What’s on the menu at Chantecler, the new Bloorcourt location of Parkdale’s favourite French restaurant
The bistro is back—and this time it comes with a big park-facing patio
Contact info: 798 Bloor St. W., 416-628-3586, chanteclerto.com, @chanteclerto
Owners: Jacob Wharton-Shukster and Stephen Prickett
Chefs: Head chef Diego Reyes (Le Phénix, Viaggio) supported by daytime sous chef and charcutier Daniel McMahon (Chantecler Boucherie, Brothers, Blackhoof) and nighttime sous chef Cherie Leal (Chantecler Boucherie, Bricco, Colibri)
Accessibility: Fully accessible, including a barrier-free washroom
People are fiercely protective of Parkdale, and change in the form of gentrification isn’t always welcomed. But, somehow, when a plucky French bistro opened back in 2012, it won over the neighbourhood. The vibes were immaculate, and the mix of price points made Chantecler a viable weeknight go-to.
In late 2019, the restaurant went up in smoke during a three-alarm electrical fire, prompting owner Jacob Wharton-Shukster to go into problem-solving mode. Three months later, he opened Le Phénix, a stopgap pop-up that would operate as an ersatz Chantecler. Two months after that: the pandemic. Now, Chantecler is finally back, with a giant patio that looks onto Christie Pits park.
In spite of the move (much to Wharton-Shukster’s chagrin—he wanted to stay in the neighbourhood but couldn’t find a viable space), Chantecler retains its Parkdale charm.
Related: Six of the city’s best new bistros and brasseries
“This is the exact opposite of pandemic austerity,” says Wharton-Shukster, explaining how Chantecler has changed. “For the past three years, restaurants have been shrinking staff and menus, cutting hours and costs—and here we are, making everything in house, hiring lots of staff to do that, and splurging on ingredients like snow crab and foie gras.”
But it’s not all frills and foie. “The menu is more expansive than before, but it still has a high-low thing going for it,” says Wharton-Shukster. “I want this to be somewhere you can come with a $40 budget and feel taken care of, but also a place for those big celebratory meals.”
Over the past decade, a few different chefs have helmed Chantecler’s kitchen, each one putting their own stamp on the menu. The food is perennially evolving but always treads the line between cutting-edge, technique-driven French cuisine and comfort food executed with Canadian ingredients.
“We’re really a collaborative kitchen,” says chef Diego Reyes. “I wanted to stay true to Jacob’s vision while incorporating my Danish training—my time at Noma and Noma Mexico really instilled an appreciation for using all parts of an ingredient and not throwing usable bits away.”
In Reyes’s anti-waste crusade, he turns duck tenders into chicharrones, leek greens into a powder for garnishing, and leftover foie and meat trimmings into pâté en croûte. “You won’t see things cut into perfect squares here. It’s all a little imperfect, because anything that’s 100 per cent perfect is wasteful.”
The drink card will feel familiar to Chantecler fans. There’s still an emphasis on organic and biodynamic wines, Belgian-style beers, and ciders. The cocktail menu is divided between Chantecler Classics, spins on heavy-hitter creations like a draught G&T, and the Rotation, a selection of seasonal signatures. For an extra $7, you can get any cocktail on the menu “spaggled” (a term, inspired by the negroni sbagliato trend, that Wharton-Shukster coined while more than slightly inebriated), which involves adding a few ounces of sparking wine.
When Justin Vinet was hired to design the space, there was a specific ask: it needed to look like Chantecler, but it couldn’t be a brick-by-brick replica. Vinet, a long-time Chantecler regular, took Wharton-Shukster’s instructions and turned what was a white shell into a restaurant that looks like it’s been running services for years.
Every square inch of the room was agonized over—from the floating red-oak floors set with honeycomb marble tiles and inlaid with brass trim to the booth dividers that echo the tin ceiling. Visual ties to the original location include the tiling, arched cabinets and the 12-seat bar, which anchors the restaurant. With 60 seats, Chantecler 2.0 is precisely twice as big as the original. The espresso machine, light fixtures, cabinet and bar stools are the only things that made it from the Parkdale location.
Come summer, Wharton-Shukster hopes to launch a brunch program and open the 60-seat park-facing patio.