The Arrival – Faim de Loup
Chef Jeff Yap just launched his first fine dining, modern French restaurant, at age 31.
This millennial’s experience however, speaks for itself: Six odd years at Scaramouche, a year at Hopgood’s Foodliner, a brief stint at Splendido, and time spent at renowned fine dining resto Marque in Sydney, Australia.
You couldn’t ask for better training grounds.
Menu + ingredients
5-Course $80 | Optional beverage pairing $45
7-Course $100 | Optional beverage pairing $60
instead of a standard printed menu, dinner items are relayed verbally. This allows Yap more flexibility with dishes and ingredients, as well as when things change. Drinks however, do get a hard copy.
Everything is made in-house, including the no-knead bread for the bread course. Ingredients area kept to local as much as possible - Ontario if available, and everything else is domestic, including Black cod (BC) duck breast (QB), snow crab (NFLD), and Wagyu (ON).
Menus will change with the seasons. The current one - Early Summer - features Ontario Asparagus with Brown Butter & Pearl Onions. This likely will be switched out for a tomato-focused course. Additional local bounty such as peaches and various Ontario greens will also be added come August.
“It’s a good motivator to keep changing things. A good part of the menu is seasonal, with the rest more evergreen,” says Yap.
And to keep things interesting, unlike almost any French restaurant, there’s no cheese or cheese course. Yet. “It might find its way on in the future,” says Yap.
Atlantic Snow Crab & Rhubarb
Delicate East coast snow crab mingles with poached, barely pickled rhubarb, finely shaved celery, and cucumbers. Crème fraiche adds depth, while tender tarragon delivers a sweet anise note. The result? A light and impeccably fresh introduction to one of the best meals in the city.
BC Black Cod & Cassoulet-Style Beans
You won’t miss the traditional meats usually found in the southern French casserole, as these white beans are done in pork stock, finished with bacon, and garnished with pork crackling. Oomph.
Stationed atop the luscious bean stew, perfectly executed black cod. Pan-roasted then finished in the oven, the result - plump, silky flesh blanketed in an irresistible dry, crisp skin.
Say hello to a cassoulet for modern dining - decadent without being heavy or cloying, and impossibly elegant to boot.
Savoury Porcini Cake
Lavish rustic cake boasting porcinis and olive oil is broken into large pieces, then artfully plated alongside oyster mushrooms and puffed rice. Shoulder to shoulder with beads of creamy roast garlic puree and delicate bursts of kale powder, crowned with red veined sorrel, the course is imaginative and rather magnificent in its earthy appeal.
It also happens to look like a vision on the rough-hewn plate.
Note: The pairing on this one is rather fascinating - Nama Nama Sake from Toronto’s own Ontario Spring Water Sake Company.
Dark Chocolate w/ Crème Fraiche & Raspberries
Neither too rich or sweet, a dark chocolate ganache with swirls of milk chocolate crème patisserie is dappled with raspberry jam, white chocolate, and crème fraiche. A stunning flax seed brittle winds its way over the chocolate, bewitching with every bite.
Emily MacLean of Somm Factory created the focused wine list, composed of exclusively VQA and French selections.
You’ll also find an array beer, aperitifs and digestifs, but due to limited square footage, no cocktails.
Yap got the keys mid-April and launched at the beginning of July.
The former Levetto has been transformed into a polished space that feels light and airy despite seating just 16, and sophisticated, despite the modest décor.
“I have a bit of a minimalist streak,” says Yap.
A friend, artist Laurianne Simon, loaned him one of her stunning abstracts that just happens to fit perfectly into the only free space on the one wall in the dining room (the rest are floor-to-ceiling windows).
“I designed the rest of the dining room around it, with that in mind,” he says.
The aesthete even delivered swatches of five blue hues inspired by the painting, to the upholsterer for the custom tufted banquettes.
Lighting was replaced with modern chandeliers with sleek brass arms and soft white orbs. Tables bought at auction were originally light brown on top with candy red cast iron bases. Yap refinished the tables himself to the more classic dark brown top and black base.
Even the plateware is perfection – alluring enough that you want to take it home (please refrain), but never distracts from the food or plating itself.
Speaking of plating, Yap does use tweezers occasionally, but here it’s for thoughtful placement, not pretension.
Keeping true to the name, that goes for portion sizes too. Unlike some fine dining establishments, you won’t need to grab a burger after.
“’Faim de loup’ colloquially means ‘starving,’ so the name is meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek, since many people’s perception of a tasting menu is that you’ll leave dinner still starving,” Yap says.” I had a few other ideas for names, but no strong contenders.”
Most nights, FDL is a two-person operation - Yap in the open kitchen and partner and GM Ryan Rioux (formerly of Terre Rouge in PEI, and Toronto’s Awai), on the floor. Between this and the small space, it creates an intimacy that pairs exceptionally well with the food.
That feeling is extended by Yap’s principles. He does not believe in the usual two-hour seating limits. In his aim to “provide an “intimate and thoughtful experience” for his guests, when you dine here the table is yours for the entire evening.
It’s a rare thing to create such refined food in a polished, yet never stuffy, comfortable setting.
This corner spot at the edge of four bordering neighbourhoods is fantastic for people watching, thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows. But you’ll likely keep your eyes locked on the exceptional food in front of you. And return as frequently as time allows.
940 College St.
Thursday – Monday
Reservations from 6:00pm – 8:30pm
Note: Please give any dietary restrictions and/or allergies when making your reservation.
For more photos, visit Toronto Restaurants on Instagram.