Chinatown East is overflowing with Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants, but there is only one French restaurant. And it happens to one of the city’s best.
Batifole’s menu is a mix of the classics – cassoulet, their famous escargots – along with outstanding daily specials that include decadent delacices such as duck and rabbit.
Chef Pascal Geffroy has worked here for the past four years and just a year-and-a-half ago, took over as owner as well. Geffroy studied and worked in French hotels for years, winning prestigious awards (Award des Chevalier de l'Olivier in 1999 and Award des Chevalier of Truffle and Gastronomie in 2000, and participated in the contest for one of the best workers in France in La Sorbonne in 2004) before coming to Toronto. He dreamed of coming here, and while teaching cooking classes in France for many years, he met some Torontonians and was invited to visit. Liking "the people and ambiance," he found the food "an imitation. Most of the food is from the South of France with olive oil, herbs and garlic. I make true French food where Caesar salad doesn’t exist. You can’t find it anywhere else in Toronto."
Geffroy’s family is from Brittany – his grandmother, his father (who had Café du Centre) - so he has made the menu more Mediterranean and Provencal focused while keeping ingredients fresh and seasonal.
Daily selections are based on what he finds at the market. Shopping the market himself, he is able to keep the quality of ingredients high. He is also able to change the menu according to what's freshest and in season. In addition to daily visits to market, he also goes to the fish terminal, while a butcher delivers fresh meat.
Here the items sway more toward seafood then meat, with sea bream and seabass always available on the menu. A daily special of Seabass Tartare ($13), for example, is served with shallots, pickles, an exquisite confited tomato and elegant package of lightly steamed asparagus wrapped in rice paper. Filet of Seabream ($26), another special, is simple but stunning. The poisson is topped with olives and parsley, and set atop tomato-zucchini confit, and sauce vierge.
Bur don’t worry meat lovers - there are many choices available for you too. Enjoy selections such as Melange de Terrine Maison et ses Condiments ($11) House Terrine – a sophisticated pork and chicken liver mix with green peppercorns, served chef’shousemade pickles, onion compote, greens, mustard, olives and crostini. For heartier options you can’t beat dishes such as Lapin Stew with Smoked Pork Belly ($25) and Veal Chop stuffed with Goat Cheese and Prosciutto ($24) with Marsala Sauce (add $4).
Desserts are just as divine, such as the Boule de Neige et sa Creme Anglaise Vanille ($8.50) where a delicate, soft meringue floats a thick English cream.
The wines here are only from France, with lots of reds available by the glass. French aperitifs include Lillet, Pernod and Kir Royal. Enjoy sparkling wines by the glass and champagnes by the bottle. Even the water is fetching - tall glass bottles are filled with water and then a long fresh sprig of rosemary is added.
Having worked in the downtown core at French restaurants such as Didier and Papillion on Front, Geffroy likes the Riverdale/Riverside/Leslieville neighbourhood.
"This is the place to meet, share food and have a good time. I want friends and neighbourhood to come together. I love the chatter."
Warmer and more contemporary than the orignal restaurant, the room is full of charm - the long vintage bar, the antique wooden bench near the door, an enchanting display of books and novelties draped with a string of tiny white lights. And some of Geffroy’s personal collections such as the exquisite silver chafing dishes and antiques, are on display throughout.
With just 40 seats and a lovely little patio complete with turf, you’ll feel like you’re in a bistro in the south of France. All the while you're smack dab in Chinatown East.
Soon to come – cooking classes.
Batifole is open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday.
Check out all the photos on our Facebook page.