to drape them over the back of the chair, and I felt relieved. The decor in Thuet is quite a spectacle. I don't really understand the theme or concept, and maybe that's the point. There were some nice touches, including a fireplace lit by really large candles. That was cool. Some other pieces, not quite. Like for instance, large chandeliers and sconces made out of twigs and branches, or gold plated buddah heads housed in the corners of the dining room. Not to mention very detailed and kind of scary abstract paintings-done by Mr. Thuet himself, housed on the walls in the background.

I do like the setup of the dining room, with a couple of couches in front of the fake fireplace is a warm touch, a small bar towards the front entrance, and a long-angled bench/couch along one corner-very colourfully striped, mind you.

I'm not really understanding where all these nuggets fit in- in fact they don't fit in. But why? I dunno. Let's leave it at that. If you go to Thuet, you'll know what I mean. I did like the kitchen cut-out, that lets you get a sneak peak at what's going on on the otherside.

The menu's were neatly leather bound, but one problem- every thing's in FRENCH! Well, not completely- the description is in English, but the actual item is in French, which really doesn't help us. For example:

Line caught loup de mer studded with a duxelle soubise, quail egg agnolotti, ragoût of spring leek, Ox-eye Daisy caper + white berry froth


So what's that exactly? is what we asked our server, repeatedly. I mean sure, everything sounds better en Francais, but come on, really we should be able to read the damn thing instead of liking the way it sounds, ordering it, and then finding out its baby pig- or Porcelet, as the French call it.

Don't get me wrong, French cuisine is very fine-tuned, using nuggets of things I've never even heard of, but it can come off a little pretentious if you ask me.

Our server was very friendly and informative, in fact he was convincing enough to go ahead and order a salad for one of us who didn't even want an appetizer. He probably didn't want her to feel left out, I guess.

To start, I ordered a classic, Onion Soup. This soup was so dark and rich, it tasted as though it had been simmering for days...I like the touch of a thick slice of bread stuffed into the top with melted cheese...but it was way to much for me to handle....I only got through half of it before I had to stop myself- I needed to save room for my steak frites. Other apps order were:

Mennonite spring lamb tartare, chef’s raw sheep milk cheese, preserved black truffle vinaigrette, egg yolk drizzle 13$- Never seen Lamb tartar before, not something I would order, but it was still composed very well, and had many different elements that all were tasty.

Hand cut organic parpadelle, ragoût of Perth County rabbit, whelk, tarragon shoot emulsion 14$- Can never go wrong with fresh pasta, not too keen on the rabbit, but still I think this was one of the best dishes we sampled.

Very interesting combinations, which were tasty to say the least. Definite care and precision was taken in preparation for these meals, maybe a little over the top for us personally, but still good nonetheless.

For the mains, we ordered:

Medallion of Deer Valley Farm organic red deer, almond crust, fig confit, Northern Quebec dog rose + cloudberry coulis 25$- Deer, you ask? I know...I was shocked too...when this arrived it looked like a very tiny nugget, but I think that's all the deer one can really eat. Still, this dish was not bad. The name did scare me a bit, but it was presented nicely and had some interesting flavours. Not too sure about the chocolate sauce...

Milk fed Perth County porcelet, potato and fennel coulis, parsley purée, artichoke ragoût, molet crisp, star anise & pineapple essence 26$- Porcelet, or baby pig, is quite the thing in French cuisine, apparently. I didn't try this one but heard it was alright, nothing crazy.

Just a little wind of charcoal cooked B.C. organic salmon house made kefir, organic shoots, warm pickled vegetables, pine needles 28$

Okay, so for this meal, presentation was at a 10, for about 1 minute...

They brought out the salmon on this little kiln with heated charcoal underneath, definitely a "WOW" statement was made as the servers brought it out to our table. But then they put it down, and took the salmon off the minner grill and placed it on the diner's plate. Unfortunately, the salmon was looking a bit on the Tartare-side. I lie, it was a lot on the tartare side. So much so that we wished they would have just kept the grill on the table, so that it would have cooked fully and properly. We had to send this one back, mainly because we weren't in the mood for shashimi. When they brought it back it was decent, no complaints...The pickled vegetables were different, to say the least.

I ordered exactly what I came for, the only thing that was normal and not too extravagantly listed on the menu, Steak and Frites, was great. This was a flank steak, so not an extremely expensive or high-end cut of meat, but it was perfect. The frites were cut thin, skin-on, and fried to perfection. No sauce needed at all. For once I have nothing bad to say about my own dish- go figure! A sigh of relief from the blog critics, as I usually have an earful to say about my meal.

So let's score this badboy up:

Decor: 3/5- Very obtuse, odd, interesting at times, but still almost fancily scary. Too many different tings a gwan, in my opinion. I liked some of the subtle touches, but there weren't many...mainly the candle-lit fireplace. Artwork was scary, and most things just didn't match with each other. But then again that may be the theme- who knows.

Service: 4/5- Very knowledgeable server, although everything we inquired about was either "fabulous" or "highly recommended"...Still nothing to complain about here, we were served in a very respectable manner, which made us feel like "high-class" diners, which is always good once in a while.

Food: 3.5/5- Very good and Very not good. There were the good and the bads with this meal, unfortunately both extremes at the same time. My meal was great, but the others, not so much... The salmon fiasco was unnecessary, and I still beg to differ than Frenchies eat their salmon THAT pink...but who knows with the French, they do everything backwards. If you like interesting eats, and are a brave and adventurous soul, then you will love Thuet. That being said, don't come here if you're the type that feels Kelsey's is out of the ordinary for you.

Price: 3/5- We paid $285, including 4 apps, 4 mains, and 2 bottles of wine. Not bad at $70 a POP, but I don't feel as though we got great value for our money...In the sense that we were only 'wowed' to a certain extent. Thuet's food seemed to be a bit 'out-there', meaning most dishes involved serious concoctions that we were lucky if we knew more than one ingredient in it. Still, it's good to get some insight into what others are eating around the world, and even to explore things you would never eat otherwise.

So, as an experience, Thuet definitely was an 4/5, but as a restaurant I would have to give it a 3-3.5/5. Was I full after the meal, yes. Was I wanting more, yes. Maybe not more to eat, but more to chew, mentally. I felt like I was stuck in a bad Stephen King novel, or worse, a Stephen King movie...I guess I just like simple things in life, simple food, simple themes and simple combinations...As much as I like to explore new things, I felt bombarded at Thuet...just too much going on at once. That may have something to do with our pre-meal shenanigans, but I digress.

Yet again, still searching for the Ultimate Eat, I leave you, stomach still grumbling...