Let’s set the scene: It’s a Sunday night around 6:30pm. Frigid as fuck out. And we decide to go to the talk of the town resto thinking we’re in for a quiet dinner on this last day of the weekend.
Ossington is calm. But the second we open the door to the restaurant, a reverberant buzz can be heard. Most tables are full. We overhear walk-in diners being told there’s little room to sit, save for the bar. Aside from the constant reminder of the date when checking our iPhone screens, you’d assume this was another bustling Friday night service at La Banane, Chef Brandon Olsen’s nod to sophisticated French brasseries.
The three of us are seated in one of the banquettes adjacent to the stunning marble raw bar. An ideal perch, we’re treated to displays of impeccable service (aside from a very stoic busser who puts us on edge whenever he nears), runway shows of delicately plated French fare, and mixologists creating what we consider to be the purest form of modern art: cocktails that don’t suck.
After toasting to another 48 hours of freedom gone by (on-point negronis, by the way), our journey through cosmopolitan Paris in Toronto begins. The liver and onions is fine, except burnt toast is such a disappointment for such a pretty dish. Pristine slices of albacore tuna are masked by a superb but overpowering mash of capers, dill and brown butter. Delicious and craveable, but we’d just assume spreading spoonfuls of the mélange onto sourdough toast rather than wasting the prime catch.
The eurobass en croûte is as prettily presented as Instagram would have you believe, though the end result is a little less mind-blowing and a bit more adequately satisfying. Under-seasoned, an interesting accomplishment considering it’s baked in a salted pastry crust.
Better to indulge in the crab back gratin, a wondrous pirouette for your tastebuds that’s heavy on the comté in the best of ways. Or the calf-brain ravioli, a vibrant, buttery, stand-out pasta that’s not to be missed. Also perfection were the Jonah crab claws from the raw bar – as we’d assume any fresh catch here would be.
Two more rounds of tipples in, the energy inside La Banane is palpable and frenetic. It’s a modern dance of steal-worthy décor (the green hued front area is familial; the midsection ideally suited for smaller groups; and the salon would make for a convivial semi-private dinner party), attentive waitstaff, and cunning cuisine.
What the La Banane team has created is all too familiar yet seemingly harder and harder to come by in this city – a restaurant whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And that’s an equation we can easily, happily, fanatically comprehend.
Have you dined at La Banane yet? What did you think? Let us know in the comment section or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe.