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Paramour

Location: 94 Ossington, north of Queen West. Toronto. Canada.

I don't usually give so much feedback on a meal while I'm eating it, but our waitress asked, and, more to the point, was patient, interested, and caring enough to listen. It's not that anything was wrong, so much as that they were clearly trying, and some things could be better: wine warm enough to taste, portions of dips proportionate to the things being dipped. We didn't have a chance to comment on being rushed out the door at the end, but that was a nearly-inevitable consequence of giving us time to digest before dessert, crossed with two strictly-regimented eating sessions.

But let me back up. The problems were - relatively speaking - so trivial that C. wondered if Paramour would become our new local if we moved back to that neighborhood, close to where we used to live in Toronto. It's part of the happening new stretch of restaurants on Ossington north of Queen West whose vitality - oddly - has been fed by a city-mandated freeze on the issuing of further licenses along here for a year. As a result, those which got their license in time have a little extra aura to them: the rare, the special, the open.

Paramour has thick curtains around the doors to block November drafts, and inside, they've changed the artwork since initial reviews were published. No longer do oversized womens' faces loom over diners: they have been replaced with enlarged reproductions of coyly flirtatious women on vintage magazine covers; yes, that's a major improvement.

Briefly adrift at the doorway, we wandered in until three waitstaff met us in compensation for that moment's front-of-house abandon. We were shown to our table, between banquette and chair, and provisioned with a truly admirable menu. I loved it not for its brevity of five choices per course, but for the generous font size which will mean that those with fading vision will still be able to read and order here. So considerate! After ordering, our too-cold wine arrived, along with lovely warm bread and a meagre portion of fruity spread made in-house.

C. started off with a menu staple. The roasted corn and jalapeño hush puppies were moderately light comfort food, enlivened by a too-small portion of chipotle mayonnaise. My BLT salad was well put together, with lots of combinable pieces, from the baby arugula, to the roasted cherry tomatoes and meat lardons, to the tender cheddar biscuit buried underneath it all. It's what a BLT should aspire too: but, as with the hush puppies, the portions seemed unduly generous. Is it just that we are no longer used to North American portion sizes?

Braised red cabbage, apple slices, and a cider-based sauce lured me to the tender duxelle-stuffed chicekn supreme, which arrived perched on a hill of mashed potatoes. C. had the mustard-glazed lamb chops, which were beautfully tender, he reported. Yet again, however, the sauces and gravies failed to be proportional: there was just so much to eat with them.

We were just full enough after our mains that we could think about dessert, but had no immediate need for it. It might well have been better had we stopped there, for the waitress, kindly indulging and opening up the greater likelihood of upselling us on dessert, proposed a digestive break, which we took. Scarcely hungrier at the end of it, we shared a minor pumpkin flan. My tea wasn't quite cool enough at the end of the meal to drink, but we had to pay and leave anyway: another party had the table momentarily.

Service was why we came to Paramour in the first place. Splendido, which used to be our favorite Toronto restaurant, was bought out last year and we wondered what had happen to their best, most astonishly intelligent and attentive waiter: he'd gone on to head up the staff at Paramour. Although he wasn't in the evening we were, the staff clearly had their hearts in the right places. After a day in the processed air of indoors Toronto in winter, I was thirsty. The staff kept my glass topped up all evening. Our waitress really was interested in passing on our feedback to the kitchen. The service really was good, if limited by the timing of seatings.

Food was competent and cozy, if undersauced and - for our stomachs - overportioned. Next time, I'd share a starter and a dessert rather than tackling more of the meal's structure on my own.

Comments

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(Anonymous)
Jan. 16th, 2011 11:06 pm (UTC)
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