L'Ouvrier Kitchen Bar
Dinner for Ten in Trinity Bellwoods
We usually make our Saturday night dinner reservations four to six weeks in advance. That’s what it takes in this restaurant-crazy city we live in. And that’s just when we’re booking for the two of us. So finding a great place for five couples on relatively short notice seemed almost impossible. Finding consensus was challenging. But after three days of back and forth negotiations amongst the members of the group and pleading phone messages to restaurant hosts, we finally arrived at a mutually agreeable spot that had room for all ten of us - L’Ouvrier Kitchen Bar.
The room is modern - white and open, verging on sparse, but not uncomfortable. It has a casual vibe, mismatched tables; crafty DIY art on the walls. The menu is brief but eclectic - consisting of six starters and seven mains. The staff are efficient and friendly. And that is a good thing, because graciously serving a table of ten on a busy Saturday night isn’t easy. Our server didn’t skip a beat when one of the five couples was forty-five minutes late. Their orders were seamlessly blended in with the rest of us.
We all started with a delicious amuse-bouche of a minced mackerel croquette topped with crispy guanciale. As an appetizer, some at our table had the kale, dried cranberry, radish, parmesan, pecan and crispy shallot salad with cider vinaigrette ($10) a refreshingly bright salad. I, like many of the others at the table, had the tuna tartare ($15) with soy glaze, pickled ginger, chili sauce and sesame cucumbers, served with homemade potato chips; like sushi reconstructed.
The short menu proved problematic; particularly so when by 9:15 p.m. L’Ouvrier was out of one of the main dishes. Even more so when they ran out of another main post-order, requiring one of our group to make a second choice. A short menu makes sense if you’re running a relatively small restaurant, but mid-evening is perhaps too early to run out of two of seven options.
That being said, our main dishes were delicious. Several of us ordered the poached thai curry salmon ($24) served over a crispy jasmine rice cake and topped with green mango, coriander and cucumber slaw. The fish was delicately poached and the sauce though subtle was flavourful. Others had the cheeseburger with bacon jam, served with fries ($16). On the recommendation of our waitress, I tried the duck confit, served with slow poached egg over lentils and honey mushrooms and topped with fried brussel sprouts ($23). A riff on a classic French cassoulet, the duck was tender and savoury.
There were three desserts offered. Unfortunately, the one highly recommended by our server, a lime coconut pie was, yes again, sold out. Under the circumstances our table was graciously comped for dessert: plates of tiramisu-inspired mascarpone pie and the very interesting “cookies and cream” panna cotta. I will definitely be returning to L’Ouvrier. If not for their neighbourhood favourite brunch, then certainly to try what we missed on Saturday night.