The day dawns glum. Something rattles against the window. Can this be hail in June? The froststruck prairies fear for the canola crop. Are we about to have a summerless summer?
It’s happened before. I refer to the “The Summerless year” of 1816. I quote witness Benjamin D. Waldbrook of Oakville.
“Snow commenced falling in June, and until spring came again the whole country was continuously covered by a wintry blanket. Practically nothing was gathered in the way of a crop. Everything rotted in the ground. There was no flour, there were no vegetables; people lived for twelve months on fish and meat…”
Worried , I hasten to LG3,a fresh green sprout in the city’s foodscape, while veg lasts.
LG3 is the third edition of Milton Nunes’ smart eurocafe Le Gourmand. It is located in Minto Midtown on Yonge below Eglinton, a grey cluster of towers referencing a Soviet gulag. You need field glasses to catch LG3’s permitted signage. But once inside, LG3’s visual cool and earthy warmth asserts itself. No doubt the patio will warm up with the weather.
But the food is hot already. This is a café with cojones. Nunes has hired a young chef Daniel Peretta who has spent l8 months at Alinea, the techno-emotional aka molecular cuisine flagship in the US, to cook dinner. And it’s terrific.
A word about TE. Ferran Adria, the TE creator, serves a score and more of singular taste sensations. But chefs like Claudio Aprile (Colborne Lane) , Scot Woods (Lucien) Matteo Paonessa (Blacktree) incorporate some of the ideas and techniques into the streams of their own cooking, often grafting them on the older French technique. Thus Peretta uses TE to refresh and reform familiar ingredients. At LG3, Peretta puts several tastes/flavours on the plate which can lead to confusion. But mostly, he’s successful, juggling combinations for maximum effect.
But what about the arcana? What on earth is an olive oil rock?
Luckily, LG3 has an excellent sherpa, Aaron Lau who explains the food and guides us through the menu.
I go with Jaded Palate who can’t believe anywhere could be so pretentious. “Isn’t food just food?” he says.
Then his eyes widen. “What’s this?” he cries in delight as a tiny ball containing ginger carrot soup with candied cilantro and freeze dried coconut material izes. TE magic: the flavours have never been so intense.
Peretta changes pace with a dazzlingly pretty salad plate. Fresh organic mache $11 sorted with little heirloom carrots and woody white beech mushrooms, a relative of oyster mushrooms. “What’s this?” cries JD as he spears amall lump of play-doh, an emollient olive oil rock, tapioca flour and EVOO, before crunching a new pea and the enoki mushrooms, the ones that look like electric light plugs. I call this a salad of discovery.
The classic redefined. Rich crimson Toro sashimi $12 comes on a polka dot plate, drops of avocado, coconut and lemon that may be swirled into a sweet-sour creamy sauce for the tuna garnished with a little lotus root wheel.
It’s the chili spice (togarashi) on the seared Hokaido scallops $14 that brings out the unique sweetness of this breed of mollusk. I spear one with an olive rock, dip the forkful into a sour lemon drop for maximum mouth feel.
Our tastebuds beg for relief. Galangal tea with lime ice and ginger is a sour spicy corrective draught.
Enough of unfamiliar shapes, flavours….we love the reassuring and familiar pappardelle with veal cheek and truffle essence $16.
And now we’re ready for more adventure: a chunk of halibut poached in olive oil with Vermouth foam which is really just an airy sauce, paired with bittersweet veg, candied cane beets, crimson chard and poached leeks.
We’d have liked to sample everything, the crab risotto $16 with lobster nage, the mint tagliatelli $15 with lamb ragout and parsnip puree ….but we must eat dessert.
More artful juggling. A lemongrass ice with berry consommé and homemade tarragon yogurt. $7. A lovely tart ending.
The jaded palate cries uncle. He praises the wine, a 2004 Tempranillo (Acon) at a highly digestible $43 per bottle. As for the food, well it’s not always food, but sometimes it’s just wonderful. In fact he goes so far as to say that TE is just the shot in the arm fine dining needs now. New energy, something different.
*** LG32177 Yonge Street,416-487-9900 Not wheelchair accessible. Noise OK. For two: Food plus tax $85 Great Yums for Bucks