Chantecler

Chantecler
1320 Queen Street West
Queen West
Asian Fusion

Chantecler, named after a breed of chicken that is native to Canada, is a new addition to Parkdale and just a few doors down from Grand Electric.  Just two weeks old but already attracting the crowds and with features in both Toronto Life and BlogTO, it will no doubt become a neighbourhood favourite.

I arrived right at opening time (6pm) and requested a seat by the kitchen – its like front row seats to the opera.  Owners Jacob Wharton-Shukster and Jonathon Poon (affectionately known as Johnny) make up the dream team behind Chantecler.  

Watching Chef Poon craft his dishes is like watching a Monet painting in the works.  As he worked his way around the small, but charming  kitchen – no detail was left unattended.  If I could describe him in one word – it would be fastidious.  And this is for sure reflected in his food.

Wharton-Shukster is equally impressive to watch as he works up 2 cocktails for me and my dinner guest.  The Old-Fashioned was finished with lavender smoke – if only I could bottle the aroma and make it into a fragrance – I’d be as tempting as pie!  My Sea Buckthorn Cocktail was refreshing and just the thing I needed on this sunny day.  The egg was subtle, but added a certain smoothness to the quaff.

After having read about the lengths Poon took to craft his Chicken Consommé ($14) – I had to try it.  Just the description of the process wowed me.  No part of the chicken is spared.  My Chinese mother would be proud of his “no waste” philosophy.  The carcass is taken to to create your traditional consommé sans vegetables; the yea big breasts are smoked while the legs are rolled into a remoulade; and the consommé is clarified with egg whites which, as it coagulates creates a raft which clarifies the stock.    The fat rendered from the chicken is then used to cook the mushrooms and the dish is finished with a sprinkling of coriander, scallion and egg yolk.  The broth is poured over just before serving.  I now know why good chefs go through all the trouble of making their own broth instead of hitting up a grocery store for a box of Campbell’s.  The broth was clean, concentrated and full-bodied.

On the starchier side of things were the Stuffed Onions ($18) with creamed kale and glutinous rice.  The sweetness of the onions paired well with the Parmesan.  And being true to using quality ingredients, you will also find black truffles in the rice.  None of that “essence” nonsense – you get the real deal.

sam_0796At the recommendation of the staff, we also tried the Pacific Cod ($19) served with King Oyster mushrooms (which are scored by hand with a knife), Bonito butter and toasted seeds.  The fish was nice and flaky and the butter added a boost in fat and flavour in an otherwise lower-fat cod.

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Our third and final dish of the evening was the Pork Neck ($21) with Kusshi oyster, poached lettuce and a house-made XO sauce composed of dried seafood such as conpoy and shrimp.  The sauce itself takes 5 days to make! For me, this was the winner of the evening with the right fat-to-meat ratio and a nice golden crust. Every bite was a juicy one!

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Verdict:

I bet that Origin is probably missing one of its star employees (cue Wharton-Shukster) because he was great.  He explained the construction and composition of the dishes down to a tee, and overall made the evening a fun one.  Although Chef Poon was super focused on his work in the kitchen, he still managed to say a friendly hello.

While the pair have dubbed their approach to food “progress Canadian cuisine,”  I still think I would call it Asian fusion.  It also seems Chef Poon has an unrequited love for mushrooms as we sampled a medley of mushrooms including: brown enoki, oyster mushrooms, button mushrooms and hen wood mushrooms.  Whatever kind of cuisine you want to call it, you can dine knowing that Chef Poon cooks with his heart and is really proud of his dishes.

All the dishes were “familiar” to me with scallions being a go-to ingredient in the dishes.  It was like eating at a really good Chinese restaurant with flavours as clean as the clarified consommé.

The kitchen is my sanctuary in the house, and was definitely my favourite spot in the restaurant.  It reminds you of a rustic kitchen you’d find in the French countryside and the backsplash of mosaic displaying the restaurant’s namesake is absolutely adorable.

As the restaurant is still young, they currently only accept cash or debit.  So make sure you come prepared ;)


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4 Responses

  1. aska
    March 27, 2012 12:03 AM #

    I happened upon your website after having read about Chantecler in Toronto Life. It seems like a nice enough restaurant and your photos are fantastic. I’m hoping to visit soon but was wondering why you only gave the restaurant 3 stars even though your review was very positive. The restaurant did look empty in the photos. Was it a matter of ambience?

    • th3hungrycat
      March 27, 2012 8:49 AM #

      Hi Aska,
      Thank you for taking the time to read my review of Chantecler. I judge a restaurant based on 3 criteria: food, ambiance and service.

      When judging food, I also have 3 criteria (borrowed from the Food Network): taste, presentation and creativity. For me the 3-star rating stems from the fact that I didn’t find the menu to be creative. I think the chef could’ve stepped a little bit out of his comfort zone of Asian cooking and taken on a few more risks. All the dishes were “safe.” Although each dish was unique in its own way, there was also too much overlap. E.g. Almost all the dishes used mushrooms, and for me, when I dine at a restaurant, I want a restaurant to showcase different ingredients and different flavours. So I guess the short way of saying that would be that the taste was too one-dimensional.

      In terms of service, owner Jacob made us feel very at home.

      In terms of ambiance, I would say that the music was a tad bit too loud. We sat by the bar overlooking the kitchen, and there were a few moments where I couldn’t hear our server, who was just on the other side. I imagine that as the restaurant filled up, that it would cushion some of the noise, but it was very hard for me to hear.

      I hope that answers your questions.

      - Yvonne

  2. aska
    March 28, 2012 9:56 AM #

    cool that makes sense. I took a look at your fellow blogger foodie yu’s review and thought the dishes were pretty creative like the tongue and cheek and the use of sea buckthorn and buckwheat and especially the gnocchi with seaweed. check it out – http://www.foodjunkiechronicles.com/2012/03/chantecler.html

    • th3hungrycat
      March 28, 2012 10:13 AM #

      I think that creativity is a subjective term and depending on one’s exposure to certain cuisines, methods or styles of cooking – something can be seen as innovative or creative. For example, I’m sure that foie gras would seem like a creative and innovative dish to someone say from Asia, but to the French its as common as a baguette. Foodie Yu is a great blogger and I have read many of her reviews.

      As with any review, the experience and comments made reflect that of the person who experienced it. And everyone makes their own experience unique. So I still encourage you to go. I’d love to hear about your experience!

      Happy eating!