Out in Parkdale, Chantecler is a cozy spot with tall tables and burnished wooden counters. The space has a country kitchen feel, heightened by the compact cast-iron butter-yellow Moffat stove in the corner; its back-splash spells out the restaurant’s name in black and white hexagonal tiles. It’s across the pass, presided by Chef Johnny Poon, that the most deft and interesting twists of Asian-influenced dishes have come.
The notion of fusion causes a lot of raised eyebrows by gourmands, but it is, perhaps, an outdated term. The generation that grew up influenced by their immigrant parent’s cultures and tastes, yet were raised in North America, is now filtering into the kitchens across the city. There are more subtle touches at work now, with dashes neither obvious nor obnoxious as was in the past. It is an evolution – instead of a fusion – of culinary cultures, flavours, and techniques.
I enjoyed the smoked duck (top dish), especially with those delicious marinated mushrooms and the creaminess & crunchy texture from the toasted hazelnuts. The chicken consomme (bottom two photos) with poached hen egg, smoked hen, & confit mushroom had a very strong broth. The intensity reminded me of my mother’s chicken soup. Very yummy and rich, with smoky elements and lovely green freshness from the cilantro.
The halibut cheek (left) was good and I enjoyed the melding of flavours. I thought it a shade over-cooked, but I’m nit-picking. Though I could do without the grapefruit, I thought the curls of ramps(?) went really well with the cheek. The gnocchi (right) was so good. So. Good. Great creamy mushroom flavours on the tongue. Another favourite was the agnolotti (not pictured). It was really nice with the pine nuts and the sweetness of the carrots and creamy spinach filling. We had also ordered their titular chicken, and the smells when it was being cooked were phenomenal.
Another favourite: the polenta. It ate almost like congee and had a delicious mushroom ragu on top. The flavour on the ragu somehow reminded me of pork flosss. This is a future re-order.
For dessert, the panna Cotta, with bitter almond, tapioca, & osmanthus syrup. Done up very much like the Chinese almond jello dessert, but trading the canned fruit for rhubarb. Really lovely and light and refreshing.
One super-fun thing to take note of: Lettuce Sundays. For $19 you get a pile of delicious meat sided with lettuce, rice, house-made pickles, and condiments. Not to mention the interesting sides that you can supplement your meal with. Like that phenomenal cold fried chicken. Worth a visit some Sunday soon.
Many of Chef Poon’s palate-pleasing dishes have a familiar Cantonese thread woven through them, yet I wouldn’t call anything truly Cantonese – or even Asian. And more importantly, it’s been done well. To me, Chantecler is one of those really comfortable places to have a meal. I don’t mean plush seating and smoking jackets, but the space exudes the feeling of someone’s home, albeit a really nice one. And the delicious foods match that sensibility.
- Chantecler 1320 Queen Street West