Just Opened: Beast. Scott and Rachelle Vivian take over the Amuse-Bouche space
“I don’t dislike vegetarians, but my style of cooking is heavy on meat,” says chef Scott Vivian. It’s more of a warning than a defence: the Montreal-born chef has just opened a new restaurant with his wife, Rachelle, and it more than lives up to its name, Beast.
The carnivore theme is evident in the changing weekly dinner menus prepared by Scott and Luca Gatti, the sous-chef who came along when Scott and Rachelle left Wine Bar. Starters include such seasonal items as soft shell crab with foie gras, greens and jalapeño ($19), and mains include such meat-heavy dishes as pig’s head pasta with pea shoots, yolk and spaghetti ($16).
Brunch features the Beast burger ($12) alongside more breakfast-appropriate items, like pork belly benny ($14) and biscuits with sausage and gravy ($9). Sam James (of his namesake coffee bar on Harbord Street) has developed a coffee program, for Beast, so there are French presses but no lattes.
Beast took over the storied space at 96 Tecumseth Street. Once occupied by Susur Lee’s first Toronto restaurant, Lotus, the address was most recently known as Amuse-Bouche, which closed less than a month ago when its lease expired. Left over from the Susur days are dark brown chairs (they’ve been refurbished) and tables (which in this era stand casually naked, sans table cloths). The copper-topped bar is also a relic, though the overall decor has been refreshed with white walls and several long, rectangular mirrors to make the 34-seat space feel larger. The only real colour in the room comes from two pieces of artwork—paintings done by Rachelle, who also hand-carved claw prints into the breadboards.
The husband and wife team are new to the Queen–King West ’hood but not to co-ownership. For eight months, they ran the Wine Bar, which they (and investors) bought from Jamie Kennedy. At Beast, the pair are the only owners; they start most days at 9 or 10 a.m. and finish well after 11 p.m. “Rachelle and I are fortunate we’re still young enough to be able to do this every day, because 10 years from now…” Scott trails off, laughing.
During the day, Rachelle does pastry, which includes making sweets, such as black walnut financier with honey-rosemary cream and brown butter tuile ($8), and baking the house mini-baguettes and “Mother Parker” rolls. In the evening, she dons all black and runs the front-of-house with one other server.
The couple’s goal is to make Beast a neighbourhood fixture. “You’re not really walking into a restaurant establishment; you’re walking into somebody’s home. There aren’t as many restaurants in Toronto anymore where the executive chef does all the cooking, and the owners are always there, interacting with customers,” Scott says. “At the end of the day, if I can contribute to the quality of the Toronto food scene, that’s great. I’m just happy I get to be in the kitchen every day and that I’m cooking my own food.”