Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cluny Bistro: Modern French Cuisine in The Distillery

One of the latest additions to Toronto's historic Distillery District is Cluny Bistro and Boulangerie, a modern Parisian-style bistro that embraces la cuisine française with updated bistro classics and sharing plates with a decidedly Canadian twist. Converted from a 19th-century tank houses of the now-defunct Gooderham and Worts Distillery, the luminous 11,000-square-foot space with soaring cathedral ceiling is a neo-Parisian stunner. Designed by Toronto firm Munge Leung, the space was inspired by the ornately appointed dining rooms of Paris but with a playful unpretentious approach. Adorned with exposed brick walls, gilt-framed mirrors, marble surfaces, custom cabinets which showcase vintage French servingware and curios to hand-painted glass walls and fabulous French country furnishings, the space is bright, beautiful and dripping with l'esprit français. 

Lunch and dinner can both be ordered at Cluny's cozy and stylish bar area

A vase of fresh flowers sit proudly on a wooden table in the middle of the restaurant

The marble-topped bakery island

Cluny's Raw Bar features a whimsical painted window detail and fresh seafood on ice

The staff all wear St Malo-inspired blue and white striped tops

The modern French bistro-style menu at Cluny

Everything from the menu design, to the monogrammed tableware, uniforms, signage and website, fuses into one stylish and cohesive aesthetic. And chef Paul Benallick's menu which fuses modern French cuisine, fresh international flavours with regional Canadian produce are innovative, interesting and playful, with dishes such as Wellington County Beef Tartare, Quebec Style Potted Pork, Roasted Duck Poutine, Crisp Erie Perch 'Shore Lunch' and Qualicom Bay Scallops. There are also traditional classics which include French Onion Soup with melted gruyère de comté, brie-slathered brioche and Steak-Frites, but also dishes with a modern twist such as his Moroccan Chickpea Potato Stew, Asian-inspired Ahi Seared Drunken Tuna and Ginger-Chili Fried Frog's Legs with Vietnamese dipping sauce. With four successful restaurants in the Distillery District already under their belts — El Catrin, The Boiler House, Pure Spirits and Archeo — owners Mathew Rosenblatt and John Berman, who opened Cluny earlier this summer, have created a warm, cozy and inviting haven for anyone who enjoys a little Parisian panache in Toronto without the jet lag.

The French 75 with Citadelle Gin, Curacao d’Orange, Champagne and a twist of lemon

A selection of louse made breads from Cluny's on site bakery

French Onion Soup with melted Gruyère de Comté and glazed onion in a rich beef broth

'Buffalo Fried' Sweetbreads with smoked blue cheese sauce and heirloom carrot sticks

Steak Frites with 10oz Striploin served with lemon & garlic aioli 

'Drunken Tuna' as Seared ahi tuna with red pepper pesto, pommel purée and rocket salad and
sherry vinaigrette

Pear Tatin with Poire William "foam", Greek yogurt sorbet and Creme Anglaise

A hot foamy Macchiato

Before leaving for a Soulpepper performance across the cobblestone walkway, we couldn't resist picking up two fresh croissant for breakfast the next morning

Apricot and Onion Braised Pork Shoulder
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy Chef Paul Benallick

1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 small pork, shoulder, cleaned
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 fresh chili, seeded, and, diced, preferably, Anaheim
1 generous pinch saffron
2 tsp honey
1/2 cup olive oil
1 white onion, diced
1 small head fennel, quartered
4 bay leaf
4 plum tomato, seeded, and, crushed
6 dried apricot
4 cup chicken stock
1 stick cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Celery Root Purée:
2 large celery root, peeled, and, medium, diced
4 bay leaf
2 cup 35% cream
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a dry frying pan toast the fennel seeds and coriander seeds. Lightly crush seeds with a mortar and pestle. Put the pork shoulder in a large pot or Dutch oven. Rub with in garlic, chile, saffron, honey and olive oil. Marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Remove the pork shoulder from the marinade. Reserve the marinade. Heat 3 tbsp. of olive oil in the Dutch oven. Season the pork shoulder generously with salt and pepper. Sear the meat until golden brown on all sides and remove. Add diced onions and quartered fennel. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes then add the tomatoes, bay leaves, reserved marinade and the apricots. Cook for 5 minutes scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken stock and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil. Return the pork shoulder to the Dutch oven. Cover and braise in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and finish cooking for 1/2 an hour.

Meanwhile, start to prepare the celery root purée by pouring the cream into a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat, and reduce by half. In another pot, cover the celery root with water, add the bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook until the celery root is fork tender. Remove the bay leaves, then purée the celery root in a food processor until smooth. Add the cream and season to taste. This will make 1 1/2 cups.

Remove the pork shoulder from the Dutch oven and let rest 5 minutes, then carve into 1/4-inch thick slices. Serve with the celery root purée. Finish the sauce with fresh herbs and ladle over the meat, garnishing each portion with a sprig of fresh parsley.