Byen venu to La Creole! | “Village” Review
In an overstuffed world of tacos, short ribs and sliders, Haitian Creole cuisine has made an entrée into the eclectic world of St Clair West dining. La Creole has center stage in the Hillcrest Village neighbourhood at 810 St Clair West and with so many choices in the neighbourhood, this is a competitive market. However, when was the last time you can remember treating your taste buds to something new? My dining partner and I eagerly discussed the possibilities as we ambled along towards the restaurant. Lots of beans and rice was our consensus, perhaps some mango? Allow me to elaborate upon how this restaurant is going to gain a serious market share. The dining room itself is well laid out with tables that view the street, a sleek blue-lit bar, whimsical chandeliers, a romantically draped ceiling and a stage at the far end of the restaurant. We spread out at a table in the back, noting the soft candle light and civility of it all; not a tv screen in sight. Tasting from the new summer menu our first dish was Caille a La Gwayav; Creole guava quails with cassava fries and grilled vegetables. Not like a chicken wing at all, the quail was perfectly fried and seasoned. I could eat cassava fries all day; au revoir to the common spud, your exotic cousin is so much more interesting. How exciting to try two new things in one dish, we chattered. Next up, Ti Mouton; tamarind, apricot grilled lamb chops loin with apricot salsa. The lamb chops, cut in the French style, help anyone to remain sophisticated whilst tearing meat from a bone with their incisors. Le Bifteck; traditional grilled medium skirt steak, pitimi (millet), creole sauce and seasoned vegetables was a triumph. The beef rare, the millet seasoned in such a way as to rehabilitate the anti-carb movement in one forkful. This is food to be lustful about. Le Saumon; char-grilled creole salmon, rice and bean with a sweet pepper medley was our last main dish. The rice and beans proved to be show-stopping, again with the secret seasoning and a delicious base from which to launch into the peppers and salmon. We finished with a dessert the restaurant calls Beyen Carnaval. A crispy, fried dough, similar to a doughnut, with a lavender infusion that gave it a wonderfully aromatic taste. In the words of my dining partner, “It all tasted like real food!” Indeed, Chef Magda proves that passion, kindness, pleasure and history can be contained in a taste. The history of Creole Haitian cuisine involves a number of influences; African, Spanish, South American and French. A wonderful mélange of identities have evolved into dishes that are now uniquely Haitian Creole. While we obsess about the farm origins of our poultry or snap peas, little consideration is given to the actual history of the food we are eating in terms of its geographical and societal roots. The way in which food has been supplanted into places it was never meant to be; cultivated in new worlds and cooked in new ways. La Creole offers some insight into this question with their thoughtfully written blog in which issues of food history, identity and the pure joy of eating are considered. The blog in itself is an education in the forces which have shaped Haiti and other Creole islands of the Caribbean. The restaurant offers live music, catering and Chef Magda hopes to host cooking classes in the future. The level of service and quality of cuisine were truly outstanding. It’s a restaurant I want to share with everyone I know. Carla Wilson appreciates experiential food adventures, connecting with communities across Toronto and discovering the next great taste.