The chef of the Select Bistro shares the continuation of the legendary restaurant
It was a close call for downtown’s iconic Bistro Le Sélect.
Long a popular spot for business lunches, after-work drinks and weekend brunches, it remained closed for more than two years during the pandemic. The combination of closings and a massive increase in the building’s property taxes seemed like a killer blow.
Summing up the perfect storm of the time, the bistro posted on Instagram that “in short, Le Sélect went through an earthquake and a tornado, then Godzilla stomped down Wellington Street.”
Enter the property’s new owners, development company Allied Properties, along with Scale Hospitality Group (and acclaimed restaurateur David Aisenstat, formerly of The Keg), and the way has been paved for the beloved club to come back to life.
The zinc bar, Art Deco light fixtures, mosaic floors and vintage French posters all remain in place – and oenophiles will be relieved to hear that the same is true of the 1,200-bottle wine cellar. . Highlights from the updated menu include old favorites with new twists, including the Onion and Goat Tart (caramelized onion pie with goat cheese in a puff pastry with raisins and figs); sea bass (sea bass in red wine with stuffed mushrooms and asparagus); and cheek of beef bourguignon.
Le Sélect Bistro opened its original location on Queen Street West at the corner of Beverly Street in 1977. In 2006, it moved further west to 432 Wellington Street (just west of Spadina ), where the mussels simmer again.
The new executive chef is Ted Corrado, whose history includes managing the kitchens of the Drake, C5 at ROM and Bar Chica properties. Here, Toronto-born and trained Corrado talks about reviving a landmark and honoring tradition, while adding his own twist to it.
Regulars want to return to the Select they know and love, but you’re looking to “put your stamp on it”, as you say. How do you find a balance? And how do you decide which dishes are must-haves versus which ones you might have room to play?
We will stay true to what it is: the classic French bistro in Toronto. You will therefore be able to come here and still have all your favorite dishes. We’re just going to give them our opinion. We’re going to make a classic beef tartare — it’s just might look a little different.
I’ve been sitting on the terrace (during preparations for reopening) and people are walking their dogss stop and say, “Oh my God, you’re reopening!” I can’t wait to come back for the tartare, or the duck confit.” We will continue to do all of these things.
All the quintessential dishes, like cassoulet, charcuterie, seafood towers, oysters, they all stay. All the wines are here in the cellar. We have nothing to reinvent. French bistro-style cuisine doesn’t need to be redefined. We want to stay true to that, but elevate it, get a little “heal” with certain dishes, make things really pretty.
As a chef, what is the experience you seek to offer?
When I enter here, I have the impression of entering any bistro in Paris. There’s something special about the color of the paint, the wear and tear on all the tables, it takes you somewhere else. And that’s the experience we want everyone to have when they walk through the doors. You arrive for a good meal, or a nice glass of wine… and a feeling of nostalgia. That’s what we report, whether that feeling is reminiscent of a trip to Paris, Balthazar (New York’s iconic French bistro) or Sélect Bistro in 1986 – sadly, we don’t have the hanging bread baskets anymore – we want you to walk in and feel like you’re in a familiar but still new and exciting place.
Toronto is increasingly recognized internationally as a foodie’s dream city. And now, for the first time, Michelin is on the ground here doing taste tests for its first Michelin Guide Toronto. How does this city stand up to other great foodie destinations?
Michelin will certainly help raise the profile, but you can compare Toronto restaurants to any well-known destination and you’ll be hard-pressed to find better. We have everything here, and everything is really, really good.
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