Review: classic European comfort food at Bistro 896 on Queen East

Review: classic European comfort food at Bistro 896 on Queen East

(Image: Valerie Howes)
(Image: Valerie Howes) (Image: Valerie Howes)
 

Bistro 896 ★★
896 Queen St. E., 416-625-2653

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The new restaurant east of Jimmie Simpson Park was deserted on a recent Thursday night, but the place should find a loyal following soon enough: the service is gracious, and the short menu of European comforts is affordable and thoughtfully prepared, if not terribly original. Creamy butter-poached escargots arrive with fresh, crusty baguette to mop up the savoury juices. The kung pao calamari salad, an east-west mash up of tangy fried squid on a bed of arugula, balances crispy textures and bright, fresh flavours. Mains falter ever so slightly: steak frites brings crackling fries and under-seasoned meat. An enormous picnic platter offers potato salad dressed in a dill-tinged mayo, airy devilled eggs and two slightly dry fried chicken breasts. You’ll have leftovers, but the food tastes just as good for lunch next day. Dessert doesn’t get better than the simple strawberry shortcake, made with a fluffy buttermilk biscuit, light cream and peak-season berries. The short wine card lists mainly French bottles.