Childhood Charm at L’Avenue Bistro’s “Back To the Roots” By Merone Tadesse

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_images_carousel images=”12618,12616,12615,12614,12617″ img_size=”650x”][vc_column_text]The evening starts with “Sunkove Rolky” ham rolls. The pink curls are bedded by sparse pea greens, the pastels of this grown-up meal – paired with a crisp sparkling wine – invoking a child-like palette. The lights are dim, the wine glasses full, and the men in suits but make no mistake – tonight we’re in mama’s kitchen. L’Avenue Bistro’s “Back to the Roots” was a 6-course tasting menu event hosted Tuesday. Described by owner Otta Zapotocky as a “a mother’s meal” inspired by his own Czech childhood, the evening-long culinary experience had both the feeling of a cozy living room get-together and a ticketed theatre show. Located in the heart of Leaside, L’Avenue is one of two Zapotocky ventures in the area- across the street, Val D’Isere, self-styled as “Toronto’s first Seasonal Dining Concept Restaurant,” serves Alpine delicacies in the winter and Spanish tapas in the summer. The 6 courses were paired with 6 wines (so perhaps any generosity of this write-up should be taken with a grain of salt), expertly chosen by Elizabeth Clinton, a Halpern Wine Enterprises sommelier. Together Clinton and Zapotocky tag teamed as playful hosts throughout the evening, presenting each course – which ran the gamut from a bread-bowled goulash to a blueberry tart filled with “something between a sour cream and a cream cheese” – and each wine – a list featuring the inspirations of Philippe Cambie and Michel Gassier – with an anecdote tying back to the evening’s theme. Clinton’s preface was composed of, most aptly, the words of her teen daughter, who described what mom’s cooking meant to her. With nuggets like “mom’s cooking tastes like a mother’s hug,” the speech held diners a captive audience, who implored the writer was “a sure English major!” Zapotocky, himself an experienced sommelier, punctuated each of his speeches with gestures of a wine-glass-holding hand. Sharing that as a child he’d been fond of “eating spaghetti with icing sugar,” Zapotocky’s affable descriptions of sophisticated courses always elicited several laughs. Atmospherically it was all the grace of a high-end French bistro with little of the pretense: a chalkboard advertising the evening’s event read, “If I ever go missing, I would like my photo put on wine bottles instead of milk cartons. This way my friends will know to look for me.” While childhood was emphatically the threading theme of the meal, it was not a far stray from the ambience L’Avenue is said to typically provide. Rich Bassett, a regular there with his wife Linda, described dining at the bistro as “like coming home for us.” The pair, who stumbled upon L’Avenue during its first couple of weeks open, conversed and bantered with Zapotocky like old pals. By the end of the evening, it was not hard to see how L’Avenue comes to be a second home for some: what began as an assortment of seated, expectant diners ended as a mass of heartfelt hugs and exchanges of see-you-again-soons. Soon – as in while Alpine fare is still in season.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]  

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