Tableside Theatre – D’Chez Eux
Comme Elin Lawrence " Food Traveler " chevronnée, faites une halte à l'Auberge.
Most food lovers have seen the film “Julie and Julia”. If you can, recall back to the turning-point scene where Julia and Paul Child are sitting in a beautiful little French restaurant, and Julia decides that she likes to eat, so she should learn to cook. The scene was filmed in a Los Angeles film set, so D’Chez Eux is not that restaurant, but it could be. Quaint, charming, storied, and the food certainly brings out a love for eating. I’m sure it has inspired many “remember that meal” memories and stories.
The history of the restaurant goes back to the 18th century, the place was an inn. You can picture a spot where horses are tied up and hungry travellers settle in for a good meal to sate appetites stoked on the road while looking forward to a comfortable night’s sleep.
The morel sauce
While it is no longer an inn (there is an unrelated hotel above the building), present-day travellers still come to the satisfy their day’s hunger here. And oh, what travellers. French Presidents – François Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy; French Prime Ministers – Lionel Jospin, Alain Juppé, François Fillon; and leaders from abroad – Bill Clinton, Vladimir Putin – have all pulled up a seat and enjoyed the menu at D’Chez Eux.They are there for the ‘coucou de Rennes’, a heritage, signature free-range roast chicken with morel mushrooms and a cream sauce. After eating it, we know why. This may have been the best chicken I have ever eaten. Moist, flavourful meat with gorgeous crispy skin. I usually shun chicken skin; not in this case, you could not resist it.The morel sauce, I will not lie, was the best gravy for the superb perfectly cooked frites.
Chef Bertrand Gautreau makes sure that traditions are followed and the reputation for excellence continues. He has been the resident executive chef for over twenty years. The restaurant is the annual meeting place of “The Fat Friendship” a brotherhood of famous chefs (Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon are members) whose mission is “to awaken the minds and bodies to the importance and taste-packing power of perfectly cooked fat. Members vow to uphold the true values of fat”. If you don’t think they take food seriously, you must know, even the butter has a name, Bordier, Jean-Yves Bordier!
Appetizer trolley selections
Years ago, when I was taking one of many cooking courses at George Brown, one of the chef instructors was waxing poetic on the lost art of table-side service. He would be extremely pleased to see that this tradition is still very much alive and well at D’Chez Eux. Various preparations are lovingly served from the appetizer trolley: I counted 10 separate items that we tried – ratatouille, beets, cabbage salad with caraway, octopus, beautiful lentils du puys, shrimp, celeriac salad, artichokes, sausage with Gherkins and anchovies. “Notre sélection de cochonnailles de l’Auberge” includes a pâté en croûte au foie gras, rillettes, with seven different types of house cured meats and Ibérico ham, sliced at the table. As a nod to fine French cuisine, we order escargot, in all their garlicky goodness, as well as frogs legs. The frogs legs, we all agree, are the appetizer star. The recipe is given to us as “simple: garlic, parsley, flour, bread the frogs legs and fry”. Where oh where to find frogs legs in Toronto?
Pate en croûte, rillettes, Ibérico ham
House selection of salamis, sliced tableside
Thibault, carving the chicken
The carving of the roast chicken is done with surgical precision, it’s dinner theatre at its finest, and we are lucky enough to have a front row seat. The main course is rounded out by cassoulet. A French winter comfort food and a thing of beauty. White beans slow cooked with a confit duck leg and sausage. Classic Fench deliciousness.
Dessert is three house-made ice creams – pistachio, pineapple and cherry. We order this together with cherries in kirsch served with vanilla ice cream. A great finish which is not only delicious but provides us with an added bonus. Pete manages to stain his shirt with cherry juice from the kirsch dessert – normally be a disaster. Our resourceful waiter, Thibault, gives him a great cleaning product which removes all traces of the cherries. The next day, the shirt is good as new. We find the cleaning product at Monoprix the next day and take three bottles home.
My new favourite stain remover
Dinner, theatre, and how to remove stains – now that’s an evening!