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.
At 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.
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!
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 ;)