February 28th, 2004

Fishy Circumstances

Canteena (Azul)

Location: Bathurst and Queen, Toronto.

C. and I hadn't tried out a new brunch place in a long time, and today seemed like a good day to try one out, so I sat down with the guidebooks this morning to find a promising one. This year's Torono Life restaurant guide has, alas, abandoned insets profiling the best brunch places in the city, so I had to use old editions, plus the last Now food guide. All of them recommend a place called Azul for brunch, and, since it was one of the few they recommended that we hadn't either already tried or wasn't in a hotel, we went.

Sometime within the past few weeks, Azul has rebranded and remodeled itself into a wine lounge called Canteena. The subheading "by Azul" reassured us that we'd at least found the right spot and yes, they were serving brunch, with exactly the same highlights recommended in the guidebook. So far, so good. The environment was pleasant. Small, but comfortable, with satiny velvet curtains and other opulent touches among a comfortable palate of purples and golds.

C. judges brunch places on the quality of their coffee, whereas I'm picky about my juices. And, of course, we both want good food. The coffee was largely above average, served breshly brewing in a caffetiere. They have a smoothie and juice blend options on the menu. The mango/banana/pineapple blend I had was quite unlike any other I've ever had, and in a good way. It was like drinking fruit-flavored froth. It was airy and light and delicate. The taste was as well, but it did taste of the right ingredients and was fundamentally juicy, so I was content.

The food was beautifully presented, very, very competently cooked, but ultimately not alot more than that. The nature of my dutch toast flavors were alot like my drink, light and airy, although in this case tasting of berries, a nominally chocolate mascarpone, and a pile of absolutely lovely julienned slivers of granny smith apple. Unfortunately for them, I prefer french toast to be more like the French cook them and less like bread quickly soaked in egg and milk and then cooked. I like my fresh toast to be falling apart delicate. Challah makes really good french toast. C. had the eggs benedict, and they were very competent, with perfectly cooked egg. Ultimately, however, he felt that the high end of competent was all it amounted to. There was nothing particularly exciting in the flavors or textures, but we could both respect that the dishes had been cooked exactly as they ought to have been.

I'd be happy to go back, but we probably won't seek it out very often. Not when there's Mitsy's and Hart House and Mildred Pierce...