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Food & Drink

What’s on the menu at Lapinou, a contemporary King West bistro serving French fare with Canadian flair

By Caroline Aksich| Photography by Caroline Aksich
What's on the menu at Lapinou, a contemporary King West bistro serving French fare with Canadian flair
This tuna is served with carrots and finished with horseradish in a dashi broth. $30.

Name: Lapinou Contact: 642 King St. W., 416-479-4414, lapinoubistro.com, @lapinoubistro
Neighbourhood: King West Owner: Scale Hospitality, helmed by Terry Tsianos of Pegasus Hospitality Group (Palais Royale) Chef: Jamie Ullrich (Nota Bene, Estia, Byblos North) Accessibility: Fully accessible

The food

Lapinou calls itself a “neo bistro,” which, in practice, means French fare with Canadian flair. The ingredients—from the flour used in the house-baked sourdough to the Angus beef, which comes from a Millgrove, Ontario cattle farm—are all hyper-local. Even items that seem out-of-season (like the strawberries in a foie dish) were picked during the summer and preserved. Ullrich is so fanatical about sourcing good Ontario products that he’s willing to drive an hour to pick up the cream for his house-churned butter since his preferred farm—they have Jersey cows, which make the best, creamiest milk according to Ullrich—is too small to deliver.

What's on the menu at Lapinou, a contemporary King West bistro serving French fare with Canadian flair
To make this foie gras parfait, Ullirch starts by reducing madeira, brandy and ruby port. The reduction is added to butter-sautéed shallots, then whipped with duck livers, cream and eggs. Preserved Ontario strawberries and pickled blushing onions complete the dish. $18.

 

What's on the menu at Lapinou, a contemporary King West bistro serving French fare with Canadian flair
Instead of the traditional pork leg à la jambon de Bayonne, Ullrich uses coppa (a fatty neck muscle) to make his ham. The pork, which comes from a small Wallenstein, Ontario farm, is thinly sliced and topped with black truffle shavings, comté cheese and a truffle-celery remoulade. $19.

 

What's on the menu at Lapinou, a contemporary King West bistro serving French fare with Canadian flair
The garganelli, which gets its brown hue from crushed porcini mushrooms, is extruded in-house. It’s then doused with a chestnut-elderberry duck leg ragù. That’s not parm on top: it’s pine mushrooms. $24.

 

What's on the menu at Lapinou, a contemporary King West bistro serving French fare with Canadian flair
This tuna is served with carrots and finished with horseradish in a dashi broth. $30.

 

What's on the menu at Lapinou, a contemporary King West bistro serving French fare with Canadian flair
Although many dishes are French with a twist, Ullrich isn’t limiting himself to western flavour profiles. This vadouvan-spiced monkfish comes on top of eggplant purée with Ontario white beans and a flurry of fried curry leaves. The monkfish and the cockles for this plate come from New Zealand (Ullrich gets a lot of his fish from Vancouver’s 46 South Fish Co., a sustainability-focused fish importing company). $24.

 

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What's on the menu at Lapinou, a contemporary King West bistro serving French fare with Canadian flair
The beef option on the menu simply reads “beef,” because the cut on offer is always changing. Ullrich gets his beef from a small farm with limited quantities, so he works with whatever premium cuts he can buy each week. Here we have a charcoal-seared tenderloin with a charred onion, beef jus, and a smoked potato. $30.

 

What's on the menu at Lapinou, a contemporary King West bistro serving French fare with Canadian flair
For dessert, this apple terrine with house-made brioche ice cream. $10.

 

The drinks

While the menu might be all Ontario, the wine list is a Francophile’s dream: it consist of all French bottles, many from lesser-known French regions and petite vineyards. Big-ticket French wines (chardonnay, cabernet franc, gamay) are all there, but general manager and sommelier Lauren Hall also loves exploring France’s funky, lesser-known varietals like picpoul, mondeuse and aligoté. Even most of the sparkling is grower-produced stuff—there’s not a bottle of Veuve or Dom to be seen.

What's on the menu at Lapinou, a contemporary King West bistro serving French fare with Canadian flair
The Peter Rabbit mixes bourbon, calvados, chamomile-infused sweet vermouth and Strega, with a few drops of Angostura. $16.

 

What's on the menu at Lapinou, a contemporary King West bistro serving French fare with Canadian flair
A combination of vodka, St. Germain, ginger, grapefruit, lime and Angostura are blended together to make the Liason Dangereuse. $15.

 

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What's on the menu at Lapinou, a contemporary King West bistro serving French fare with Canadian flair
For this fresh French take on a mule, the bar shakes gin with St. Germain, cucumber water and lime, then stirs in some ginger beer for an added bubbly bite. $14.

 

What's on the menu at Lapinou, a contemporary King West bistro serving French fare with Canadian flair
Just some of the wine on the menu right now.

 

What's on the menu at Lapinou, a contemporary King West bistro serving French fare with Canadian flair
“Generally, we work with smaller producers who make beautiful wines that also just happen to be natural,” says Hall, whose wine card is in a permanent state of flux. She plans to keep adding and subtracting as she discovers new, interesting bottles.

 

The space

Model Ctzn worked closely with the Lapinou team to design an 80-seat restaurant that evoked a Belle Époque brasserie with contemporary flourishes. Located in a heritage building, the room already had excellent bones: exposed brick and beams, and hardwood floors. A curvaceous marble bar with swirls of tarragon green anchors the room and can seat up to 20 guests.

What's on the menu at Lapinou, a contemporary King West bistro serving French fare with Canadian flair
The turn-of-the-century couches are duplicitous. They are in fact brand new custom creations, and although they look like they’re upholstered with pony hair, it’s actually a textured velvet.

 

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What's on the menu at Lapinou, a contemporary King West bistro serving French fare with Canadian flair
Lapinou worked with three lighting designers (This is Concord, Turn of the Century, Victorian Revival) to create the many custom fixtures, many of which were made using found antiques and brass hardware.

 

What's on the menu at Lapinou, a contemporary King West bistro serving French fare with Canadian flair
What's on the menu at Lapinou, a contemporary King West bistro serving French fare with Canadian flair
What's on the menu at Lapinou, a contemporary King West bistro serving French fare with Canadian flair

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